Monday, July 4, 2011

Dog(less) Days

We lost our family dog about a month ago.

Ollie had a nice long life with the Transposzing family - some 12 years - and while it was not as long a life as the farm collie I had growing up, his was a much better life than she had. Collies are caregivers and my childhood farm collie lived as an outside dog in Minnesota, (that alone is a difficult life) caring for 8 kids on two acres of property. In addition to keeping track of me and my siblings, she had a litter of puppies almost every year for much of her life. Once my siblings and I were old enough to be in school, she would go over to our church just a couple of blocks away (where we caught the school bus) and hang out there most days, serving as a greeter for the staff and weekday church office visitors until we came home from school. And she did this for many years.

Our Ollie, on the other hand, lived inside the house with us, never had to endure a very cold day outside in the winter, enjoyed the indoor air conditioning on warm summer days (which we often turned on just for him, especially in his golden years). He was the mellowest and lowest maintenance dog ever. He never left the yard except on a leash, never had an accident in the house, never chased cars, never even barked (except when my sister came over, and even then only after she invited him to play, which she did at every visit), never chewed on anything, was wonderful and attentive company to the cats, never hurt the chickens or any other living thing, and just generally seemed to be happiest when he could be under the feet of his humans where ever they were. He was completely trustworthy in every respect and was a very easy dog to own. Predictable, polite, and a neighborhood sweetheart. Not only was he spoiled, but we got spoiled, too.

Ollie started slowing down a couple of years ago - which worked out sort of well for us, as we are starting to slow down a bit, too. Simply getting up after lying down had become a chore for him, and many nights he was not interested in going for a walk anymore. In his last weeks he'd developed a terrible wet cough, which sounded to me like congestive heart failure. My sister-in-law, (a veterinarian), assured me that it was not and said that in order to properly diagnose him she'd have to do a lot of testing. But she suspected, as we did, he was just failing due to old age. We gave him an antibiotic and let a week go by before asking her to come back and have another look at him, as he was only getting worse, not better. And on her return visit, she said that whatever the cause of his trouble was, she didn't think he would get better. So we decided to put him down (which she did for us here at home, allowing us to avoid that last long trip in the car), before his suffering became acute. It was sad and difficult for us. Only after he was gone did I come to realize what a part of our family he'd become and what a part of our regular routine he was.

So a couple of weeks later, my sister the electrician was on a job site outside somewhere and noticed a neighbor who was at the end of his rope with his adolescent puppy. He was screaming at the pup and was just winding up to backhand him when she hollered over to him to get his attention and direct his attention away from the puppy. She went over to talk to him and calmed him down, giving him her business card. She told him that if the puppy was just too much for him to cope with at this point in his life, he should call her and she'd come and take the puppy off his hands - no judging - and find a good home for him. (she's kind of a saint, really). He called her later that same day. And she went over that same day and picked him up, soon discovering that he was very timid, malnourished and untrained in any way.

Naturally, she thought of us and called to tell me about this puppy. I am, of course, filled with pity just hearing about this poor adolescent pup who had been slapped around and unfed and ignored, so I agreed to at least meet him. I asked her what kind of dog he is and she - deceivingly - said that he was a German Shepherd mix of some sort. One look at him and I knew that wasn't true. "Nice try," I said. "He's a Rott."

And I don't love me a Rottweiler. Any Rottweiler.

I know many people love them and that they have been great family pets for some. I have even met a few who seemed OK. Cesar Milan (an amazing man, really, and sort of a hero in my book) has a special place in his heart for Rotts. No matter - I just don't trust them. (or Dobermans or Pitt Bulls, either). And one who's been abused? I don't think so.

Still, I agreed to meet him and so she brought him over for a visit. And he is cute. And while timid, he seemed very sweet, responsive, and eager to please. But I told her I'm guessing that DearHusband isn't quite ready for a dog yet, and even if he were ready, I'm not sure this puppy would be The One. No worries, she said, we were just the first stop on their tour of dogless friends and she was sure someone would snap him up. She brought him to a potluck at our house the following weekend, where we learned that this puppy doesn't like men (surprise, surprise). At. All. That rather clinched it for DearHusband. Too needy for this family who was spoiled rotten by our last dog, and for whom the bulk of dog responsibility falls on DearHusband.
Happily, another couple from among their dogless friends is adopting him. A happy ending for the puppy.

But I have continued to keep my eyes open, just in case The One is out there and waiting for us somewhere. Perhaps this time we could find a dog who is a little bit smaller (ours is a very small house and Ollie, at 100 pounds, made it seem ALOT smaller than it already is), with a bit less hair (don't even get me started on the hair. It just became a way of life. A way of life which was worth it in every way, but suffice it to say that while we miss Ollie, we don't miss the hair).

I have come to think that it might be the most responsible thing, IF we are going to get another dog, to adopt a rescue. I know that many rescues are a lot of work, like the puppy, but still it seems to make sense to give a good home to a dog who doesn't have one and is less likely to find a home than a cute snuggly puppy. I also know that some rescues aren't much work at all, and easily blend into a new family's life.

Here's one promising candidate from a local agency which fosters and re-homes Golden Retrievers. I suppose she's just one of a million dogs in need of a home right now - and that there will always be others. But still, there's something about this girl that makes me want to meet her.

To say that DearHusband seems unenthusiastic about the prospect of another dog right now would be an understatement. I'm thinking he's not ready.

But who knows? She could be The One.

Maybe if he met her ...