(Contributed by Lori Whitwam)
It appears as if our three-dog pack will expand this week to four. To some people that sounds like a lot. In fact, I've been chastised by members of my own family for having "too many dogs," to which I generally reply with something along the lines of "mind your own business." I tell people that we don't have the hobbies that many families have. We don't own a cabin, a boat, a jet ski, a snowmobile, a motorcycle or an expensive car. We don't spend our money on going out to restaurants frequently, we don't collect antiques, and I couldn't care less about a huge wardrobe or jewelry. We love dogs. They make us happy, and we make them happy. They ground me in the natural world, and watching the pure joy they derive from the simplest experiences reminds me that my own petty problems aren't so awful in the scheme of things.
But, having said all that, I wasn't looking for another dog. Other than when we adopted Brody, a 2-year-old Great Pyrenees, last New Year's Eve, I haven't actively set out to find a dog for our household in 13 years. The right dog always seems to find us at the right time, whether we were aware it was the right time or not.
So there I was last Monday, perusing the Retrieve A Golden of Minnesota website, as I frequently do. While I'm not an active volunteer at this time, I have a 10-year history with the group. I used to serve on the board, was the Placement Coordinator, and originated the website and newsletter. I like to check out the dogs in the system, bookmark ones that catch my eye, and follow their progress through their foster experience to their eventual adoption. But Monday I saw a dog, and the bells went off in my head. I felt the same way I did when I first laid eyes on our Ruxpin, when he was at the clinic where I was working for his neuter. Something told me that this was OUR DOG, and I was right.
I emailed my husband right away, and he replied "NOT FAIR!" But when I got home that night, he still had the dog's page up on the computer. I made some inquiries, got my application reactivated, and before long our information was in the dog's foster-mom's hands and we had an appointment to meet him on Saturday.
Let me tell you a bit about this boy. He is a golden retriever, 3 years old, and had apparently been kept chained in a garage and neglected horribly. He's a short-stature dog, but has a thick bone structure. He should probably weigh about 70-75 pounds, but is barely over 50 pounds. He was terribly matted, so much so that most of his chest and rear end and tail had to be shaved, revealing sores from the knots pulling on his skin and the matted urine and filth. His toenails were nearly an inch long, forcing him to walk on the backs of his feet. He escaped (thankfully!) and was impounded. His "family" declined to claim him, so he was turned over to RAGOM. He's cleaned up now, healing, and is neutered. When we met him on Saturday, you would never guess that this tiny, abused boy had suffered as he did. He has a true golden personality, is sweet, loving and playful, and has managed not to lose his joy in just being alive.
The next step in the adoption process is for him to come to our house one evening this week and meet our three resident dogs. The only one I'm slightly concerned about is Brody, the 2 year old Great Pyrenees. Being a livestock guardian breed, Brody takes protection of his house and yard very seriously, and might not readily accept another dog, particularly a male, into it. But even considering that, Brody is a pretty easy-going dog and has never showed any signs of aggression. We'll manage the introduction carefully, and I'm optimistic that it will go well. If it does, we will go to the foster's home again on Saturday and complete the adoption, and he will officially be a member of the family.
Besides the fact that I immediately predicted a real connection between this dog and my husband (which he needed... he hasn't had his own "special dog" since our Ruxpin died in March), I feel like I can do so much to get this sweet boy back on the road to being a strong, healthy, vital dog again. At our clinic, we promote raw/natural diets, and that will be the first step. I'm sure his skin will improve rapidly with the right diet, some essential fatty acids, and possibly some Standard Process Canine Whole Body Support. We'll assess any other issues he might have, such as if he needs a chiropractic adjustment from many months of being forced to walk in an unnatural posture. Dr. Andrews thinks the physical and emotional trauma he's endured would respond well to some Traditional Chinese Herbs. I plan to take "before and after" pictures of him, to track his progress as he moves closer and closer to true wellness.
I think Ozark, my 8 year old Pyr Mix will likely enjoy having another young dog around to siphon off some of Brody's energy! They love to play, but there are few dogs who can keep up with Brody for long! I have my fingers crossed that he and Brody hit it off, otherwise I will gladly withdraw our application and allow him to be placed in a home that will truly be perfect for him. I know the importance of not "forcing" a dog to fit into a pack. What matters most of all is what is best for the dog, and if that isn't our family, I'll happily watch him be matched with someone who is.
Did I NEED another dog? Nope, and I wasn't looking for one. But this one found me, and I'm sure he needs US. I'm sure we'll find out we needed him, too, in ways we didn't even know.