In August of last year, we began talking about getting another dog. We had said farewell to Aspy very unexpectedly and traumatically on the 4th of July of 2016 and we just had not been ready for another dog. We needed time to heal and time to separate ourselves from the onslaught of memories of the last 36 hours of Aspy's life. But we were ready. We started the search on Petfinder and considered getting another American Eskimo Dog since we thought that was probably the breed Aspy had been. We weren’t able to find any close to us and considered making a trek to another state to adopt. We thought about adopting a senior and talked about whether or not I was strong enough emotionally to handle having a dog for a short period of time. We were also looking at local dogs and ultimately decided to meet some of them before making plans to travel to meet a dog in another state with whom we may or may not have a bond.
We met three dogs on a Saturday and did not feel a connection to any of them. They were all worthy of being saved, but we just didn’t feel like any were a good fit. The first was at a nonprofit no kill shelter. He was just too big, so much so that I had trouble controlling him on a leash. He was a beautiful dog and we knew he would be okay. The second was at a veterinary office which provides services for a local city. He was very young and too high energy for us. He was incredibly cute and we knew he would be adopted. The third was at what is called a dog shelter, although I have many other words to describe it. She was so traumatized from having been housed with hundreds of other dogs for years that we really could not interact with her. We felt guilty leaving her there, but we knew she would be kept alive and in the end we did not want to make a decision out of guilt. Our Saturday trip was a bust and it was upsetting. I had told myself I would be fine with any dog and I guess I was expecting magic that did not happen. I know intellectually that there are hundreds of thousands of dogs who would make a great addition to our family. I know emotionally that feeling a bond and a connection with a dog with whom we will share about 15 years of our lives matters.
We did what any rational people would do. We spent time back on Petfinder, looking for other dogs in our area. Rich was on his computer. I was on my phone. I must have handed my phone to him dozens of times to show him a listing while asking, “how about this one?” There were just so many that it was overwhelming, sad and encouraging at the same time. Surely there was a dog out there who would be a good fit for our home and our lifestyle. When I first saw “Shaggy’s” face, my heart skipped a beat. Or at least it felt that way. He was a young adult. He looked sweet. He had a little mohawk and while he was in what I consider a kill shelter and I worried about his care, he looked really happy. He was listed as a German Shepherd/Husky mix, he was thought to be two years old and the listing said he was "a little rough around the edges." His listing also said he had been found running loose with a chain around his neck which was so tight it had to be cut off. That touched a chord with me, considering that our dog, Snake, had lived chained to a tree for the first two years of her life before Rich adopted her. We agreed he was a possibility and Rich made plans to meet him on Monday when the Pell City Animal Shelter opened, along with another dog named King who was surrendered because his owner had cancer.
Rich made the trip on Monday and told me he liked both dogs, but that I should meet them. (I am sure looking back that the bond had been forged and it was just a matter of me meeting our dog new dog). I made plans to take some time off work the next day to make the trip. I was anxious about it. I knew the Pell City shelter had a good reputation, but I also knew they destroy animals for space. Would I be able to stay calm? Would I be able to look past the faces of the other dogs in the shelter and focus on being there to adopt just one dog? We met both dogs. King was sweet and was fully vetted and ready to go. He really would need very little work and would just need to decompress in a new home. Shaggy was a mess. I think I knew from the time I met him that he was the one. He was sweet and goofy, he had no real idea how to walk on a leash and he was a jumper. King or Shaggy. King or Shaggy. We talked about it and decided that Shaggy was the one because we felt a bond with him and because he needed us more. We knew he had some behaviors typical for chained dogs that some people may not know how to handle and he was also heart worm positive. We left with him that day and made the drive home in a thunderstorm.
We began working with "Rusty" from the moment Rich put him in our truck for the trip home. When I say "we," I really mean that Rich did the work and I tried to help. Rusty is house trained and crate trained. He has learned not to lick us for the most part and when he does, I joke that it is "incidental contact" and that "after further review, the ruling on the field stands." He jumps less than he used to but still jumps and twists in the air when he's playing outside and is wound up; he jumps so high he could probably do well as an agility dog. He no longer uses rocks, leaves and pine cones as toys since he has dog toys, although we did learn the hard way that hard rubber toys are the only kind he cannot destroy in less than 5 seconds. He could do quality control work for toy manufacturers before they describe a dog toy as "indestructible." He is full of energy and loves, loves, loves to play. Rich taught him to catch a Frisbee and he has a host of toys he plays with on his own by tossing them in the air and then going to chase them down. Although the shelter thought he was two years old, we believe now that he was much younger and was probably a year old when we adopted him.
Rusty is actually not playing at all now since we are still doing his heart worm treatment. I still marvel at the fact that so many people in our region do not give their dogs heart worm prevention. It costs about $6 a month and using it can avoid putting dogs through an incredible ordeal to try to rid their bodies of heart worms. Rusty was given a heart worm preventive for period of months before prescriptions for an antibiotic and steroids. His first heart worm shot was in August; the second and third were over a week ago. Based on instructions from our veterinarian, Rich calculated that Rusty can play again on October 21st so it will be a day of celebration for us. He won't be retested by our veterinarian to confirm the worms are gone until May of next year.
Rusty may not have been perfect for everyone, but he was perfect for us. We still think about Aspy's last two days, but less than we used to.
I still know intellectually that there are hundreds of thousands of dogs out there who could have made a wonderful addition our family. But I believe that some things are meant to be and I believe the same about us finding Rusty. Thank goodness for Petfinder.
Happy Gotcha Day, Rusty. We'll be able to play soon.
Note: the dogs we looked at before Rusty have been adopted with the exception of the dog at the "dog shelter." I have yet to come up with a positive way to influence that location and continue to work with my contacts to try to have the dog pulled by a rescue group to be properly decompressed and rehabilitated.
I am an animal welfare advocate. My goal is to help people understand some basic issues related to companion animals in America. Awareness leads to education leads to action leads to change.
image courtesy of Terrah Johnson