Connections: Old Dogs

Dogs have had a big place in my life since I was a child

Our friend Mary, who spent the weekend visiting for the first time in more than a year, immediately felt something was amiss. “You don’t have a dog,” she said, looking around. 

What Mary didn’t know is that I had been visiting the Animal Rescue Fund’s kennels throughout the winter, hoping to find a new canine companion. A year has passed since the little black rescue from Puerto Rico we adopted from ARF was killed by a car. Before Sookie arrived, we had built what we thought was an escape-proof fence around the back garden; we had just begun getting to know her when she bolted out of a gate that was unfortunately left open by a yard worker. Since then, the gate latch has been replaced, and a gap in the fencing corrected. We are ready. We have no other pets in the house, we have no small children, and we have a lot of attention to give: My dogs have always come to work with me, and almost never are left alone.

Even though I self-identify as a dog person, before the Sookie tragedy, I actually hadn’t owned one in a long time — not during the long life of a querulous cat called White Boots, whom we took in after one of our granddaughters fell in love with her at ARF and became inconsolable when she couldn’t adopt it because a family member was allergic to felines. White Boots, who would not tolerate dogs, and barely tolerated people, went to meet his maker a couple of years ago.

I like cats, too, but dogs have had a big place in my life since I was a child. You know those security questions you get when setting up online accounts of various sorts? I used to always answer “Gypsy” when asked for the name of my first pet. (Yes, concerned readers, I have since changed that security key.) Gypsy was a small, longhaired mutt whose tail was so full it seemed to be the same size as her head. Then there was Mamie, an old black Lab who had been in the Rattray family for years when I got married. The first dog of married life was a marvelous, loving Newfoundland we called Meg. The kids used to tell strangers on the beach that Meg was actually a bear; she was that big. And, then, there came Wickus, and Napeague, and Mookie, and Tanya, and Goodie. . . .  I could tell my life story in dogs.

Getting a dog is more complicated now because the entire family believes it has the right to chime in on the selection. We all agree that if we do get one, my husband and I should adopt a rescue. I have gone to ARF probably a dozen times with my daughter and her two children, and each of us has strong opinions on those we meet. My daughter goes for scruffy-coated dogs, big or small. My grandson likes small, lively ones — especially those with amber-colored coats — who are able to jump over a log when we take them for a walk in the woods behind the kennels. My granddaughter is generally dubious and quickly decides it is more fun to visit the cats and kittens.

Nowadays, of course, not only are we not ready, willing, or able to bring up a puppy (though ARF has had lots of adorable ones), but we are not as agile as we once were. Whatever dog we choose, it will have to be grown-up, calm, and good on a leash. I prefer big dogs, but I concede that our future one probably shouldn’t be large enough to pull us over, either. 

 The last time we visited ARF, we all fell for a big, scruffy, yellow-colored dog who was curious, friendly, and of a perfect age — which is to say, on the elderly side. Unfortunately, we were told, this charming fellow was not on the adoptable list because he had “severe separation anxiety” and, in his last home, had not only destroyed furniture but crashed through a window in an attempt to catch up with his owners when they left the house. He will live out his days in the safety of ARF. 

Now it is spring, and I think our dog is out there somewhere. Perhaps the power of the press will take hold of this situation. If anyone reading this knows of a suitable dog, please let me know.