Sunday, June 12, 2016

The Old Dogs and the New

(Yes, that is a lame Game of Thrones reference.)

I wrote this reflection as part of a Pet Blessing service at my church, so I thought I may as well make it a blog entry, too.

As a veteran foster volunteer with over 16 years’ of experience, puppies, with their bad decision-making skills and poor bladder control, most certainly wore out their welcome at my home many years ago. Most of the dogs I have fostered were adults, but a few were pups. Naughty pups. I remember one naughty one named Sabrina, who somehow got a hold of one of my diabetic cat’s hypodermic needles and ran past me with the syringe between her teeth.  “What’s the matter?” I asked as I pried open her jaw and then shoved the syringe into the sharps container, “You couldn’t find a steak knife?” My husband and I did raise a puppy of our own (named Lucy Annabel) many years ago, but since then, we’ve mostly adopted adult dogs: Karl Lee, Gideon, and Gretchen. Karl passed away about a year after we lost Lucy. P and I have managed to remain firmly anti-puppy over the years.  And then, we lost Giddy.

Gideon died in January. He was my boy. My Giddy Giddy Gumdrops. Giddy-up. The Goodest Good
Boy in the Whole Wide World. I loved that goofy dog with all my heart. I loved his smooshy face. I loved the way he would jump straight into the air at mealtime, as if I might possibly consider canceling his breakfast altogether if he didn’t complete the acrobatics routine. We ultimately lost him to degenerative myelopathy. He declined for a year, losing his ability to walk day by day. I bought him boots so that he could get some traction. A friend gave me a sling to help support his back end as needed.  Last August, we were up north at a friend’s cabin. When we are at the lake, we put our dogs on tie-out cables when they have to go potty.  The northwoods are vast and there are, you know, bears and wolves and such.  Because of Gideon’s mobility issues, we decided to stop putting him on the tie-out.  He was tripping over the cable, which was problematic because he was already having such a tough time keeping four legs under him. We figured, “Hey, he can barely walk. He’s not gonna run off - where would he go?”  Seconds later, I found myself  running down a dirt road, chasing an elderly, toothless Boxer as he galumphed towards the woods, legs all akimbo.

When he stopped eating, we knew he was ready to move on. And so, P and I took him to the vet for the last time. Gideon, the goodest good boy in the whole wide world, died in a shower of my tears. No one jumps for their dinner at our house now. I miss him every day. I wear him on my leg in a colorful tattoo that brings me great joy.

As a rescue volunteer, many people have asked me how to know when it’s the right time to think about getting a new companion. I have seen some folks find a new furry friend almost immediately. I have seen others grieve for years, their hearts still too tender to accommodate another. There is no right or wrong answer to the question. I do think it’s important to think of the new companion in terms of a whole new relationship, not a replacement for an old one.

So it was, a few weeks after Gideon’s passing, that the P word came up.  I had been poking around a bit, checking out some breeders. When Lucy was still with us (but before our daughter was born), I competed with her in Obedience and Agility. I thought it might be fun to get back into that. We decided to put down a deposit on a Boxer puppy.  The litter was born February 2nd.

At the end of March, we brought Grover home. I think my husband and I had surprised ourselves by adding a puppy to our family. We knew what we were in for. The pee. The poop. The razor sharp teeth.  Grover was (and is) full of all of those things. When he finally gets tired and collapses in a heap in our laps, we remember why we signed up for this. It’s hard to be crabby around that level of cuteness. And sometimes, just sometimes, we get a glimpse of the dog he will be in the future. He is growing on us and already has a collection of nicknames. Grover from Dover. Grovie. Goofy Grover. He’s most definitely not the goodest good boy in the whole wide world, but . . . he has potential.

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