Friday, September 16, 2005

Who Let the Dogs IN?

I DID. When I bought my house nine years ago, I envisioned it to be a home where people were always welcome to drop by. I would have an open door policy and guests would regularly grace my dinner table and feel free to utilize the guest room, when needed. While I have had some guests over the years, the ones who appear most often , however, seem to be of the four-legged, furry variety. Not only do they grace my dinner table (under it, not at it) they also regularly drink from my (toilet) bowl. More often, they feel free to use my bedroom (bed and all) instead of my guest room. And like all guests, human or otherwise, they can put their feet up on my couch, if they so desire (and I’ve yet to see one who hasn’t desired so). First there was Coach, who I inherited when his original owners divorced. They split up the kids, she kept the cat and no one wanted the dog. I had him for 10 years. Then there was a cat I fostered who I named Luther (anyone who was a fan of the TV show “Coach” will understand the name). He only stayed a short while, as I was able to find him a permanent home. Coach died in September, 2003 at the age of 15 years. After he was gone, I didn’t really want another pet. Getting another pet too quickly seemed like a rebound romance – destined for failure. But animals kept finding their way to me. Others who have been fostered or babysat by me the past 3 years include: Kia Swanson, Buddy Braymer, Lady Baker, Atticus Otulakowski, and Nutmeg (a stray cat I found one Thanksgiving who I was able to adopt out). About the same time Coach died, two of my neighbors lost their dogs, as well. Last spring, I noticed they had adopted new dogs and it rekindled in me the desire for another dog. I started looking in the classifieds and the various animal shelters and in July, 2004 I found Sasha, a 3-year old Lab/Beagle mix. She was frightened, overweight and out of shape and in need of someone to love and interact with her to bring out her true self. I renamed her Grace because Sasha was just too exotic a name for a gentle, down to earth dog like her. Besides, one-syllable names are easier to yell when the animal misbehaves. In September, 2004 I was asked to foster Sissy, a 9 month old Border Collie/Pit Bull mix. She was extremely frightened and shy, thus the name. In fact, she had to be dragged in to my house the first time because she was so afraid. I didn’t think that was a very kind name so renamed her Dora, as in “the Explorer” (how this name came about is for another post). As she started to come around and begin to trust me, I knew adopting her out would disrupt her too much and destroy the trust she was developing, so I adopted her, as well. While Dora is a sweet dog, I broke my one-syllable name rule, which I regret because I’m often having to call or yell at her. I do love my dogs. And it is a true love. Living alone, it’s nice to come home to someone/thing each night, especially someone/thing happy to see you. My dogs give me a reason to have to get out of bed each morning. It’s good to be wanted and needed. Margaret Mead once said, “One of the oldest human needs is having someone to wonder where you are when you don’t come home at night.” Grade and Dora rely on me for their care, which is more than just meals and walks, but scratches, pats on the head, a few “Good Girl” comments… They wonder where I’m at when I’m in the bathroom too long. Now don’t think that I’m one of those “dog people” who replace humans with animals. I still have family and close friends with whom I socialize regularly. I don’t demand that people include my dogs when they invite me to a function. I don’t refer to them in human terms. They are not my children. If my dogs and a human being were drowning, I would save the human first regardless of their color, creed or criminal record. My priorities are straight. But I would go back for the dogs. Because that’s what you do for those you love.
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