Saturday, October 15, 2011

Second-Hand Dogs : : Anne McAllister

AJ No 3When our youngest son knew he was about to become an ‘only child’ – when his next elder brother went off to college – he basked in anticipation of his ‘onliness’ for about two days and then said, “We need a dog.”

My husband, The Prof, no push-over, said, “Take care of the cat for a year and we’ll think about it,” believing firmly that Son Number Three would do no such thing.  In fact, though, he did.

So when Son Number Two departed for university the next fall, I said, “We need to find a dog.”

Not a puppy because Son Number Three didn’t think he wanted a puppy. He was eleven, and he wanted a dog to “do things with.” 

So I got a book about second-hand dogs which was very informative about social adjustment and how to fit a ‘pre-owned’ canine into an already established family.  It gave good advice. It also helped us settle on the sort of dog we wanted – big, cheerful, easy-going, unhyper, not given to barking needlessly, able to keep up with an energetic eleven-year-old, capable of dealing with small children if required to do so – a perfect dog, in other words.

And we found one.

A three-year-old golden retriever, he had spent his first years in the kennel of a breeder. He was a stud dog, very handsome, but more than that – he was all of the long list of things we had been looking for. And he was delighted to have a boy of his own.

GradHe had a long high-falutin’ name that we never remembered.  He was called AJ.  He should have been called The Most Perfect Dog Who Ever Lived.

He gave us – and especially Number Three Son – six wonderful years. He died much too soon, at age nine, the week after ‘his boy’ graduated from high school. 

We had, because of him, already become a three dog family – two rescued golden girls had joined us by that time.  But even with them already in our family, we knew we would continue to make a home for other second-hand dogs. We owed AJ that for the joy he’d given us.

gunnarNot many months after AJ died, Gunnar, a flatcoat retriever of sorts, came to stay.  Our vet tech said, “He reminds me of AJ. And he needs a home.”  All he really had in common with AJ was four feet and an ability to worm his way into our hearts.  A more hyper, moody, temperamental, barking, opinionated dog would have been hard to find. 

But his fur, a glossy boot black, felt like AJ’s when I stroked it.  And after he jumped through the dining room window (which was closed, by the way) the first day he came “to visit,” I realized he wasn’t going to immediately endear himself to anyone else. So yes, he did need a home.  He brought as much joy to our lives, in his way, as AJ and the golden girls did.

And when he found the girls boring (they were LOTS older and not given to rough-housing. It was like a teenage boy living with two elderly aunts), we ended up adopting Jake – an eight year old golden who also needed a home. Jake kept Gunnar in line. He charmed Kate Walker.  He charmed everyonejake1 dfd who came his way from crawling babies to my unhappy-to-be-in-Iowa mother.  He never met a sentient being – dog, cat, rabbit, skunk (don’t ask), frog or person – he didn’t like.  The feeling was mutual (except for the skunk).

And now there are Micah and Mitch – the trouble twins. More goldens.  Mitch came to us a three months – the youngest dog we’ve ever had – because his breeder who had intended to keep him, couldn’t.  Micah was fourteen months when his owner had to move into a multi-story apartment building and could no longer get him out to play. 

Today – this very day – there will be Duke. He’s Number One Son’s dog right now, rescued from a home that no longer wanted him.  Number One Son struggles to make time for him.  So this week he will be ours. And Dukenext week, if everything goes well, he will be on his way to Montana to become the forever dog for Number Three Son’s family who recently lost a beloved golden far too young.

There have been others – dogs we’ve rescued and taken into our homes and into our hearts – since the day AJ came into our lives. They have all been distinct personalities.  They’ve all had baggage of one kind or another.  But they have made our lives infinitely richer.  They have given us furry bodies to hug, enthusiastic friends to walk and run with, cheerful grins to make us smile, empty plates where the chicken we intended to cook for dinner had cookiebeen left too close to the counter’s edge (thanks for that, Jake!), and more joy than we ever believed possible.

Puppies are great. Puppies can bring love into lives from the very start. But I wouldn’t trade the second-hand dogs we’ve known and loved for anything on earth. 

If you’ve never considered  bringing a ‘grown-up’ dog into your life, think about it. There are dogs beyond counting who need forever homes.  AJ – and Number Three Son and I – would be happy to tell you that it’s a simply superb idea. 

Wherever you live there is likely an animal rescue shelter near you.  If you are interested in a particular breed, check the internet for “rescue” and then add the breed of dog you’re looking for. These rescue programs are usually staffed by prinnyvolunteers who work very very hard to make sure that the dogs in their charge are people-friendly and that the homes they let them go to are a good fit.

Have you opened your home and heart to a ‘rescue dog?’  I’d love to hear about it.  I’ll bet others would, too. 

AJ thanks you!  I do, too.


Kaelee said...

Anne ~ What a lovely post. I've never had a dog although I love them. I have cats and I can attest that kittens are great but second hand cats are wonderful as well.

Anne McAllister said...

I totally agree. We had a second-hand cat, Goliath, who was absolutely terrific. And the late lamented Sid (Sir Sidney, ACOSB of Kate Walker's household) was a superlative second-hand cat (though I doubt he would think 'pre-owned' had anything to do with him, unless he had done the 'owning.')

Sadly, two of my kids are allergic to cats. So after Goliath crossed the rainbow bridge, we decided to stick to dogs.


Di said...

that choked me up a bit & then made me smile - was thinking about our last family dog - we miss him. been thinking about getting a dog, just have to connect to the right one at the right time.

Anne McAllister said...

Yes, you will know when it's time. Or maybe the right dog will find you before you think it's time and he or she will convince you to open your life and your heart. I hope the time comes soon!


Pat Cochran said...

The love you have for all those second
hand family members just reaches out to
us! Honey and I are petless and will
probably remain that way. We are both
in our seventies and have health issues
which would keep us from giving all our
attention to a new family member. We get our pet love from our granddogs when we
visit our children & grandchildren!

Pat C.

Margie said...

What a wonderful post and testament to the dogs and men in your life.

My youngest daughter volunteers at our local Humane Society, and there is such a need for loving homes like yours.

marybelle said...

My dogs seem to come from friends & family who for a variety of reasons can't keep them. They already know me, so the transition is a happy one.

Mary said...

That was so heartwarming. My daughter wanted a dog or a cat ever since she was little, but we found out really early on that she was seriously allergic to both dogs, cats, bunnies and ferrets. So we started out with hamsters and when the kids in the neighborhood found out we had hamsters, they brought their hamsters to us when they no longer wanted them. I ended up with 17 unwanted hamsters from my neighborhood.

Then one of my neighbors gave me his rat and she was so adorable and affectionate. I've been rescuing rats from the shelter ever since. I have 4 male rats that are a year old right now.

Kate Walker said...

Ah Jake - he very definitely did charm me. He was the most gracious host, a warm welcoming presence with the softess, silkiest ears that just HAD to be rubbed and stroekdc- and Jake was kind enough to oie there and let you rub them to your heart's contents. And Gunnar - Gunnar charmed in a very different way. He knew you thought him handsome. The most handsome flatcoat retriever (of sorts) and he accepted all the adoration he was due. He was a sort of canine Sid really - and as you know, Sid was a sort of 'second hand cat' when he walked into my life.

If I had room for d-o-g-s (which I don't with Flora and Charlie taking up half the sofa each - and three quarters of the bed) - I'd love a grown up 'secondhand' but right now I share my friend Pat's Danny and Kirsty both of whom 'needed a home' and we walk them together every week. I shared her Sam before that (a sort of retriever + with pretty good ears for rubbing) and so I get my secondhand dogs sort of - well secndhand.

Duke is one lucky guy coming into the household of people who know all about dogs - he is avery handsome chap and I hope he knows his duties - to fill with love the hole in the lives of his forever family who lost Ruger too soon. (But then it's always too soon.)
And I'll admit I'm always leaving my back door open in case another secondhand 'Rambling Sid' wanders in - though I know there was onoy ever one Sid.

But then there was only one AJ, one Jake, one Gunnar . ...

Rub some ears for me!


Melanie Milburne said...

Thanks for a lovely post, Anne. I adore my dogs and yes, dogs do have a habit of choosing you. I would be lost without mine.

Anne McAllister said...

Pat, The love of grand-dogs counts. We just got to spend a week with one of ours. She made missing our own tolerable -- just.

Anne McAllister said...

Blessings on your youngest daughter. It would be hard to work at the Humane Society and go home every day knowing that there were animals there who needs forever homes and you can't take them all!

I've noticed that tendency among dogs of my acquaintance, too. Some come here to live, some come through here on their way to other friends' homes. I feel sometimes like we are a 'halfway station' for dogs in transition!

Anne McAllister said...

I have a friend who thinks rats are the very best pets ever. Hers have always been very social and friendly. I'm always afraid I'll step on one of them. Hamsters, too. And 17 unwanted hamsters!!! Good grief. Bless you for taking them all in.

Anne McAllister said...

Sid was the best of the best. His life with you was a testimony to the joys of second-hand cats. And like you with dogs, I get my second-hand cat connections through yours. Pass on some ear rubs and chin scratches to Charlie and Flora. And thank you for all the ear rubs you gave Jake. He thought you were wonderful, too.

Anne McAllister said...

Our lives would certainly be poorer and emptier without the dogs who've come to share them with us. I'm glad you're enjoying yours!

Kandy Shepherd said...

What a wonderful post! I loved the doggy photos and those smiling retriever faces.

Anne McAllister said...

Thanks. Goldens have great faces, don't they?

ev said...

What a great post!! We have four dogs- all second hand- and would have it no other way. One I "found" when he was a year old- wandering in the sub-zero january storm. He came home with me, and at almost 12, Charlie is the light of my life and my best buddy.

But don't tell that to Isis, a wire-haired Dachshund mix- who we adopted thru DRNY from NC, where she was in a foster home. Her owner had died and at 6, fostering her was not easy. She came from NC to NYC where we went and picked her up. I call her the Ellen DeGeneres of the dog world- she is a comedian and almost 12 now.

Max,another wire-hair, was next. He was from a puppy mill rescue in SC where he had spent the first 3 years in a cage. I had to teach him to walk stairs and go outside. He's still nervous to go out alone, but will always follow me out the door. It took him longer to trust my husband. We suspect he was abused. I am the only person he has never snapped at when scared or spooked.

Recently, we adopted Max, a 6 yr old short hair Doxie, when friends who had just adopted him from the shelter,were told they couldn't have a dog. (I suspect it was because he barks. Alot.) He is the biggest, cuddliest love of a dog. Loves to snuggle, without needing to be petted like everyone else does. And he's a bed hog, who snores.

Add in the three cats and well, there is never an empty heart in this house.

Excuse me, gotta go hug my babies.

Anne McAllister said...

What a wonderful family of second-hand loves you have. Thanks for sharing their stories briefly with us. More power to you -- and I'm sure they know how lucky they are. Just as lucky as you are to have them!