Sunday, May 25, 2008

Go, Dog, Go!

We adopted Max in '99, a month after moving into our new house (now old house, in old state). Max's picture on the DC Animal Shelter website turned us into cooing nutjobs: a small, red puppy, head askew, with upturned expressive ears. According to the story, Max was left homeless when his owner died. (We always kinda assumed the worst because I'm thinking you don't get a puppy when you're knowingly terminally ill, or 98. But who knows.) While Mr. ABF had a dog growing up, my life with animals had been limited to cats, gerbils, and fish. We already had Tucker & Kirby, two rescue felines that we dragged to the DC environs from Chicago where we adopted them. But now it was time for a dog.

For years, this was our life: two cats, one dog. I loved that having a dog forced me out to walk twice a day. We had long Frisbee lunches when the weather was good. We took him hiking with us, and we wrote letters and attended local meetings in order to build a dog park near our house.

And then, when Max was 5, we had Bella. And as you can imagine, pet time diminished dramatically. Gone were Frisbee lunches. Bella was not allowed in dog park. While I could walk Max in inclement weather, I couldn't always sling or push my kid through it, and walks would often get jettisoned for some out back time or sprints around the block.

Eventually we figured out a routine, but I think Max missed being the focus of attention (a claim which makes my oldest cat Tucker snort as he sits here reading over my shoulder). And at some point we began to ponder if he might be happier if we had a second dog.

We had tried this briefly: one day we entered PetStoreChain and walked smack into an enormous adoption event with some really scraggly dogs, one of which looked eerily like Max. Apparently a recluse had killed himself leaving 40 some odd dogs behind, in various states of disarray. Did we want one? No, not today. Could we foster one? Certainly. It was karma: we adopted a dog who had been fostered when his owner died, and now we could pay it back. We took home a small beautiful red dog.

The ticks were literally jumping off her body, and so shell shocked was she that we had to carry her outside to do her biz. She fell hard asleep when we weren't flea dipping her. She awoke two days later the cutest, sweetest dog, completely smitten with Max. We put her on a leash for what was obviously the first time, and began to teach her sit. And two weeks later at an adoption event, she was the star of show, her coat glistening, her head held high prancing around the store. She was adopted by a lovely couple who we kept in touch with for a few years.

We always thought Max would get jealous of another dog, but we discovered that WE were jealous of the other dog. Instead of greeting us at the door when we walked in, Max ran and sat by her crate, "Let her out! Let her out!" They wrestled for HOURS, never once coming over to investigate my lap or lick my hand. After she left the house I think we were all depressed for a week.

We started thinking maybe Max would be happier with a second dog. So like the good students we are, we did some research, and asked friends with two what the deal was. Somewhat on purpose we timed our visits to places to correspond with adoption events, and occasionally perused the shelter websites. Nothing really clicked.

And then we decided to move, and got pregnant, and a second dog seemed the farthest thing from our minds.

And then Maddy died.

And sometime in mid to late May last year, I came back from a run (sigh), and Mr. ABF said "you HAVE to go see the dog that [our neighbors] are fostering." Turns out our neighbors are friends with an emergency vet, who took in a dog that had been severely hurt in a car accident. Sadly, the owner relinquished him when faced with the bill. (This apparently happens a lot in animal emergency medicine, and I suppose is a good public service announcement for animal insurance.) And there at my neighbors, was the sweetest dog, his leg shattered and rebuilt, missing a few teeth, flapping his tail against the couch when I walked in. "We never foster dogs for this doctor although she asks us all the time," our neighbors said. "But this one reminded us of Max."

What the fuck were we doing? Barely three months beyond our daughter's death, neither of us able yet to get through a day without breaking down in some form, thinking about adopting yet another pet? Wasn't this irresponsible? Rash? Stupid?

Probably. But we did it. And suddenly after three months, I woke up.

For starts, I realized that when we brought Buddy in the house, we'd consciously have to let all the pets know that we still loved them. And it dawned on me (by "dawn" I really mean "hit on the head with a cast iron skillet"), I have pets. I had completely neglected them at least since February if not a bit longer. Max's walks had become fraught with emotion as I hated being in public and running into people. I was a zombie in my home, sleep-walking through my days, mechanically doling out kibbles at the appointed time. But with Buddy in the house, suddenly Tucker jumped on my lap. Kirby (Kirby! Where in hell have you been for three months??!!) started sleeping in our room. And Max developed energy. He wanted to play. He wanted to run. He wanted to show once again that he could retrieve too. I literally felt as though they were all brand new, and I was just discovering each of them for the first time.

Buddy also helped me personally. He needed taken care of, and needed rehab. And so rehab we did: we drove out to the dog therapy pool 2-3 times per week. Dutifully I gave him umpteen medications for pain and infection and swelling, and monitored his gait. When a screw holding the plate together in his leg popped, I drove out to the emergency vet during her overnight hours so she could look at it. We carefully observed him when we realized that his hip wouldn't stay in the socket, and pondered more surgery (we opted no; the hip has formed a false joint. He will likely suffer from arthritis earlier than usual, but we're already taking preventative measures). Buddy got me out of my house, talking to people, and reminded me that really I'm fairly good at looking after dependent mammals if given the chance.

Max is an alpha dog, and I like to say that he'd hump the fridge if he thought it would get him somewhere. I was a bit nervous about bringing another dog in the house, especially one who couldn't agilely let Max know he wasn't welcome, but I shouldn't have worried. Apparently they came to some gentleman's agreement in the yard, and there has never once been a show of dominance although clearly Buddy is thrilled to be the beta. (Gamma, corrects Tucker, nearly throwing up a hairball in amusement.) We knew Max was good with sharing, but I've never been so impressed to walk into the kitchen, see that one of the dogs got Bella's left-over peanut butter and apple dish off the counter (a dish which measures about 5" in diameter), and find them both with their noses in it at the same time. I know dogs who live together who bare teeth in order to claim roasting pans.

Buddy likes to sleep with a headrest. And it's not unusual to stumble upon the dogs somewhere -- on the bed, on the windowseat, on the couch -- lying asleep next to each other with Buddy's head resting on Max.





A year ago, Friday, Memorial Day weekend, our neighbors brought Buddy over, and left him here to become part of our family. Today, we celebrated a year with Buddy with many of the neighborhood dogs (about 15 in total), and even the vet who saved his leg and probably his life.


And quite possibly, our lives, too.

24 comments:

Two Hands said...

I'm a sucker for stories like this. I sit around searching the internet for stories of heroic and helping pets. Yours definitely seem to fit the bill. Thank God for our four-legged compatriots. What would we do without them?

kari said...

Aw, Buddy and Max make me miss my dog so much. He died in December at 14 years old. I, too, think he saved my life when my daughter died. That picture of your two really makes me want another dog ...

luna said...

you know I love this story. I had to bring my hub in to see another pic of max. it's uncanny how much he looks like our old pup -- aside from the ears (which are more perky), he is the she-twin of her.

you and buddy are so lucky to have found each other (max too). the pic is too freaking adorable. love it.

STE said...

That picture is just about the sweetest thing I've seen (outside of our cats, of course). I LOVE the ears. And the canine pillow.

Thanks for sharing a great shaggy dog story.

Antigone said...

Two dogs. Four cats. I've always got someone on my lap. I can't imagine life without them.

Sasha, like Buddy, had been in a car accident prior to her rescue and formed a false joint. At the end she was painfully arthritic but most mornings during her last year she would leap across the room in excitement the moment my hand touched her leash.

Buddy and Max look like two of the sweetest dogs in the world.

Julia said...

Awwww... shucks. What a great story. The dogs are beauts, and so symbiotic.

And that Tucker is quite the snark master.

You know, the original plan was that JD would pick up a new puppy this trip. He was just getting to ready more than six years after the dog he got as a puppy was hit by a car and died. But he chickened out again, supposedly because we are not ready to take care of one these days. He swears that we will get one next year. I suppose I can wait another year...

janis said...

Aw, what a story! I am not sure if I envy you or the dogs. They are beauts. LOVE that pic.

Beruriah said...

Oh, so sweet. I had dogs growing up, but our lives right now are so not suited for it. Yet another reason I cannot wait for more stability. I hope we'll be lucky enough to get at least one dog who approaches the sweetness of yours.

CLC said...

That is the cutest picture ever. I love it. They sound like wonderful pets, but you are also wonderful owners. I am glad you were able to help each other out!

Azaera said...

Animals are so wonderful, is it just me or do they always seem to know when you are sad, and show up just to give you an extra cuddle and lick your face as if to say "I understand, and I'm here."?

Mrs. Spit said...

Thanks for sharing. There were times in the days of January, after Owen returned to work, that I am sure I only got out of bed because of a 180 pound mastiff growling that she needed to pee!

Dogs bring us so much comfort. I'm so glad that Buddy found you.

c. said...

Happy welcome-to-the-family Anniversary, Buddy. Beautiful story, Tash. I'm happy to know Buddy was there to save you as much as you were there to do the same for him. LOVE that photo.

Melissia said...

I wonder who actually does the rescuing in these cases, as it always seems to be a toss up to me. What a lovely story. As a rescuer of schipperkes it is a joy to match the right dog to the right family and it is easy to see Buddy is absolutely where he is supposed to be.

k@lakly said...

I love dogs, especially other people's dogs! What a great story. I hope Buddy and Max have long, dog day filled lives together:)

Natalie said...

Oh my gosh, they are just gorgeous!! Pets are just so special... so very very special. I am trying to spend more time with my Zoe, helping me get through the grief.

Busy & Bea's mom said...

I am sorry for the loss of your daughter. My daughter died at age 17 months from pulmonary hypertension...later we found up her genetics were screwed up. My thoughts & prayers are with you & your family.

Aunt Becky said...

Great, Tash, now I'm blubbering like a damn baby. What a sweet story!

HMC said...

My husband and I adopted a puppy two and a half months after the death of our daughter. The day we went to meet our new puppy, we learned she had been born on the day of I's funeral (which was fine, because later my husband and I admitted to one another that had she been born on the same day as our daughter, we both would have been out the door). Perhaps it was a mistake to get a second dog so early in our grief, but she has been a joy in the midst of pain, and there have been many times her presence has been the fire under me to get off the couch and out of my bathrobe, because throwing the ball is of utmost importance and just can't wait. Our older dog is so mellow she would have been thrilled to lie around and wallow with me, and the cat's response to tears is a swift whack across the face (painful and not entirely helpful in the moment). Our sweet little puppy has not repaired the hole in our hearts, but her presence has been a balm.

Jo said...

I am a dog person at heart, struggling to remember this amidst the fray of raising kids too, as you noted when Bella arrived. How amazing of you guys - how perfect that you have Buddy in your family and how it just seemed the right time for you all to fit together. This is one of my favorite blog stories in some time. Thanks for sharing it.

Newt said...

Happy adoptaversary, Buddy!

BethH6703 said...

That has to be one of the sweetest pet pictures I've ever seen! Absolutely adorable!

And now, I want to go out and get a second dog, so that our aging golden retriever will have a playmate, too. (I've been battling the urge for a 2nd dog for many years now, so don't feel too guilty, lol)

Bon said...

sniff, Tash. yay Buddy.

G said...

Oh goodness. Not what I should read today! And the pictures, oy! They are adorable.

This weekend, we had our dog with us at the Lake and our friends had their dog too. Our dog, who never leaves my side, kept taking off and we would find him sitting on their cabin porch, waiting for their dog to come out (or waiting to be let in). It was like after a year and a half since our other dog died, he woke up and realized he likes having another dog around.

No no nononononononon, G, dont get a second dog. Nonononononon too much work! Car isnt big enough!

m said...

*gulp*

This is the closest I've come to expressing emotion for months- no, make that years.

Just beautiful.

x