Why rescue a dog or a cat, or for that matter any helpless, homeless animal ?
In a world where millions of dogs and cats are homeless or kept in high-kill shelters and die in less than humane conditions, my decision was easy.
It was April 1, 2009 when I adopted Duke, so today I celebrate his Birthday, for lack of an exact date.
A year prior, our beloved Becket, a boxer puppy my daughter purchased from a Lancaster, PA breeder, died at the age of 10 months of sarcoma, a deadly cancer. The cause: Inbreeding. My heart was teared to pieces and mourned him as a member of our family. When Becket died, I sworn to never buy a dog again, and always rescue from then on, in memory of Becket, to save the lives of as many as I could reasonably care for in good conditions. My magic number was, still is, a pack of three.
In the short time I spent with Becket, I came to realize that boxers have that hard to define human quality, which makes one ready to forgive their many faults. Which faults might they be?
This is the story of Duke and by the time you finish reading this post, I trust you’ll have drown your own conclusions.
Coincidentally, it was April’s Fools Day, when Duke’s foster Mom, Kim, brought him over to my house. He was about two at the time, strong and alert, so handsome, it made me wonder how did he end up in a rescue?
We would never know how did he spent his first two years of life. We did know, he was rescued from somewhere in a Southern state. His ears suffered serious frost bite and were infected and he suffered from anxiety.
“Duke is a difficult dog,” Kim, the foster Mom warned me. ” Five families tried to adopt him, and could not handle him, so they brought him back.”
“What do you mean, couldn’t handle him?” I asked, and considering myself a “dog expert,” I concluded the previous “to be adopters,” were just inexperienced.
Kim told me Duke was an escape artist and they all lost him. He could jump any fence, no matter how high, or bolt out the front door…and run, run, run!
Oh, I thought, with an air of superiority. They were negligent! How does one loose a dog! Really!
Kim spent a few hours with us, explaining his one pro: Very handsome and many cons. I was warned!
It was getting dark… Kim left.
Here I was with my other two resident dogs, fending their territories and Duke. I, The Human, supposed to be the Leader of the Pack!
I introduced Duke to each of his new buddies separately and just for safety reasons, didn’t leave them alone, and controlled Duke at all times.
When it was time to go to sleep, I wasn’t sure how to handle the first night together… and decided to error on the safe side. I left the light on, so I could observe Duke.
He seemed tired and relaxed, but all night I barely closed my eyes, watching the watch dog, and he, watching me!
In the middle of the night he wanted to go out. I had a small enclosed yard and opened the door to let him out, but with the speed of a deer, he launched himself over the fence and disappeared in the night!
Oh no! I lost the dog!
In my night gown, I grabbed the car keys, a dog treat and drove around, calling out, more like screaming, as several lights in the neighborhood were turned on:
“Duke, Duke! Where are you?” I wasn’t even thinking we had just renamed him and he didn’t even know he was a noble Duke. Royalty!
After a while, I returned home defeated and humbled.
What was I to do at 2:00 AM? Leave the front door wide open? May be he will return… Close the door and watch out the window? Go to sleep? Call Police and report I lost my newly rescued dog?
As I was debating with myself, still standing in the driveway in my night gown, in the distance I saw a woman walking a dog. A vision! A hallucination???!!!
As she came closer, it became clear, she was walking Duke!
It turned out, Duke stopped a few houses over to play with another insomniac dog. The neighbor was a doctor and she came home from her night shift to find the two dogs playing in her back yard.
Fortunately, Duke had a name and address tag already, and she knew where to find me.
Over the 5 years that we have been together, I admit to “loosing and finding” him a few times. The experience taught me to be humble and never judge others.
True, Duke was unpredictable, but if I were to try and put myself in his “paws,” he had been running for two years. He had been neglected and abused. Just as with humans, it took years for Duke to trust and really, really feel he had a permanent home at last, and I was not going to give up on him, no matter what!
Many times, over the years, my dogs rescued me from depression and loneliness. Duke, Lola and Sophie, forced me out of bed, as I had the responsibility to care for them, feed them, take them out, talk to them and simply return their unconditional love.
People who treat their pets as family would understand that when a doctor stated, looking at my intake form:
“You live alone.”
I replied:”I don’t live alone! I live with my three dogs and my African Grey Parrot.”
The doctor smiled. This is when he referred me to psychotherapy…
Happy Birthday Duke! I love you!
Your human Mom