Friday, November 7, 2014

Max And Copper

Yesterday was November 6, and it was the one year anniversary of when we drove over to Boise to pick Kory up at the airport:
Over the past year she has slowly but irrevocably become a beloved and cherished member of our small family, and LC and I are still in awe of her.
Her speed and agility, her loving personality, her sweet heart, her ability to communicate with us, and the impact that she has made on our lives..............

Over the past few months both LC and I wondered if our sweet girl would like to have a buddy.
Another dog for company.
Another dog to play with in the yard and to run with out on BLM land.
We wondered if this still-young dog was being stimulated enough by two owners who sometimes wrestle to keep up with her boundless energy.
And so a month or so ago both LC and I began looking online for another dog that we though may be a good fit for our girl.
A dog with a sweet nature, who loved life as much as she did, who could go toe to toe with her out on BLM land, who could back her up in the event of unexpected confrontation.
With those thoughts in mind we searched, and eventually we found Max.
He was two years old.  A yellow lab.  Located about 70 miles away in the Rexburg Animal Shelter.
LC and I looked at the picture of this apparently happy boy.
He had not yet been neutered, but we knew that the adoption fee included the neutering, as well as up-to-date shots.
His face made me smile.  Shining eyes.  Wide open and happy face.
He looked like a big, friendly, fun loving, people loving, life loving, energetic goofball which was exactly what we were looking for.
Calling the day before we made the trip, I was reassured that Max may be a good fit for us.
The woman at the shelter that I spoke to reassured me that he was friendly, happy and eager to please.  
So far, so good.
I told her that the plan was for LC and I to meet Max first, and if we liked him we wanted to introduce Max to Kory to see how they got along.
Kory would be the one making the final decision.
I was told that we could bring Kory into the fenced area with Max so that they could interact with each other.
When I expressed concern about all the dogs that must have played in that same fenced area, I was reassured that every dog at the shelter was first quarantined for a week to determine health and to identify any aggressive personalities.  And then they were all given initial shots before being released into the general animal shelter population.
Max had been out of quarantine for only two days.
I liked her answers.
LC, Kory and I eagerly drove up to Rexburg late yesterday morning, on the one year anniversary of our getting Kory, excited at the prospect that we might find a running and playing buddy for our dog.
Walking into the animal shelter I was immediately pleased with what I saw.
A bright, clean, well lit building and after telling the young lady at the desk about our desire to meet Max, she asked us to sign in and then wash our hands.
More and more I liked this place.
After a visit to the dirty, noisy, disorganized shelter in Blackfoot, each positive answer and engaging smile and sign of cleanliness and caring reassured me that we were in a place that truly cared about animals.
The young woman behind the desk was a student intern who was working for school credit, and she led us through the building until we reached a door that led directly out to a fenced area
Unlike Blackfoot where the dogs were relegated to small and damp cages, there were three dogs at this shelter and they were all playing outside.
As soon as I saw Max I smiled.
He was beautiful.  Big and muscular and looking like a happy, tail wagging pup.
With a great deal of difficulty we managed to keep three enthusiastic and energetic pups inside the fenced area, and LC and I squeezed through the half open gate.
Immediately Max ran over to us and with his mouth, nipped at my hand.
Startled I pulled my outstretched hand back, and Max immediately worked his way behind me, stood up on his hind legs and tried to hump me.
OK.  He was a two year old un-neutered male.  Keep that in mind Karin.
Walking to the center of the fenced area LC called to Max and he enthusiastically ran in circles around us.
And then stood up on his hind paws again, rested his front paws on my shoulders, and humped me again.  He had a good hold on me and I struggled to pull this big and heavy dog off me.
For the next 15 minutes Max alternated between running, nipping at me, biting at my jacket, and standing on my back and humping me, and it was all I could do to keep this muscular mutt at bay.
He was a beautiful dog, and I knew that some of his rambunctiousness would be tamped down after neutering, but LC and I looked at each other and knew that this was not the right dog for us.
And not the right dog for Kory.
We had to adopt him before getting the neutering, and neither one of us was willing to take a chance on what kind of dog he would be after the fact.
He had no manners at all.  Someone had done him a grave disservice.  Would he make a good family dog for someone?  Would he make a good farm dog for someone, when he had not been socialized at all?
We didn't know.
But he was not the right dog for us.
Walking back into the shelter we told the young volunteer and the young employee what we had decided.
In conversation we found out that Max had been in quarantine for two weeks, and had been at the shelter the longest of the dogs they had.
That isn't what I had been told over the phone.
I thought that, but did not say that.
Would we be interested in fostering Max for a few days?
With that, we disappointedly walked out of the shelter.
Climbing back into the Tahoe LC and I decided that we would stop at the Idaho Falls shelter and Blackfoot shelter on the way home.
Since we had to go by them anyway.....................

Walking into the Idaho Falls Animal Shelter we quickly realized that it was also clean and well cared for, and after greeting the friendly lady at the front desk she pointed us in the direction of the animals.
Unlike Rexburg, the dogs were all inside, and unlike Rexburg there were many many more dogs.
God I hate these places.
All desperate, unwanted, unloved, innocent animals who had been abandoned and disposed of by careless owners, many of them surreptitiously placed in a drop box in the middle of the night so as not have to pay the $20 fee for surrendering their dogs and cats over the city.
So many times I have wondered why people refused to get their animals fixed.
,And so many times I have wondered why a person would pay $200, $500, $1500 for a specific breed of dog that is the result of copious back yard breeding in this region.
Why would someone buy a dog from someone who views dogs simply as Christmas money, when there are millions of unwanted animals every year that are euthanized.
Walking through the rows of cages filled with beautiful dogs I was reminded again of my dislike of people.
There were a couple of very small and very cute puppies, who were sitting forlornly on the floors of their cages looking out into the hallway that had now become their constrained and heart breaking world.
And my heart broke for them.
It broke for them all.
A few dogs simply sat and looked at us as we passed by after reading about them.  A few eagerly bounced around their small cages looking hopefully at us.
Please take me.
Pick me.
Goddammit I hated these places.
And then we saw this girl.
She was very thin.
I crouched down and she silently walked up to the front of her cage and stood there, not looking at me.
Hello Baby.
She was shy and uncertain and I reached the tips of my fingers through the cage and softly touched her cheek.
I spoke softly to her.  Her name was Copper.  She was two years old.  
LC and I were both drawn to this thin and shy and seemingly sweet little girl.
She needed someone to love her and to call her their own.
I could sense it in every fiber of her thin body.
LC and I talked to the receptionist, we grabbed a leash, walked back to Copper and gently put the leash around her neck.
Walking out to the fenced-in grassy area, as soon as we took the leash off her Copper did what a hound dog does.
She was instantly and strongly nose driven.
After smelling her way around the grassy area Copper began to run full speed around the interior perimeter of the area.
She was suddenly fast and energetic and I smiled as I watched her.
Partly because I recognized a dogs' delight at a brief taste of freedom, and I relished in her delight.  
And I smiled because of how she looked when she ran.
She was fast although not as fast as Kory.
And unlike Kory - who runs with the speed and complete grace of a Greyhound - this beautiful little girl was all legs and knobby knees and she ran with the grace of a slightly off balance new foal.
Spending a long time with her LC and I finally decided that we wanted Kory to meet her.
Only, when I talked to the receptionist she referred to the fenced area as the "Parvo Field".
Copper had had a rudimentary physical and no apparent illness or viruses were found (although the owner had tossed her into the drop box with a wood sliver in one paw so big that it had required medical attention), but the woman was not prepared to tell us that there was nothing in the grass that Kory could pick up.
So no.  That wasn't going to work.
Instead, we decided to keep them on the pavement and small front lawn to the side of the shelter by the parking lot.
I had Copper.  LC got Kory.  
They sniffed each other and then both ignored each other, each more intent on following their respective noses than interacting together.
Over the next 20 minutes they occasionally crossed paths, sniffed each other and then went back to following wherever their noses took them.
No fights.  No growls.  No dominating behavior from either of them.
Not much of anything really.
The longer we spent with Copper the more we liked her.
Copper had been thrown into the drop box and the shelter kept those dogs for a week before adopting them out, until they got in touch with the owners if possible (to see if owners had either changed their minds or to see if they could get the $20 surrender fee from them).
If the dog wasn't chipped or tagged there was no way to get in touch with the owner, but Copper was chipped.
And so the shelter had made the call - pay up, come get your dog, or the city will send you a bill.
As we were outside with Copper and Kory the owner walked out of the shelter, having paid the dough and formally surrendering the dog.
We could take her today if we wanted her.
The owner blew smoke up our behinds and we stood wordlessly listening to him blow smoke.
He thinking we were buying his crap, and both of us already knowing the truth about who and what he was.
And yet again yet again yet again yet again I was reminded of how much I hate people.
Putting Kory back into the Tahoe we walked into the building with this quiet and precious Plott hound dog.
An elderly volunteer grabbed a couple of treats, called Coppers' name, and this up-til-now quiet and introverted dog suddenly looked up and stared attentively at the treat.
The woman said "sit" and Copper sat.
She repeated the trick a second time.
This dog was reachable and she was trainable.
I was beginning to fall in love with this sweet little girl.  
I could feel it.
I sat on the floor, called her to me and she came.  Moving my face close to hers I softly called her name again, and she looked me in the eye for the first time.  For just a second before looking away again.
I stroked the side of her face and rubbed her long, floppy ears.
God this girl needed someone to love her.
We took her outside again.
How would Kory react to another dog in her home?  In her house with her people?
Kory had been through a lot in her life and we only knew very little of her story.
She was comfortable in her home.  With her people. With her routine.  With her walks and her runs and her town.
We decided to test out in a small way how she would react to another dog on HER turf.
Opening one back door of the Tahoe I held onto Korys' leash.
LC opened the other back door and encouraged Copper into the Tahoe.
When Kory gets into the truck she jumps with one effortless, graceful bound.
And so I smiled as I watched this gangly, all legs and knobby knees hound dog, as she pulled and tugged and worked her way up into the truck.
Kory immediately jumped over the seat and into the very back of the Tahoe.
Copper half stood on the floorboard and half sat on the seat, unsure of where she was supposed to be.
Calling Korys' name I encouraged her to come back over the seat, so that they would be together in the same seat.
Only............instead of them sitting together, and instead of a growling power struggle (both of which we thought were possibilities), Kory crawled down onto the floor.
Curling up in a ball in one corner of the floorboard, she silently hid her head under the seat.
I looked down at my dog who suddenly looked so uncertain.
And that was it.
I couldn't do it.
WE couldn't do it.
We both liked Copper very much but we couldn't bring ourselves to bring her home.
We had agreed that Kory would be the one to ultimately make the decision of whether or not we got another dog.
If it wasn't good for her, then it wasn't good for us.
And looking down at our dog, who suddenly and silently looked so threatened, depressed and uncertain, we knew that it wasn't good.
Kory was fine being an only dog, and the center of our world.
She was fine with not sharing her home and her family with another.
We walked back into the shelter with this wonderful little girl, took her back to her cage, gently took the leash from around her neck, closed the cage and walked away from her.
I lay awake last night thinking about Copper.  About how thin she was and how she had been thrown into a drop box with a large wood sliver in her paw.  About an owner who looked us in the face and who lied to us.  About a sweet little knobby kneed dog who got to run and play in a yard.  Who sat for a treat.  Who let me rub her face and her ears.  Who scrambled up into a car seat thinking that she may be going to a new home.  Who we took back to a cage and walked away from.......................

A Dog's Purpose - From a Four Year Old
Author Unknown

Being a veterinarian, I had been called to examine a ten-year-old Irish Wolfhound named Belker. The dog's owners, Ron, his wife, Lisa, and their little boy, Shane, were all very attached to Belker and they were hoping for a miracle.

I examined Belker and found he was dying of cancer. I told the family we couldn't do anything for Belker and offered to perform the euthanasia procedure for the old dog in their home.

As we made arrangements, Ron and Lisa told me they thought it would be good for four-year-old Shane to observe the procedure. They felt Shane might learn something from the experience. 

The next day, I felt the familiar catch in my throat as Belker's family surrounded him. Shane seemed so calm, petting the old dog for the last time, that I wondered if he understood what was going on. Within a few minutes, Belker slipped peacefully away. The little boy seemed to accept Belker's transition without any difficulty or confusion.

We sat together for a while after Belker's death, wondering aloud about the sad fact that animal lives are shorter than human lives. Shane, who had been listening quietly, piped up, "I know why."

Startled, we all turned to him. What came out of his mouth next stunned me. I'd never heard a more comforting explanation.

He said, "People are born so that they can learn how to live a good life -- like loving everybody all the time and being nice, right?" The four-year-old continued, "Well, dogs already know how to do that, so they don't have to stay as long."

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