I am severely dog-deprived. I smile at every canine within yards of me and pat any whose companion humans give me permission.
Today I accidentally happened upon a blog post someone wrote about the loss of her pup. She included a video of him, in his prime, singing what she assured us was “Happy Birthday to You.” It made me weep.
My grandnephew and his fiancée have a dog that might well have been a disaster. Much to our dismay, they acquired him from a pet store, where he’d spent the first six months of his life in a crate.
But he is now a wonderful, lovable mush, nicely trained, and I would dognap him in a millisecond if I could get away with it.
I’ve heard that rescued dogs are aware of their good fortune and express their gratitude with good humor and special devotion. I don’t know whether there’s science behind this claim, but I choose to believe it.
(I’ve learned, though, that there are clear exceptions. Please bear with me here.)
I do have two wonderful granddogs, as well as a lovely grandcat, but they are not within the daily/hourly stroke-and-cuddle distance necessary for my fixation.
Are you wondering why I don’t have a dog? My husband, himself a dog aficionado, is emphatic that our fourth dog was our last. To some extent, this is a body-clock-based dispute. He is an early riser who hits the gym daily before 7 am. I am, well, not.
He maintains that adding the walking and feeding of a dog to his morning routine simply isn’t feasible. I have promised I would arise early, care for this soon-to-be-beloved being, and go back to sleep.
Although he is not seriously hard of hearing, this affirmation has fallen on deaf ears.
In fact, his resistance is based, at least in part, on our experiences with dog #4—a caramel-colored rescue shipped up from the Carolinas that had the sweetest face and warm brown eyes.
But we ignored what we later realized was a warning sign from our first meeting with Lexi. She was fine with me, but she barked at my husband—a lot.
The adoption folks assured us it was because of his hat. He removed it. She persisted.
Nevertheless, we were both determined to find a furry companion two years after the loss of our treasured Vic—a collie-shepherd gentle giant—also a rescue, a dog we knew at the outset was ours. Or he knew and chose us: as we walked by his wire enclosure, he stood up on his hind legs and wrapped his arms, that is forelegs, around us, holding tight with his paws.
In retrospect, we should have compared that scene with our introduction to Lexi. In retrospect, we should have done a lot of things differently. In retrospect, we should have said, “Sorry; this isn’t the dog for us.”
Instead, we took Lexi home, and thus began 5 months of hell and thousands of dollars spent on training—lots and lots of training, beds (she shredded them), toys (she destroyed them), the best quality food to make sure she got all her nutrients.
We tried a variety of leads and leashes to see what might gently but effectively restrain her from taking off after squirrels on the multiple daily walks we gave her to ensure she used up enough energy to settle down.
And then there was the dog park visit when my daughter—a professional dog trainer—and her husband were in town visiting and trying to help. Free to roam off the leash, Lexi instead attacked my son-in-law’s brand-new coat, tearing a large gash that was unmendable.
She terrorized our poor cat, who’d been Vic’s best friend. (I’ve written about their relationship previously.) That meant we had to keep Lexi and the cat apart with all sorts of gates and other paraphernalia.
Oh, yes—another thing. Although her papers stated that she’d been spayed, the rescue service representative told us she couldn’t find the scar. But no worries: if Lexi were to go into heat, they would cover the costs of subsequently spaying her. So it wasn’t a complete surprise…
We then had to be on the lookout for the neighborhood rakes that were drawn to Lexi’s newly acquired aphrodisia perfume. Here, the elements were not in our favor.
Although we had a fenced-in yard, it was a rough winter, and an enormous snow pile provided just the boost Lexi needed to scale the fence. Solution: quickly surrounding the yard with a much higher fence. Ka-ching! Add that to the toll on our daughters’ inheritances.
Once Lexi’s heat period was over, the spaying occurred—followed, of course, by the large plastic cone she had to wear around her neck to prevent her from tearing the stitches. Just another source of misery for her and for us.
But the issue that makes me understand my husband’s resistance most clearly was the “game” that Lexi ultimately invented.
For several nights, as we were having dinner, she walked around the table to my husband’s chair, pushed her adorable snout through the open slats, and nipped his behind. She then slowly walk away, seemingly very pleased with herself. Our remedy was to isolate her in part of the kitchen, an act that increased her frustration.
Lexi was not without redeeming social values. She was extremely quick to learn commands (except in the presence of squirrels), and she loved scavenger hunts for treats, which she readily found wherever we hid them.
Despite her charms, why we put up with all this for so long escapes me now. But we were dog people: we figured eventually we’d get it right. When our dog-training daughter said sympathetically, “You’ve done everything you could,” we knew what our next steps had to be.
The rescue service found a foster home for Lexi, and we drove her there with considerable sadness. During the long drive to a rural area, I sat with her in the back seat, a bit teary as she placed her head in my lap and looked up at me with those lovely, expressive eyes.
We left her with a family that had several other dogs and children and wide open spaces where she could run around. She didn’t look back as we drove away.
We recognized, at long last, that Lexi and we were simply not a good fit. She needed a more active life and more diverse companionship than we could provide. We hope she eventually found both in what the animal rescue community calls a “forever home.”
I have a friend with a connection to a group that places German Shepherds. These are wonderful dogs but they’ve failed guide dog training for some reason that would not prevent them from being fine pets.
I am waiting for the right moment to broach this possible source of the dog of my dreams to my husband. Do you think he’ll bite?