Two weeks before T deployed, we went to The Animal Welfare Society to adopt a dog. We’d wanted one for a long time, but renting does not often afford the opportunity to be a dog owner.
Because we are such awesome tenants, our current landlords – who are also our neighbors and friends – gave us the green light in the dog department, with the caveat that we didn’t get a “barker”.
Fair enough. I had no interest in a noisy dog and neither did T.
We arrived at the shelter intending to look at Jasper, a Doberman mix with an adorable face. As it happened, Jasper was at the vet that day after getting in a scuff with two other dogs. I looked at his profile anyway.
Does not get along with cats.
So long, Jasper.
We walked up and down the dog section, which was rather sparse that day. Due to an outbreak of distemper, many of the dogs had been quarantined to avoid the spread of the disease and were not available for adoption. AWS is a no-kill shelter, so the dogs were being treated, but were kept away from those that had not been exposed.
We passed cowering pitbulls and lethargic greyhounds. My heart beat painfully for those dogs, but I knew as tenants it would be irresponsible of us to adopt a dog with such an unstable temperament.
We passed a barking bulldog and a jumping terrier, who was clanging off the chain link door of its pen. I firmly believe that almost any dog can be trained and socialized, but again, the circumstances were not right.
Then we passed Owen. Owen was lounging up against the wall of his pen close to the gate. When we passed by, he looked up at me with his doggy smile and thumped his tail once or twice. I talked to him for a bit, then looked at his profile.
Owen is 8 years old.
We kept walking.
And we kept coming back to the white dog with brown ears.
We walked him and we played with him. He was happy to go for a walk and he was good-tempered and quiet, wagging his tail each time we talked to him. But he was very overweight and skittish to any touch but a pat on the head.
Still, before I knew it, Owen was in the back seat and we were headed to PetSmart for supplies.
We were in love.
T stayed home with Owen the first few days and those two bonded instantly.
T took him for several short walks each day and Owen happily charged ahead, though his bulk would roll from side to side with every step.
I emailed pictures of our new baby to some friends. One came back with, “He looks like a keg with legs!” And he did. But he was a sweet keg with legs.
However, he didn’t like feet. If you accidentally touched him with so much as a toe, he’d jump up and run in the other room. If you tried to get on the floor with him to play, he’d jump sideways and run a few steps.
We wondered what his life had been like previously, but all his profile told us was, divorce.
T left a couple of weeks later and that night, after I got in bed, Owen walked around the bed three times looking for his new daddy. I almost cried.
Partly to bond with Owen and partly to keep busy, I signed us up for obedience classes at the shelter. AWS offers discounts to those who adopted from the shelter and the trainers are wonderful. The classes are made up, not only of owners and their dogs, but also of volunteers and shelter dogs that have not yet been adopted. It’s part of their excellent socialization program.
Classes are held at the shelter. That first day when we walked in, Owen made a beeline for my legs and cowered between them, shivering. The trainer told me not to worry about it – that after a few classes he would start to understand that I wasn’t going to leave him there.
She was right. Owen came to love Thursday nights and would literally nudge me out of my chair at 6:30 as if to say, Come on, Mom! We’re going to be late!
It was tough to offer an already overweight dog food rewards for training, but on class days we learned to cut back a little more on his regular dog food. It was so amazing and rewarding to help an 82-pound dog, who barely knew how to “sit”, develop into a svelte 58-pound hiker that (usually) responds to over fifteen commands.
Sign this dog up for the canine version of The Biggest Loser!
We have worked, too, on his skittishness and he has overcome many of his fears.
Owen has been an amazing companion over the past nine months. He has kept me on my feet when I felt like lying down and being still. He loves to make me laugh. And it is invaluable to come home to someone who is so happy to see me.
Now Owen and I have the opportunity to give something back to the shelter that brought us together. A week from tomorrow, we will be walking in the Strut Your Mutt fundraiser for AWS.
We’ve been training hard for the event:
Things have taken a little turn though, and what promised to be a cakewalk for us, has turned into an exercise in physical therapy.
We had gradually built ourselves up to longer walks and were averaging at least two miles a day, though we have also taken several 3 to 6-mile hikes.
Then, month or so ago, Owen developed a limp and has been favoring his right shoulder where he is showing signs of muscle atrophy. Our vet has prescribed some pain pills, leash walking, figure eights and icing, but I haven’t seen much improvement.
Owen is still excited to go for walks and, other than the limp, you would never know anything is wrong. He just isn’t a complainer.
I have taken him twice to my chiropractor (who is awesome and a very good sport). Yesterday was Owen’s second adjustment and he was clearly very much in pain afterwards. He could barely walk and he almost fell down the stairs at our house.
This morning, he seems to be much better. I’ve got my fingers and toes crossed that we’ll be able to kick this thing.
I’m also hoping Owen will be able to make the full two miles with me next Sunday, but if he can’t, that’s okay too. We’ll keep working. And I’ll carry him across the finish line if I have to. After all, he’s carried me plenty of times.
I’m proud to say that so far we have raised $275 in donations for AWS. Our original goal was $250, but we have received so much support from our friends and family that we have upped that goal to $400!
From the bottom of our collective hearts, we would like to thank each of you who have sponsored us. Animals have always been very special to me and I am touched and honored to be the conduit for these funds to the animals awaiting their forever homes.
If you would like to sponsor Owen and I on our walk for AWS, we would very much appreciate it.
However, we’d be equally grateful for some simple prayers and energy directed at Owen’s full recovery.