Back in July, you may remember that I blogged about a dog who had been banished to a life of solitude. A lot of people thought it was a poem, but it was really a statement of intention and my thought process underlying my resolve to steal the dog.
The dog wasn’t the one in that post’s photo. That photo represented my perspective of that dog’s lonely life. I have a history with the actual dog I was writing about. She belonged to somebody whom I’d known for many years, and she had been dearly loved at one time. Before her “mom” died of metastasized breast cancer, she told me and D that she wanted us to have her dog when she died. At one point, she told us that “it was time”, to take her dog home with us…but we didn’t that day because it was like admitting that her death was imminent. This refusal would haunt us for four years; because after the woman’s death, her husband didn’t want to give the dog up. I suspect he didn’t want to give her up because she represented a connection to his deceased wife.
The man had never been a dog person. He’d put up with this dog, and others before her, because it was what his wife wanted. He never had the rewarding experience of sharing a bond with a dog, and he had a “dogs are just animals” attitude that someone who has never loved a dog sometimes has. He had watched Cesar Milan on APL (please, do not get me started), and after his wife died he set out to turn her dog into what he thought a dog should be.
Holding Milan in high regard (I told you not to get me started!) turning the dog into what he thought a dog should be was all about exerting his dominance over the dog. The man began by limiting the dog’s freedom; no getting on the furniture. No entering the living room. No petting or affection. Eventually, long lonely days outside. He is not a bad person, he just has a neanderthal view of what a dog should be — and underneath it all, he didn’t really want to be bothered with a dog.
When his wife had been sick, I had taken the dog to get her shots, and because I expected that the dog would one day be living with us, I’d made a note that day so I’d know when she was due again. When that date rolled around, I told him. Although he could afford it, he said he would not take her for shots. And although I could not afford it, I told him that I would.
A few days before her appointment, I called his house and asked his son to bathe the dog in preparation. I knew she’d been in the yard day in and day out, and we were in the height of flea season.
The day before the appointment, I called to let the man know what time I’d be picking the dog up, and I asked if his son had bathed her. He told me that she didn’t need a bath because she had been out in the rain the whole day before. His offhand and callous remark cut right to my heart. I picked the dog up at the arranged time (thankfully, the son had bathed her) and took her to be vetted. When I took her back to the man, I asked him if he was ready to give her up. He wasn’t.
I asked him several more times over the following years, but she was “his dog now”. I worried about her whenever the weather was too hot or too cold, whenever it stormed or snowed, and whenever I knew he’d been drinking. One day D and I stopped for a visit and asked that he allow the dog to sit with us on the front porch –something she had loved to do with his wife. He brought her out and D and I loved on her while we visited. When we were ready to leave, the man put the dog back into the yard. When she heard our engine kick over she let out a heart piercing sound of anguish. She knew her “mom” had wanted her to be with us.
D and I drove away in tears, and heard that sound over and over in our memories for months to come. Again and again we asked for her, and he refused.
Fast forward to July.
It was time for the dog to get shots again, so I made the necessary arrangements. Only this time, I had no intention of returning the dog to him. I had resolved to steal her. I did not clue D in. My plan was to take the dog for her shots and then take her to our house for some fun time. When it was time to take her home, I’d make some excuse to the man. “We got tied up and can’t bring her back tonight…we’ll bring her tomorrow”. I knew he wouldn’t come to get her, because he didn’t want the dog in his car. I blogged about it to strengthen my resolve. But then an amazing thing happened. The man’s son called me the night before the appointment and said “Dad said if you want to keep her, you can.”
Apparently, the dog was now urinating whenever she was in the house, and he had now limited her to a tiny room at the rear of the house when she came in at night. When we picked her up that day, he said she’d have a better life with us…so our persistence had paid off. What we thought had been falling on deaf ears, eventually got through.
She lives with us now. Her name is Zoey. She was urinating in the house because she was drinking loads of water, and she was doing that because she had a terrible infection in her mouth. It took a number of visits to the vet, and a pile of money to work out and fix what was wrong, but thankfully, Valley Save-a-Pet helped us pay for that.
Zoey and our pack of dogs didn’t have an adjustment period. She just walked in our house, everyone said “hi” and that was that. Everyone, including her, knew she was supposed to be here.
Zoey spent the first three days at our house playing. She climbed into the toy box and tried out each toy. She squeaked toys to her heart’s content. She never stopped wagging her tail. She sleeps with me in my bed, she sits beside D or me in our chair when we watch TV. She takes walks with Waldo and me. She plays and plays and plays. She gifts me with kisses.
Still, those years of solitude in the yard took their toll. She has terrible arthritis, and hurts whenever the weather is cold and damp. She cannot bear to be in the dog pen with the other dogs unless I am in the pen too. I think she is afraid she will be left out again. She is afraid of the dark. She has moments of hysteria if she becomes tangled in her leash on walks, or sometimes when she is picked up, or if her foot gets wedged beside the chair cushion. It’s a panic induced hysteria.
Sometimes she goes far far away…lost in thought like she is in a trance. Maybe she is thinking about her “mom”, maybe she is remembering long lonely days under the porch, maybe she is just ‘checked out’ into a safe place. We continue to love on her and work with her. She’s going to be okay, and we are resolved to see to that. She is a good little dog, full of love and joy.
Dogs have a beautiful, resilient spirit.