Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Gone to the Dogs

© Marta Stephens 2009 all rights reserved

I don’t remember a time growing up when we didn’t have a dog or a cat, sometimes both. My parents loved animals and I guess in that respect, I'm just like them. As a child, I had pet rabbits and chickens and at different times an assortment of parakeets too.

After we got married our children did the gold fish, mice, and hamster thing. One of our hamsters was an escape artist. I can’t say how many mornings the entire family would have to stop what we were doing to look for her only to find she’d made her way into our son’s dresser drawer or slipped into a closet.

I keep my bird feeders filled and plant flowers that attract birds and butterflies too, but when it comes down to it, I’m a dog person. Over the past twelve years, my husband and children and I acquired a few of them.

We bought Maggie Mae, a Boston Bull dog, from a local breeder when she was six weeks old. Aside from having been born deaf, she’s an intelligent, healthy and sassy old girl—definitely thinks she’s the alpha dog. She's the white one in the above on the left and sitting front and center on the floor below. She refused to exert any unnecssary engery. She might chase a fly now and then, but eating and sleeping are her favorite activities.

We found Buddy (the black and white above right and the proud looking dog on the right below) at the pound. He was a year old, emaciated, and starving for a love and attention.

He’s eight now and starting to gray (Bostons lose their mask as they age) but hasn’t given up the need for attention. He’s also a heck of a catcher too! He never misses. Oh, one more thing, he hates cats. He once chased the neighbor's cat up a huge oak tree. The cat looked like a puff of hair clinging to the tree bark and Buddy just kept jumping higher and higher. Looked as if he had springs for legs.

A couple of years later, we found Kallie and rescued her too. She’s the one sporting the stylish antlers. She was living in a home where she had to compete with three other large dogs for her food and whatever else she needed. She’d been left outside (Bostons are not outdoor dogs), was skinny as a rail, and needed to be shampooed three times when we got her home to get the dirt off her.

Kallie had a rough 10 years before we brought her home, but at least her last five were better. If not in the "lap of luxury", she certainly found the warm lap of a little girl who was nuts about her.

That same little girl (our dauthter) grew up and was working at a pet store when a co-worker rescued two miniature Daschunds, Candy (brown) and Moo (black). She was between apartments at the time and living at home with her own mini Daschund, Slinky. So now Candy and Moo made five.

I suppose she gets it honest. She couldn’t resist bringing them home and frankly, one look into those doggies eyes, and I couldn’t say no either.

So often we think of animal abuse as physical, but neglect can be just as devastating. Candy took to her new home right away, but Moo was a frightened year-old dog and hid under the beds for months before she finally realized that it was okay to come out on her own and play. We even had to drag her out to get her to eat. Now she demands a spot on our laps wherever we're at in the house.

Last April, we were getting ready to take the dogs out before going to work and found that Candy couldn’t walk. We were crushed to see that her hind legs were paralyzed. We took a day off work, rushed her to an emergency vet in a town twenty minutes away and found out she had three damaged disks in the middle of her back—an old injury that had progressively gotten worse. The vet performed emergency surgery, ten days and $2,700 later (not counting meds and follow-up visits) we brought her home.

We’ve worked all summer on her physical therapy to help her gain the strength back in her back legs. She’s just now starting to gain some control of her bodily functions. For brief moments, she can stand up and hold her weight, but still can’t walk. There’s still a good chance that she will but it was a serious injury and it will take time which we’re glad to give. Ironically, bad legs or not, since the surgery she’s been able to roll on her back in the grass, something she couldn’t do before. She crawls as fast as most dogs run, has a sparkle in her eyes, and has the heart of a winner.

We carry her around the house from room to room in a clothes basket so she can be a part of what’s going on and then snuggles into her towels when she wants to nap. If she wasn’t spoiled before, she is now and that’s okay.

We don’t need a security system in our home. Our arrivals are always met with a host of barks, yapping and lots of wet kisses. Our dogs follow us wherever we go. They sit at our feet or on our laps and all they ask in return is to be fed, taken for walks, kept clean, and be loved. In the evenings, you’ll find Moo cuddling with my husband as he watches TV and Candy, Buddy, and Maggie take their places in their beds under my desk while I type.

They say that a dog can add several years to our lives. If that’s true, we’ll be around for a good long time. Here’s a video I hope you dog lovers will enjoy.


Aaron Paul Lazar said...

Marta, you simply melted my heart with this one. We "rescued" Balto from daughter Jenn's apartment, where he was left alone all day and barked until the neighbor's threatened all sorts of awful actions. He's snuggled beside me right now, and is my best pal.

This piece is a classic, one of your best. I'll cherish it and now can picture your dogs beneath your writing desk. You have a heart of gold, dear woman. :o)

Marta Stephens said...

I'm just grateful to have a big old house and that the dogs are small. LOL The truth is, I wouldn't make a very good volunteer at a pet rescue site, I'd probably end up taking them all home!

Sylvia Dickey Smith said...

Wow! I keep trying to talk hubby into us getting a dog--haven't made it yet, but you make me want one even more. Maybe I will renew my pleas.

Marta Stephens said...

Well, Sylvia, you know what they say, it's easier to receive forgiveness than permission. Bring one home and surprise him! (Obviously I wouldn't make a good marriage counselor either) LOL

Janet Kay Gallagher said...

After deciding to Marry Him , a condition was put on. "We have to have dogs." "Outside, ok." "No, in the house and you can't have one by itself, there have to be two,because they will be alone for hours while we are working." I agreed, We were married almost 30 years when he passed way. Leaving me two dogs.lost one, old age and the other one is having her health problems but keeps going.

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Lovely essay about your dogs.

Raising five kids we had a lot of dogs, cats, hamsters, ducks, chickens, lizards, snakes--yes, all in the house at one time or another.

Now we're down to three inside cats, one outside dog, and I have no idea how many outside cats, they get dumped here and hubby feeds them.


s.w. vaughn said...

Oh, what sweet puppies! I think it's wonderful that you've rescued so many.

We plan to get a dog hopefully next summer, as we all love them and haven't had one for years (just the cats). First we need a really good fence, since we live on a busy truck route and I couldn't stand to see a dog hit by a car.

Sheila Deeth said...

What lovely heartwarming dogs and stories. Thank you for sharing them. (I'm still missing my Maggie.)

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Oh my
Now you've gone
and made me cry
I love my dog
And my cats
And God
Can't imagine
life without

50 plus years old and Tigger is the first animal I've ever had disappear without a trace.

James Goodman said...

Aw, I'm so glad Candy found you guys, who knows what would've happened if she wound up in a home where they had neither the time nor the inclination to get her patched up.

We also have a Boston (Gigi) and an Italian Greyhound (Mario). They are a part of the family and even alternate between sleeping with us and sleeping with my son at night.