Saturday, December 26, 2009

You Ain't Nuthin but a Pound Dog

When I was a teenager, I only liked bad boys. As an adult woman, I only like electronic toys. So maybe it’s no surprise that my taste in canine companions are as strongly developed. I only like shelter dogs. Pause, not totally true, I only want to live with dogs from the shelter. I like all dogs just fine, but I just have never had the urge to own a dog with papers and defined breed. I take care of my son’s mini-schnauzer, Lola, and she is a delight, but I don’t want one just like her.

I love a mystery. Where did you come from? What’s your upbringing like? What do you like and what do you hate? With a shelter dog, I love the opportunity for us to learn from each other. These dogs will keep secrets from me as I will from them, but it's all such a wonderful discovery trip.

Take Mitch, my little cocker spaniel. She was a rescue dog and about five years old when we got her. She was the most loving and sweet dog ever. Mitch never met a person she didn’t like. Her tail was cropped, but she wagged her whole body as hard as she could to show you how glad she was to see you. She loved the mailman, the UPS man, the meter reader, the neighborhood children, and her family. Mitch looked so adorable in her yellow slicker in the rain! I think everyone who met her fell a little in love with her because of her sweetness. She and our cat, Smokey, became the best of friends and even slept together from time to time.

If she had a flaw, it was that she was a total chow hound. If there was anything left anywhere that she could eat, she’d grab it and run. Walking her, I had to look out for food on the sidewalk because if I didn’t see it first, it was gone.

We never found out how Mitch had ended up a homeless stray. She was obviously not abused. When we got her, it was very difficult to tell what she was because she was just black curly creature with a pink tongue. You could not even see her eyes. When we had her groomed, my husband and I were amazed to find a cocker under all those wild curls.

When my husband was serving in the Middle East during the Iraqi Freedom Operation for a year, Mitch and I got even closer. We shared my bed and when Christmas came, we both had fillet mignon for dinner together. If I was reading, she was on the couch next to me. If I was working, she was at the computer station lying patiently at my feet. We were inseparable. We were blessed to have her for six years. I still miss her to this day and always will.

When Mitch died, I knew for my own mental health, I needed another dog right away. I found Honey at the shelter and she was a calming spirit. I fell in love at first glance. She was big, beautiful, muscular, and well-mannered. She had signs that she had been on the street for a long time. Honey’s legs and chest were scarred with wounds, old and new. What happened to you, Baby? How did these things hurt you but leave you a tranquil, self-contained, and loving dog?

Honey, a seventy-pound German Shepherd–Pit Bull mix, has her share of health issues as well. But she is stoic about pain, never nervous about the vet, and takes her medicine without protest. My husband Alex says “she doesn’t worry about things above her pay grade”.

Honey is never fawning and she never engages in puppy-like behavior (of course she was about five when we got her). To show affection, she simply comes over to me and press her shoulder against my leg. Honey prefers quiety watching the perimeter of her yard to playing. If someone she doesn’t know comes too close, she warns them with a deep growl and a sharp bark. (Her appearance and size tend to make people back off.) I sometimes call her “Marine Corps” because she seems so regimented in who she is. She leaves the kitchen when cooking is going on, and won’t return back into the room until dinner is finished. Honey is gentle and loving and I’ve never seen her behave in an aggressive manner. I’m so glad I found her.

Harry (or Prince Harry) was gotten as a companion for Honey, (whether she wanted a companion or not). He’s an orange red big guy who at eighteen months had been returned to the Shelter night drop box three times by families who decided they couldn’t keep him. Harry is eighty-five pounds of love! He doesn’t walk, he springs up and down like a dog on a trampoline!

My husband nicknamed him “Agent Orange” but he also goes by “Peace Corps.” He’s sensitive, joyous, and exuberant! You can’t bring him down. He worries about things though; Harry hates the country; he hates travel; and he hates fireworks. He adores other dogs and loves to play. I wonder how he could have been abandoned so many times and still have the most optimistic attitude I have ever seen. His manners are not quite a sharp as Honey’s. (Harry plants his face firmly on my lap when I’m eating, and tries to taste the air that smells like food.) He’s one big beautiful pound dog!

Like my penchant for bad boys, I love these canines “with a past.” I never tire of trying to solve the mysteries of their being.

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