Our first family dog was a rescue dog, that is, a dog that was rescued from an animal pound because he had been rejected by his family. He was a Springer Spaniel and came to us with the name of Jed. We agreed to foster him, which meant he lived in our house and the rescue association covered his costs. Jed came to us heartworm positive, and that had to be treated. Several rounds of intravenus arsenic and several thousand dollars out of their pocket later, Jed was a wild and healthy dog who had weaseled his way into our hearts.
20 years have passed and we have had a total of 25 rescue dogs live with us (sometimes with as many as 3 pups under our roof at a time, 2 of whom ended up staying long term, 1 of which is still here). It felt weird to be a one dog house. So, over the holidays this year I agreed to foster a mixed breed dog named Glenna (“you know, after the good witch in Wicked…” okay then, that would be Galinda). A lovely, friendly, energetic and oh so large 70 + lb dog who needed to be in charge.
Our current dog, Petey, was not amused. Glenna/Galinda would barrel into him and knock him over. She would want to play, and play hard, but in the process would smack him around and leave Petey limping. For every four steps Petey made, Galinda would only need one gallop. Soon she became known as our horse-dog. Petey soon became sullen and withdrawn.
We have a fenced in backyard, one side of which is a parallel to a sidewalk. G’linda would spot pedestrians coming down the street and would hurl herself towards the fence, her tail wagging, her feet flying, her lungs barking. Not everyone felt the love and soon people were walking on the other side if the street. G’linda would then start hopping on her hindlegs and begin climbing the fence.
Soon we had a kangaroo-horse-dog who takes the stairs 5 at a time and enjoys jumping on beds because they provide a better view over the squirrels down the street… who cares if there is a sleeping body in there.
G’linda needed exercise. A lot of it. So we waaaaaalked. A lot. The good news we had a weirdly early spring. The bad news was I was trying to walk a kangaroo-horse-dog every five or six hours. And not succeeding.
Patience was getting pretty thin back home. Dogs were sparring. G’linda was in desperate need of training and the dog trainer (supplied by the rescue group for whom we were fostering her) was booked solid. I could assume the role of the alpha bitch on command, and she would listen, but then she would get up on her hind legs and thwap me to the ground. Suddenly she was my alpha bitch.
And then this morning, there was a great convergence of cosmic messiness. G’linda, seized by a (premature) spring fever, broke off her lead and took off. I was terrified. She didn’t come when called, she hadn’t lived here long enough to necessarily know her way home, and she had tags for the rescue group (not us). Plus the roads were getting busy and cars were beginning to whiz down the roads. My heart sank. I had lost the kangaroo-horse-dog and feared for the worst.
45 far too long minutes later, she returned. I was relieved, Petey was annoyed.
It then became clear to me that we could not handle G’linda and that she needed to go back to the rescue group. Living with constant fear now of her escaping and taking off and getting hurt was more than I could bear.
And so I took her back to the kennel that houses dogs for the rescue group. They were kind and understanding, but I was a wreck. I had failed, I thought, and was beside myself with grief. After saying my goodbyes I sat in the parking lot and sobbed.
The intellectual side of me knows that this was all for the best. She’s a good dog and with the right family she will thrive. She is not in any danger of being put down, so she is safe. Our home is infinitely saner with only one quadripedal, and Petey has resumed his throne and title of überhünd. The emotional side of me, however, is still something akin to mashed potatoes right now.
I have always said over here that failure in the classroom is a phenomenal teaching tool, but it took today to remind me how badly failure can sting.
I now have tremendous respect for the people who run rescue agencies and for the kennels that cut them a break so they can keep dogs out of high-kill animal shelters. I respect them, and I am not one of them. I have learned my limits, I have learned what our household’s limits are, and I plan to respect them.
Maybe this was a good thing to learn in Day 2 of the New Year. Maybe so. But for the moment I am gonna hug Mr Petey and call it a night, happy to know that we did save and protect (and keep and spoil) one very special brown and white dog.