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  • Writer's pictureBill Stauffer

Gratitude Friday 7-28-23 – Six Months with a Rescue Dog

A dog is not a thing. A thing is replaceable. A dog is not. A thing is disposable. A dog is not. A thing doesn’t have a heart. A dog’s heart is bigger than any “thing” you can ever own.” - Elizabeth Parker, Paw Prints in the Sand

As many readers know, we lost a deeply loved canine family member in late January. It was not entirely expected. We hoped we would have another year with Mr Tweaks, but he left us on the very last Sunday in January. It left a huge hole in our home and in our hearts. I wrote about him in a piece shortly afterwards titled “show me.” Indeed, he showed us a lot. He was one of a kind. But we had room in our hearts for a rescue, and so Sumo joined us just a few weeks later. The end of an era and the start of a new epoch in our humble abode.

I am not sure he had ever slept in a house before he came into our home. He certainly did not know what stairs were until he saw ours that first night. He was a handful in the first few months. In many ways he still is. He has taken out a few TV remotes, recently going through a stage in which he killed one weekly. He can take out the circuit board of a remote with one swift crushing contraction of his powerful jaw. He has an uncanny ability to crunch the point where it is housed within the controller as his preferred first bite. He is quite efficient in destroying them, at least until we changed our habits to keep it out of reach for all but biped mammals.

He is mostly Julie’s dog. While most of our pups have been closer to Julie than I, Sumo so far seems to have imprinted on her. He does like the ladies, more than the gents, but he is fixated on her at every moment of the day. Possibly because she is home a lot more than I, but perhaps for other reasons as well. A friend who volunteers at a rescue noted that most of the volunteers at rescues are women, and so male energy is a bit foreign to many rescue dogs, even if they were never mistreated by a male. We shall see over time if he warms to me, the signs so far are encouraging.

In those early weeks Sumo would generally not look us in the eyes. I am pretty sure he was never fully bonded with humans. This may be in part because he had been with his dog family until we adopted him and largely feral. There was fear when he first looked at us. He can look us both in the eyes now. I see much less fear in his eyes, other than when he hears fireworks. He knows we are his pack. That feels good.

Six months into adopting him he has filled out because he is eating regularly. He has grown into his rather large ears. He smiles a lot (dogs do smile). He is a goofy dog. He knows many commands, more than any other dog we have ever had. He understands us in a way he did not at first. He can read us and (mostly) wants to please us. He knows our routines and other things, like if steak is being cooked, he and Ella will always get at least one piece. He is even really happy to see me when I come home from a trip. It warms my heart to see these small gains in the short time he has been with us.

As a recovering person, I empathize with the little guy. We are second chance mammals, a little rough around the edges and requiring patience. At times I do see fear in his eyes, in a way that Mr. Tweaks never had. Tweaks never experienced human interaction that led to fear. I joke about BBQing him on the grill occasionally when he chews up something he should not, but we both know it is an empty threat. The little dude has a permanent place here. He knows it.

A few years back, as the pandemic took hold, there was a boom in dog ownership. Stuck in their homes, people wanted canine companionship. I am not sure how we would have gotten through those years without ours. Sadly, thousands of these dogs are now being returned. As this NPR report notes, shelters are full across America. While I realize that sometimes a life event occurs in which people are offered little other choice than to relinquish their dog, in our home no dog who came to be part of our pack has ever wanted for a home after coming to ours. I am a really understanding person, but one thing I cannot fathom is people who treat dogs like an old coat or a worn pair of shoes. As the quote above notes, dogs are not disposable, a fact that should be apparent to all who read this.

If you are thinking about getting a dog. Please think it through. Can you make a 15-year commitment to a dog? Can you cover the veterinary expenses for a full dog life? If the answer is yes, please consider a rescue dog. They need homes and the shelters are full. You can save a life by taking a rescue dog. And they know it on some level, something I cannot explain but feel confident is saying. Rescue dogs are resilient. Also, rescue dogs rescue us.

This rescue dog has helped us heal from loss. He burrowed a space in our broken hearts and filled us with new love. He is a really good dog, despite the TV remotes. We have only seen glimpses just how special he is as he adjusts to us and gets through puppyhood. As humans, are we that much unlike rescue dogs, looking for permanence and a safe place to put our love? I don’t think so. I am grateful for rescue dogs, and all the people who devote their time and energy to saving them. These people are heroes in my book.

What are you grateful for today?

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