writing

Sometimes the owner is the real dog

I’ve taken to disliking Facebook due to the horrendous pictures of dog abuse that appear unwanted in my feed. I believe it was a foray into a dog food ad that put me into the feed and no matter how many times I unsubscribe, like ants in summer, the stories and pictures reappear. It’s not that I don’t cry when I see crimes committed by man’s best friend against dogs, or cats set on fire, or kids who are taught evil to think that torturing puppies is a fun thing to do. My heart bleeds and cracks at obscure things that are committed against animals – in China, Burma, Iraq, and our own infamous Amish puppy mills.

I’ve always had dogs in my life. My grandmother started the first SPCA in Connecticut during the depression. My mother was fed goats milk from farm animals taken in during that horrible economic strife. While my grandmother did not live in the lap of luxury she had a big heart and allowed her five acres to be filled with unwanted livestock and dogs, cats and rabbits.

As soon as I moved out on my own, I visited the Baltimore SPCA and adopted a lab mix. He was only 3 months old and adorable. I named him Graham Cracker because of his coloring. On the way to my home, he puked all over the very back of my Volkswagon Beetle. The odor took months to fade away. It never occurred to me to return him, or shove him out of my car, like some creeps do. Instead, we grew to love each other unequivocally, sharing a bed, cookies, and our life. Even when I got a boyfriend, Cracker accepted the new man in my life with a few sniffs. I lived in a townhouse community in the country where one dog was allowed per family, but the backyards, though fenced, were minuscule. Which led me to walk Cracker to a nearby field for daily runs. As he grew, these runs were necessary and lasted longer and longer.

There we met a teenage girl, Chrissy, daughter of a local country club manager, who was enamored by Cracker. In time, she and I became friends, more like me being her adult mentor, and becoming close to her large Irish family. In time, I took a job where the hours were 7:00 am to 3:30 pm. I was exhausted all the time. As summer drew near, and Cracker turned one, now weighing 75 lbs., I realized he was hostage to my work hours. I felt terribly guilty. And then, Chrissy offered to walk Cracker every day in the summer that I was at work. I paid her $1.00 a walk. She was elated.

A summer of her dog running turned into a year and then three. Chrissy became a senior in High school, with a more flexible schedule so she could run Cracker at noon and at six pm while I attended night school. She was now making $10 a day and Cracker was so devoted to her that one Spring morning when I was teaching Sunday school, he, having run away from me earlier that morning, was on his way to visit her when he was struck and killed by a motorist. It turns out he’d memorized the same walk they’d been taking since Chrissy first became his part time exercise partner.

It was my fault, it was no one’s fault, and yet I cried for weeks. My then same boyfriend drove over that day to remove Cracker’s body from the shoulder of the road and take it down to the animal morgue. How could I not fall in love with such a caring, sentimental guy?

I’ve never once kicked or punched a dog out of anger or fear. My husband’s family found it to be a regular occurrence if one of their poodles got in their way. That boyfriend of mine came into our marriage with a short fuse when it came to disciplining a dog. I contemplated changing the locks a few times when one of my dogs was purposely stepped on or shoved out of the way with a boot. I’ve been mauled, scratched and bitten a few times by an epileptic dog, one that was trying to hump my legs, and another that was injured and reared back in pain when I picked him up off the JFX.

I just don’t understand why people do the things they do to defenseless animals. I believe that those who abuse their dogs also abuse their families. My husband’s short fuse is longer now and a bad dog bite created by him surprising one of our elderly dogs with a hand around the neck has taught him to redirect his anger, or else next time he could lose that hand instead of only receiving stitches.

But reading these nightmarish stories about one Pit Bull after another being used as a bait dog, hung by his neck for refusing to fight, and another having his mouth taped shut for three months is not going to make me send in money to npos I have never heard of, or save the doggie world by adopting all homeless animals. Once I did try to domesticate a Walker Hound that had been rescued from a dog fighting ring, and ended up keeping her. I’ve adopted my fair share of puppy mill puppies, neglected AKA dogs, and overbred breeds with chronic untreatable illnesses.

My sister always adopts elderly dogs, something I’d like to do, but couldn’t stand the pain of losing one so soon. Another friend is a steady donor to horse rescue organizations, and a few other people, I’ve been able to talk out of buying a specific high energy dog when they worked 10-12 hours a day.

In addition to pet sitting, on my days off, I run a hunting dog for two hours as his owner is chronically ill. But when I can’t perform those duties, I feel bad for the dog, who, like Cracker and Chrissy, has gotten used to me.

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