Wednesday, January 23, 2008

How Much We Love our Dogs


Have you ever thought about walking out onto your 4" snow-covered back porch, barefoot, in the middle of the night in nothing but your pajamas? The origin of that question will be clear in just a bit.

DH and I are definitely dog people. Shortly after moving to California in 1995, we adopted Blizzard, a beautiful male American Eskimo. We fell so much in love with the breed that we decided to adopt a female, Glacier, so that Blizzard had another dog for companionship. Eventually, we found ourselves getting involved in animal rescue – helping rehabilitate dogs in our home until they were ready to move on to a permanent family. We were limited by the animal control laws to only three pets so we would foster a dog, work with it and find it a home before taking in another. One dog had behavioral problems; another was just a wanderer that needed to be cleaned up and fed before being placed in a home. A third, a female Chow whom we decided to call Nestle, was a special case. In 1997, she was just a puppy when we found her running as fast as her little feet would carry her - straight down the middle of a busy road in Palmdale, California. We had just headed out to hit some yard sales, so it was very early and thankfully traffic was scarce. We drove as close as we could to her and I jumped out in a feeble attempt to grab her. Being the spring chicken that I was (ha!), she totally outran me. DH managed to safely get the car in front of her, threw it in park and jumped out to scare her off of the road. She got caught in a bush on the side of the road and we were able to wrangle her into the car. She had signs of having been abused by the man of her prior home; she wouldn't go near DH for months. Whenever he would stand up or raise an arm to pet her, she would cower in fear. It was a sad sight because she's a very gentle and loving creature. I never will understand how people can treat such caring and forgiving animals so cruelly.

When it came time to take Nestle to an adoption event, I decided I couldn't do it. We had worked with her long enough that I realized that WE were the perfect family for her. Because of the three pet limit, our days of fostering and rehabilitating were over… but it was all for the best.

We've been through a lot with our dogs. After many years of dealing with infertility issues, we had finally come to grips with the fact that our dogs were the only children we would ever have. (That was before we were blessed with Miss M.) Later, in 2004, Glacier had surgery to remove one of her eyes due to a tumor. We lost our first four-legged child, Blizzard, in December 2006. I didn't realize how incredibly hard that would hit me; it is still a difficult subject more than a year later. A few weeks ago, Nestle started having problems with one of her hind legs. She couldn't manage the flight of stairs so DH and I began to carry her up and down. It gave me flashbacks to all the time I needed to do that for Blizzard. But we love our dogs and we do what we need to. Nestle must have hurt it on something because she's finally started to put some weight on it and only needs help with the stairs about once per day.

Then the other night, during our regular middle-of-the-night doggie restroom break, Nestle slipped trying to come up the three stairs to the porch. Her front paws were on the top pulling with all her might. She looked like she was falling off the side of a building – so helpless and panicked. Immediately, I realized that I needed to go outside… onto the back porch… barefoot into 4" of snow… in the middle of the night… in nothing but my pajamas to help her. As I opened the door to go outside, she mustered just enough strength to make it up by herself.

Without hesitation, I gladly carried her up the flight of stairs to the bedroom.

2 comments:

  • Sonny Amou

    Touching post SAHM, very touching.

    My first thought is that you might want to check out a documentary called Gates of Heaven (dir. Errol Morris). It's about the first pet cemetery in the US, I think it was made in the 1970s. The film is less about the cemetery and more about the strong relationships people create with their pets. Might be hard to find locally, but Netflix has it, I checked. (Not to be confused with the 1981 megabomb Heaven's Gate, totally diff flick).

    The other thought is about how responsible pet owners are often left to catch up and undo the cruelty of people who, frankly, should not own pets, or own them for all the wrong reasons. My parents adopted two male cats about four years ago, and one of them was clearly the victim of abuse. It'd stay pinned to the wall in perpetual fear, and any time I'd come over or my old man would enter the room, Misha would practically scale the wall to scramble out. It took two-three years for Misha to adjust, and thankfully it paid off. But a cat nor a dog shouldn't spend 10%, heck, even 1%, of its lifespan having people issues.

    All that said, glad you and DH invest so much in your pets. More people should do this. Scratch that - I meant everyone.

    Pax, S.

  • Nicole

    Well said, Sonny. Pets shouldn't have to endure the poor attitudes and actions of people that don't deserve them. Kudos to you and your family for making Misha's life meaningful.

    I'll have to check out the movie. We don't have NetFlix anymore, but I'll see if we can find it online or something. When Blizzard died, I was very touched by the fact that the place we took him gave us a mold of his footprint. I had never heard of that before and feel it is so thoughtful.

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