This article explains why we have done it four times
Last spring we got a dog—another dog, making it three to three in the house, dogs to people. The new guy is a 10-year-old, pre-owned model, as they say in the car business, a Labrador retriever previously called Spike but whose name is now Stanley. The name change isn’t much of an adjustment for the dog because for the seven years previous nobody talked to him anyway.
The shelter is just off the freeway in a section of Los Angeles that you wouldn’t like even if you liked Los Angeles. It is dark in back where the cages are, the air is damp and fetid. Animals howl, day and night. I used to work in a place like this, a nicer place than this actually, and it still shows up once in a while in bad dreams. I have more of those than I used to.
But leave it at this: I am pretty sure the animals know why they are here, that this is the last stop.
The previous owner came in both to get rid of the dog and to add the loss to his own long, sad list of personal tragedies. They use the word “adopt” a lot around animal shelters, but for a dog like Stanley the chances are slim. In addition to being 10 years old, he is 15 or 20 pounds overweight. His ears are red with infection and have not been cleaned out in years, he scratches at them even in his sleep. He seems to have trouble getting up and down, suggesting hip problems. Suggesting surgery, suggesting long-term financing. And there are hot spots—bedsores that dogs get from lying on concrete.
The first dog we got was Elway. We wanted a smaller dog but Elway had been at the SPCA for a long time and the staff begged for us to take him. Jordon felt manipulated when we brought him home and was musing about bringing him back. I don’t think he ever would have but Elway sat beside my bed and put his paw in my hand for the entire night. A couple of weeks later when Elway had chewed up one of every single pair of shoes I owned, he had won over Jordon as well.
More than anything, Elway helped me through the dark days of my depression. Elway knew when you were happy and knew when you needed him to join you on the couch, lay his head on your lap, and just be there for you.
Elway also protected my life on one occasion. I was at home with Mark who just a couple of weeks old when a large drunk man stormed into our home. Elway was always passive but as the man went to hit me, Elway decided that it was time to take a stand. The drunk backed down, stumbled out and I was able to call the police. The dog had my back.
How awesome was Elway? When friends found out we were going away on vacation, they would ask if they could take care of Elway. He was that good of a dog.
Our second dog was Hutch. Lee adopted Hutch and took him home. Hutch is a Shih Tzu/Pomeranian cross with an even temperament and a low I.Q. As Jordon said, “If not domesticated, owls would eat Hutch in the wild”. He’s probably right. Hutch has had the misfortune of being the alpha male a couple of times and then when new dogs come into the house, he is demoted. He does know how to work the system and as the only lap dog, he also knows that once he gets on Jordon’s lap, he will defend him from Maggi and now Marley who aren’t impressed that he is up there.
Then we got Maggi. She was a Weimaraner/Retriever and the epitome of the Alpha Female. She had been badly beaten, didn’t know how to go up and down stairs, and terrified that Jordon would hit her (which he never did). She was the most intelligent dog we ever had and it was so painful when she got cancer and died last January.
It took a couple of years for her to accept being loved but right from the start, she was the best friend of Mark and Oliver and fiercely protective of both of them. She would guard Oliver’s crib from the time he was born. He was her puppy and nothing was over going to happen to him on her watch.
She was aggressive. Not aggressive with her teeth or violent but you knew it when she wanted by or wanted a spot on the bed. Then again, what can you expect from a breed of dogs that were bred to hunt bears.
On Jordon’s birthday, there was a hard to manage dog at the Saskatoon SPCA. We got Maggi a couple of months after we put down Elway. It was only a couple of months after we had put down Maggi. Neither time was Jordon ready for another dog. Dogs love him unconditionally because they know he loves them the same way. In some ways it is hard to get another dog yet in other ways it makes it easier.
Jordon had already filled out an application that basically said, “look at our record with troubled dogs” and they called right back and said, “You are accepted!” so we went out and picked up Marley. She was different than Elway and Maggi, they were adults. Marley is a defiant teen who liked to bite as her love language. She had been brought in as a family and had seen her mom and siblings all get adopted. She was the last of her family to go and she had been there for a long time. I think it had an impact on her.
I think that stuck with her for a while as she seemed lonely and sad when we took her home. She loved all of us but you could tell all was not well with her. Over the last few months that has changed but still every night she crawls between Jordon and I and places her paws on Jordon’s chest and wants to be held. Then when she falls asleep, she wants to stretch which pushes both of us to the edge of the bed. At 6:00 a.m. she has migrated down to the bottom of the bed (normally after Jordon growls, “Get your foot off my throat”. Then at 6:00 a.m. when the alarm goes off, she immediately jumps to the top of the bed, lays on her back and tries to force Jordon to pet her stomach while laying on the back and licking his or my face.
Other than Hutch who just kind of chills, the dogs have all been Jordon’s dog. It his attention they crave and him they cuddle up to. They may be prepared to defend myself and the boys life with their own and of course join them for any adventure they are needed on but at the end of the day, it is Jordon that want to swap stories with. Like I said, he loves them and they know it.
All four dogs have been different but all have been worthwhile adopting. They have given our family a lot of love and the occasional shoe lost in the process was well worth it.
Back to the article, it has a happy ending.
As for Stanley, in six months he’s lost his belly, along with most of the bedsores. His ears don’t drive him crazy anymore. His hind legs seem stronger all the time—as it turns out, the hips weren’t the problem, the muscles back there had atrophied from simple lack of use. Still, these days this is strictly an indoor beast and more than anything else he just wants to be around one of us all the time. Daytime, he and Sam sit in strange, contorted positions on the floor or the sofa, and night time he gets in bed, either with Sam or with us. Unlike the rest of the animals in the house, Stanley will not get in bed until he is specifically invited.
I don’t know when he sleeps, but most nights I wake up two or three times in the dark, no particular reason, and he is always there watching. That is to say, no reason but three dogs, two cats, Mrs. Nale and occasionally Sam, kicking, twitching and throwing elbows in their dreams. So far the hamster hasn’t shown up, but you never know.
I wake up scanning the room, and there he always is, Stanley, head cocked and watching me from his regular place in the bedroom/the corner of the bed, staring up out of the dark.
Christ knows the memories grazing around in that animal’s head, and for that matter in mine.
Put it like this: Stanley and I are light sleepers.
If you are thinking of getting a dog, get a rescue dog, you will never regret it.