Our family is expanding.
After the death of our beloved dog companion, Honey several years ago, Grant and I made a pact that we were not getting any more pets. At the time, we were both still working full time, and I was on the road a good portion of every month. Also, on days off we were frequently traveling. Leaving Honey behind was hard on her and hard on us. We missed each other. It was stressful. We decided our lifestyle just wasn’t conducive to having pets.
Several years of freedom from obligation followed. We were so busy we didn’t really notice the gaping hole the departure of the last of our furry friends had left. We were spending one to two months of every summer in Montana either working on our house, or working on one of our Two Rivers projects. The rest of the year found us taking scuba lessons, sailing, hiking or back packing and taking the annual trip to Hawaii to chase the winter blues.
I retired in 2005, but that was the year that Lisa got married and had Tyler. Since she was still in college the time I gained from not going to work was quickly devoted to helping out with child care and launching into new and exciting family activities.
Time flew. I didn’t notice.
Then one morning in the summer of 2009, after an extended trip to Alaska, I just woke up one morning and decided I wanted a little dog. This was a surprise to everybody, including myself. I think the lack of canine companionship just finally caught up to me. And I didn’t want a dog in the back yard; I wanted a dog in my lap. I’ve always been a great animal lover, and it was inevitable I would eventually miss all the wonderful aspects of life that pets enhance.
Most of you already know the story about how Tucker came into our lives. Heaven knows he’s been a blessing! And one of the nicest things about Tuck has been his portability. From day one, he has been with us on all our adventures, from a trip to town to a trip across the country. To him, getting in the car and going somewhere is normal. Getting on a plane is normal, as well and he actually gets excited when we pull up in front of a terminal building.
Tucky has been an awesome companion and honestly can’t begin to count the number of profound ways he has affected our lives. Yet I began to feel a little guilty about the fact that, in dog terms, he is all alone. I figure it is akin to living in a house with people you know and love, who don’t speak your language. Are they kind? Yes. Do they take care of you? Yes. Do you love them? Of course! But at the end of the day, we are still humans and he is still a dog.
My folks rescued a little dog a couple years ago and I saw how excited Tucker became when they got together. They’d chase each other around the house for a few minutes, have a tug of war with a toy, go for a walk and piddle on the same bush and then collapse in a pile for a long nap. I began to sense a longing in Tuck for somebody of his own species. Knowing how crazy this next year will be with the house project in Washington, I also worried that he would get lonesome with the long hours he will likely spend alone.
So I started poking around and making inquiries. I wanted a dog, not a puppy. And it needed to be a small dog, like Tuck.
As these things often do, the answer came from far out in left field. The breeder from whom we’d bought Tucker wrote to me out of the blue and asked if we would be willing to adopt an adult spayed female Yorkie.
A conversation with the current owner revealed that the dog in question could no longer stay with her, for various reasons. The little pooch was obese from a diet of non-stop table scraps and lack of exercise, and she had “severe dental problems.”
Eeeeeesh. What was I signing up for? My knee-jerk reaction was to back away. I’ve spent literally thousands on Tucker’s various health issues and wasn’t keen to inherit a dog who had “problems.” I immediately started getting cold feet, especially since Grant was not terribly excited about the many ways a second dog might complicate our lives.
Then the picture arrived. Once I saw her, it was a done deal.
So at the end of a very long circuit of travel over the holidays, I made a stop in Phoenix to meet the newest member of our family, Snowflake. Funny name for a dog that’s lived in Phoenix her entire life—almost as if whoever named her knew somehow that she would ultimately land in northern Montana.
In our first encounter, she sat up on her little round bottom, lifted her front feet, and “smiled” at me. The poor little thing’s breath would have knocked over a moose, but her sweet countenance snagged my heart.
The local Libby vet checked her over and pronounced that although she had an extreme case of dental plaque and would lose seven of her teeth, many of which were loose and/or abscessed, she was otherwise healthy. We switched food, got out a leash and she began to accompany me and Tucker on our two to three mile walks every day.
As he did after Tucker joined the family, Grant eventually came around. Now I emerge most mornings to find Snowflake snuggled into his lap while he does his morning office routine. She has lost a few teeth and dropped a few pounds but is gaining trust and her little personality continues to emerge.
I’ve noticed something about “rescue” dogs. Their demeanor somehow conveys the knowledge that they know they’ve been “rescued.” Many have been abused or neglected, some might have spent some time on the street or in a cage. But all seem to recognize when they have reached their forever home; a place they can finally relax and with humans whom they can safely bond.
As for those of us who do the rescuing, we reap the benefits daily of our dear little companions who give so much and ask so little. I have many friends and family who have told me the daily ritual of having a pet, the unconditional love and the lifetime companion has helped them through many a hard time. At the end of the day I have to ask, are we rescuing them or are they rescuing us?