Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Perfect Dog

(Pictures: Coby, when first rescued and later, with me -- a truly perfect dog.)
Of the eight dogs we currently have in boarding, all but one have been returned (either from foster or adoption) at least once. The lone exception to this is Dutch, a handsome, very young Retriever/Chow mix who, despite being rescued last spring has yet to find either suitable foster or adoption.

It is not a situation of sickly, neurotic or "aggressive" dogs. Nor, are all the dogs Pitbulls. In fact, only one of our dogs ("Nia") is best described as a "Pitbull" mix.

But, almost all of the dogs have failed in one way or another to live up to someone's fantasy or unrealistic expectation. All have seemingly failed to be "perfect" or "fit" like a glove.

In thinking about the many dogs I have had over a life-time, almost none have "fit like a glove" nor could be described as "perfect" -- including the two dogs I have now.

As mentioned yesterday, my Corgi/Spitz mix, Tina has never been one for dog runs, nor is she truly trustworthy off-leash. Tina's curiosity and instinct to "herd" small animals has resulted in several instances over the years of almost losing her in the park. Yet, despite her "shortcomings," Tina has been an ideal dog for me. -- Loving, very social with people and other animals and beautifully behaved in an apartment (well, with the exception of Tina stealing coffee when I walk out of the room!)

My Pomeranian, Chance was rescued from death at the pound almost two years ago. He was on the Euthanasia list for "Severe" behavior.

Chance attempted to bite almost everyone in the pound: "Lunging, biting rope, extremely aggressive. Will bite."

Apparently, Chance was so fractious, attending vets didn't even realize he was already neutered.

However, during the almost two years I've had Chance, he has evolved into an extremely loving, devoted, secure, gentle and happy dog! While still a little skittish and wary of strangers, Chance has come a long way since his "lunging and attempting to bite" days at the AC&C.

I never of course attempted to "adopt" Chance out to a member of the public despite adoption being the mission of a rescue organization. With all the "severe and aggressive" stuff on Chance's shelter record, I figured any attempts to place could later result in a lawsuit for "knowingly" adopting out an "aggressive" dog.

It is just as well however. I love Chance as if he were my own child -- as I love Tina.

However, as mentioned, almost ALL of the dogs kept over the years, had both, their attributes -- and their weaknesses (like people, don't you think?)

There was Taffy, the purebred Cocker Spaniel given to us from relatives when I was a kid.

Taffy seemed to have "Cocker Spaniel Rage." He bit just about everyone, but my Grandmother. (Taffy had "issues" apparently with people petting him on top of his head.)

Nevertheless, despite Taffy's obvious "aggression" we kept him for the seven remaining years of his life -- until he developed and died from terminal cancer.

I greatly enjoyed running with Taffy up and down the neighborhood streets over the years. I feel Taffy was greatly responsible for teaching me to be cautious around dogs and to never take anything for granted. I also learned how important exercise is for dogs. -- Taffy was always a nicer, easier and happier dog after a good run.

When I was 18-years-old, I adopted my first dog from the ASPCA, a little Shepherd/Spitz mix who I named "Sheppie."

Sheppie was an incredibly smart, loyal, healthy and devoted dog. But, she took the "protectiveness" too far. It seems anytime my Mom and I got into a fight, Sheppie got between us and on several occasions actually bit my Mother. Sheppie was also protective and "guarding" with bones. Although I worried over this when my daughter was born ten years later, it turned out not to be a problem. Sheppie just seemed to have "issues" with my Mother and not anyone else. Perhaps that's because, when I first brought Sheppie home, my Mom cooly remarked, "What's the matter? You couldn't find a prettier dog?"

After Sheppie passed from kidney failure at age 17, we rescued and adopted several dogs over the years.

I rescued and kept a stray German Shepherd from the Bronx streets. "Heidi" was a fabulous and protective dog with the whole family. But, she was totally terrified of thunder storms. Any time it rained, Heidi panicked and jumped into our laps. It wasn't particularly fun having a 60 lb "neurotic" dog suddenly lunge into your lap every time there was a rain storm!

Sadly, we lost Heidi far too early. At only nine years of age, Heidi developed a fatal form of cancer that started in the side of her face and quickly spread.

Following Heidi's passing, there was Fawn, an initially timid Lab/Whippet mix we adopted from the ASPCA.

Fawn was a fabulous "Frisbee" dog and could entertain people in Central Park for hours. But, she was destructive when we first adopted her (as a young dog) and destroyed a good sofa along with carpeting.

Fawn was also very "Alpha" around other female dogs and got into some initial fierce battles with female dogs I rescued and fostered in Fawn's later years. The only exception to that was Tina who I rescued and fostered in Fawn's last year of life. Perhaps Fawn was too weak and crippled (from Arthritis) at that point to do battle. Or, perhaps she just sensed that Tina was such a little whoose and posed no real "threat" to her, it simply wasn't worth the trouble.

I elected to keep Tina when on one grief-filled evening, I was forced to have Fawn euthanized at my vet because she could barely walk at all without excruciating pain.

Finding Tina at the door to comfort me when I arrived home with tears streaming down my face, "sealed the deal" that Tina from that point on, was no longer "up for adoption" but in fact, my dog.

No, almost none of the dogs I've had over more than five decades has been "perfect" especially from day one (it took Tina six weeks to get housebreaking down. for example.). But, all these imperfect canines have enriched and added to my life in ways that no book, however long or detailed could ever describe.

By today's "standards" and demands all of the dogs mentioned would have been "returned" to the adoption agency or dumped in a pound -- especially Taffy the Cocker Spaniel with "rage" and Sheppie who had "issues" with my Mom.

Still, in all these descriptions and experiences, there was ONE dog -- one lone exception to the rule who truly was "perfect" from day one.

He was a broken, beaten-up, old and apparently discarded "junk-yard dog" who I found forlornly stumbling around Harlem streets one day with a friend.

"Coby" had only one eye, was at least ten-years-old and had at least a decade's worth of imbedded dirt and grime on him that took numerous baths to remove. Additionally, he was a large, "mongrel" dog whose "breed" or lineage was impossible to determine.

But, Coby was ironically the only dog I could say was truly "perfect" not just from day one, but for the sadly shortened 4 years I had him. Coby was so grateful for just having been rescued and finally finding a real home that he never left my side. He was gentle, loving, devoted and just plain wonderful with everything from cats, to kids, to other dogs.

Coby just loved life itself, despite the many blows it had dealt him over the years -- including trauma and destruction to one of his eyes.

Initially, I was afraid to bring Coby home. A big, mongrel "stray" I didn't know what to expect when introducing Coby to my other dog, Fawn, my cats or my teenage daughter. But, all worries were for naught. Though I tried to find Coby an "adoptive" home no was interested in an old, discarded, "junk-yard" mutt. This was despite a published letter in the New York Times about Coby, as well as an article in Good Housekeeping magazine.

How ironic that the truly most perfect dog in the world was the very last dog anyone (other than myself of course) would desire.

The world lost out on Coby -- but I gained a world-full of love and undying devotion.

How sad to lose Coby four years later to the same crippling Arthritis that eventually took Fawn's life. To his last day on earth, Coby was so housebroken he would rather bust his bladder than piddle in the house. "Perfection" was tragically and ironically my reason for having to euthanize Coby in the end at the Animal Medical Center (the dog was too good and too perfect.) Coby could no longer walk or navigate stairs.
But, he was too proud and too disciplined to be "paper trained."

But, you know, in the end they have all been wonderful dogs -- each in his or her own special way. And they all were dogs I learned from -- especially, Taffy it seems due to his actual "aggression."

But, those people who adopt and "return" dogs (or cats) to shelters or rescue groups often within days of an adoption learn nothing at all.

Rather, they continue to live in their selfish fantasies, delusions and disconnection to the real world.

Perhaps in the end, they are more to be pitied than condemned. -- PCA


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