Warning: This post has been building for a while. It’s gonna be a long one. You might want to get a coffee. And maybe a sammich. ;)
Back in the middle of July, we had to say goodbye to Aladdin, our dog for the last sixteen years. A couple weeks after that I was off my self-imposed deadline and it hit me all at once. Hit me even harder than that first Monday morning where I went to get the lunch meat to wrap up Aladdin’s twice a day pills. So I looked for ways to smooth over the rough spots left. In seeing that a shelter in the area was in need of dog food donations, we made plans to stop in at the Pet Smart where they did their adoptions and dropped off a box of canned dog food.
I’ve heard people day you don’t go to the shelter to “just look.” If you go you’re coming home with an animal. I don’t fully believe that. As I said in my stories about Aladdin, had we come one day earlier we would have come home without a dog. He was literally the only dog in the shelter that spoke to me. (To be fair, had one spoken to my son that might have been different.) So while there was a Pomeranian puppy there that my wife thought was cute, she was already being adopted. As we walked down the line there was a fox terrier mix that was being passed up by every person there.
When you would go up to her kennel, she would roll on her back for a belly rub, but was so far in the kennel, you couldn’t reach her. She was also shivering at everything, scared beyond simple nervousness. I saw she was in the range of someone not wanting to adopt a “broken” dog. I told my wife to take her out for a little walk while I dropped off the food. Coming out of the kennel she hunched over, tail between her legs.
Ginger was a rescue from a hoarder. For the first year of her life (plus a bit) she was kept in a kennel. She didn’t know how to handle the outside and was scared of loud noises, open spaces, and large groups of people. But behind those frightened eyes there was intelligence and personality. She had the potential to be such a good dog, but she needed someone to take care of her. So we adopted her. This past weekend marked the three week mark of her being in our home.
I was told that none of the people at the shelter, nor her foster family, had ever heard her bark. She didn’t like toys (even though she was only a year and a half old), and to get her to socialize and cuddle you had to close her kennel door. The kennel made her feel safe, so she loved staying there. And while she was crate trained, she wasn’t house trained.
By the second day, once she was out and on the couch with us, she wouldn’t go into her kennel. She did once during an OddCon meeting where everyone had taken all the seats on the furniture. Other than that, she only goes in there while I’m at work. While she is like 90% house trained, it is only really while we are around. We have figured out her “tells”, and she is taking to being trained to wait for outside really well. Which is why she is kept in the kennel during the work day – so she doesn’t have any accidents or get into chewing anything (as she has tried to chew things she shouldn’t while out with us).
At night when she starts to get feisty, she will go from the loving, soft-mouthed grabbing onto our hands to wanting a rough-housing. So the fox toy we were saving for Christmas is nearly destroyed at this point. I’ve already bought the replacement for when it is finally done for. She will even race around the condo before coming back to the couch to pounce on it.
Ginger has also found a love for pillows. Her favorites are ones with depressions in the middle of them. Like the rather costly contour pillow my wife bought from her chiropractor for her neck. More than once, she has woken up with a puppy halo as she has wrapped around her head to lay down on it. Which leads to the fact that she sleeps in our room with us. While she would sleep in her kennel (and does during the day), there’s no way for us to hear her if there is a problem, or if she needs to go out in the middle of the night. So she now has her own “pillow” – which is really a small cushy dog bed that mimics the design of the pillow she likes.
And we’ve heard her bark. Only a handful of times, but still. We like having a quiet dog, but it is good to know she can bark when she needs to. It kinda goes along with being a dog. Even a spoiled one. With her own pink Badgers football jersey.
This morning (after my breakfast was done since she has to have a taste of what I’m having), she slept on her “pillow” that I moved to the couch in our living room. I turned off the television after watching the season premiere of Sleep Hollow, and in the quiet of the condo that used to be all encompassing, there was the deep, rhythmic breathing of Ginger snoozing on her pillow. It was different than when she first came to us – more comfortable and content. I hated to pick her up and kennel her. But I had to get to work. So I scooped her up and informed her it was time for “Khalisi to go to her castle.” (Yes, there are three dragons in her castle.)
Is she still spooked by the outside? Yup. Loud noises also scare her still. And if she gets spooked, she will run back to the condo and skip doing her “business” until she’s calmed down. Somehow the truck rides she initially loved has gotten her spooked since my wife took her solo for a ride on the interstate to go visit my step-kids and grandchildren. She is a special needs dog. But she’s not broken.
Yes, this has significantly altered my schedule. It has been well over a month since I have been to the Victory. I haven’t written more than a blog post or book review since we adopted her. And the last time I spent a day away on the weekend was Sonic Boom and when I came back she was suddenly afraid of truck rides. So it will likely be a while before I do that again.
I am posting this because of how happy we are that we decided to open our home again. Honestly, we didn’t expect to for a while. Once thing I have seen since that disturbed me was the statistics of how many pet owners get new pets, with the prevailing reason being concern over getting a “broken” pet. Ginger has some special needs. We cannot run the vacuum cleaner or garbage disposal while she is in the room, for instance. But she is not broken.
If you are looking for a pet, consider a shelter. Take a look at some of those animals and figure out if their issues are something you can help with. Or, if you are more like me, see if their personality resonates with you. You could very well be saving the life of an animal. And while a hole might be left when they are gone, it is far smaller than what they added while they were here.
Not to mention you might just get a new mascot for your writing group. ;)