The Beauty of a Rescued Dog
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
My book is filled with mostly funny stories about Marley's over-the-top, wildly energetic antics. But behind every funny story is a sad reality: There are many, many Marleys out there -- and many of them end up in shelters and rescues, abandoned by owners who have given up on them. Many of these dogs are purebreds that the owners, just months earlier, spent hundreds of dollars for. And now the animals are in cages, free to whoever has the fortitude to bring them home and try to overcome whatever "issues" led to the animals' abandonment in the first place.
The silver lining to this sad phenomenon, of course, are the saints who rescue these abandoned dogs. I hear the success stories every day. Just yesterday I opened a letter from a woman named Pearl in Arizona, who rescued a yellow Lab with many of Marley's qualities from a neglectful environment and gave her the secure, loving home every pet deserves. Now the two of them have happily grown old together.
Writes Pearl: "She is my yelow Lab and she knows exactly what I want her to do by looking in my eyes. She is my love. I am 82 years old and Molly turned ten in June. My prayer is that she passes away on a Saturday -- and I pass away on Sunday." I thought that was very sweet.
Not long after reading Pearl's letter, I opened this email from Chuck T. in Atlanta, who found love at an animal shelter. I think his letter speaks volumes about the special joy in giving a rescue dog a second shot at a good life. Here's what Chuck wrote:
Dear Mr. Grogan,
My heart was broken at having to put our 11-year old golden retriever,Bonnie, to sleep because of a rectal tumor which literally made itself apparent in a couple of days. Surgery would have been tortuous, and her complete recovery was tenuous at best. We literally had hours to say our goodbyes.
So, we were "dogless." After years of adopting abandoned or otherwise homeless retrievers through a retriever rescue association here in Georgia, falling hopelessly in love with these beasts, and having to nurse them through the last days of their lives, we just didn't have the hearts to go through all of it again.
Several months after losing Bonnie, I happened to go to our county-operated animal control kennel to adopt a cat as a surprise gift for my daughter, Angela. The section of the kennel devoted to cats and kittens was jammed with visitors, so I decided to just walk through the stray dog section. After a few minutes of walking down the row of cages and having to listen to all the interminable barking and yelping, I came up on a cage containing the most quiet, handsome Yellow Labrador I'd ever seen. He was huge. But he sat on his haunches looking me straight in the eye. He wasn't barking or acting at all nutty.
I inquired at the front desk about "the lab in cage number 58." The kennel employee said, he was picked up as a stray and had been there for 4 weeks. He was scheduled to be euthanized that weekend. I went back to cage number 58, and he was still sitting on his haunches and continued to stare me down. I put my hand inside the cage and his tail started flopping.
I got on the phone and called my wife of 28 years, Jeani, and said, "I'm out here at Gwinnett County Animal Shelter and you need to know I've fallen in love...with a male." I told her that I couldn't leave here knowing they'd euthanize him in a matter of a day or two, that he was a handsome devil and seemed gentle and calm.
So, I executed the appropriate paper work; paid the fee for his having been "de-nutted," and went out to my car to retrieve Bonnie's choke chain and leash which I had placed in the trunk of my car after leaving the vets office where she had been put to sleep months before.
I walked out with this yet-to-be-named large, lean, yellow lab, and drove home. Well, Jeani and Angela fell in love with him, too, within minutes of meeting him.
Fast forward two days: After a short period of getting to know the lay of the land, "Carter" soon revealed his true nature. He's a big, rambunctious, gooney bird, who's as affectionate as he is crazy...whose flapping tail could practically be classified a lethal weapon and which has jettisoned more coffee cups, coke cans, and vases off of table tops than I can count. I'm six feet tall. So, when I lift Carter up by his front paws, he can literally stand nose-to-nose with me. Kitchen counters with plates of grilled chicken breasts are no problem for him to access. He loves children and hates cats. He'll bark ferociously when the front door bell is rung and he'll run like banshee from hell across the foyer floor, sliding to a loud crash against the front door. He has chewed up patio chair cushions, the handles on two guitar cases, brand new pairs of tennis shoes, leather dress shoes, and Angela's prized volley ball. He's chewed the heads off of her favorite stuffed animals. We actually caught him just in the nick of time removing the cushions from our family room couch and spreading them out on the floor in what we suspect would have been a major chewing frenzy.
Carter is a total nut case, but we love him just the same. He follows Jeani around the house like her shadow. He'll lie on the family room floor next to me and toss one of his huge paws across my face or chest, his tail pounding like a large club. When I rub him above his ears, he emits a low groan of happiness, and will strike me with his paw when I stop. When I come home from work, he's at the door greeting me with whimpers, quiet, little yelps, and that ever-flapping tail. We are not his owners: he owns us.
When I read what you went through in putting Marley down, I knew precisely where you were. One never thinks of becoming that attached to a creature that is totally nuts. But we do, don't we? They steal our hearts and never give them back. And we experience the same pain when they leave us we do when we lose a human friend or relative.
Because Carter was a stray -- we suspect his first owner dumped him, collar-less because of his nuttiness -- the kennel employees and our vet estimated his age at about 3 (people)years. We've had him now almost 2 years, so he's approaching 5 years of age. We hope we'll have many years of him in our lives.
Thanks so much for putting down in words what those of us who have nutty, yet loving dogs experience but can't quite express. I received my copy of Marley and Me from relatives who own a golden retriever in the final years of her life. They told me,"This story will mean a lot to you."
posted by John Grogan at 4:17 PM