I love dogs. Dogs are special. They bring a lot of joy, they are great companions, they love you unconditionally and so much more. They become a huge part of my family. I don’t understand why some people keep their dogs outside 100% of the time. My dogs live with us just as they were little people. My kids make fun of me because I talk to our dogs like they are people.
I have two daughters. When they were younger, they always asked if we could get a dog (I’m allergic to cats). I always said “one day” when you both are older. I think dogs are great for kids. Dogs can teach kids so many things – they need to understand the responsibility. Having a dog is not “convenient” and not just for show. They need to be trained and they need a lot of attention. If you are not ready for a life time commitment, you should not get a dog. Period.
14 years ago, my children (first grader and fifth grader) begged me to go to the SPCA. I said sure but do not get your hopes up. I am not sure I have the time to devote to a dog. I tried to explain that dogs need attention, they cost money, and they are a lot of responsibility. Having a dog is like having another small child. So, “we are not getting a dog” today but we can go look. Famous last words.
So, we go to the SPCA. We walk around all the dogs – big dogs, little dogs, puppies and of course it all strikes me that it is all so sad to see so many homeless dogs. Some are turned in by their previous owners or even sadder, some people dump their dogs in various places like they are disposable. I do not understand that – dogs are little people, aren’t they? These dogs have a history with a family and it is so incredibly sad to me that somehow they ended up in a shelter. Maybe they ran away and their family could not find them. Maybe they did not want to find their family pet. In any event, I find the shelters very sad.
My kids are bouncing around the shelter so excited about all the dogs. They stop at every dog cage to look and to pet them if the dog will let them. Some of the dogs are obviously frightened – of course they are. Wouldn’t you be? Some are aggressive, some just lay there, some will come up to you begging for attention. But I know that their behavior in that cage may not be any indication of their true personality. I do not know where they came from, how they were treated, and what that means for them now. Our past shapes our future. Wouldn’t that be true for dogs as well? They may have lost trust in people. We do not know their background. Their life is summarized on one sheet of paper. Just basic information – male/female, found or turned in by their owner, and maybe a little about their personalities if you are lucky and if it is even accurate.
We finally visit the puppies. Of course, they are cute and cuddly but there are not many puppies in that special area because most people want puppies. They see a man playing with a puppy – an Australian Shepherd, cattle dog mix. They watch him and the dog. My kids get even more excited. The man tells the SPCA representative that the puppy is “not active enough.” I see a tentative scared dog and think to myself “of course she is not, she looks scared to death.” So, she is put back in her cage. We watch the other people holding or playing with their new potential pet. My kids ask to hold a puppy so I find a representative to help us. They want to see the Austrialian Shepherd mix. I read her history – she was found on the street. She is about three months old. She is friendly. She has not been in the shelter long. That is all we know. So we wait (which seems like an eternity to my kids) until we finally get a room for us to spend time with this precious puppy. My kids are thrilled. The puppy is tentative but friendly, not too active but the more time we spend with her, the more active she becomes. She is playful, likes to be held. We like her and she seems to like us. Now the kids are begging me and insisting we have to adopt her before someone else does. They just KNOW that this puppy is meant to be a part of our family. My famous last words are coming back to haunt me: “we aren’t getting a dog today.” Seriously, who goes to a shelter to “just look” and not adopt a dog? But it is important to get the right breed for your family and lifestyle for everyone’s sake. I know only a little about Australian Shepherds. I know they are smart, loyal, and supposed to be great companions. They aren’t a lap dog. They grow to be a big dog, are active and needs a lot of attention. Are we prepared for that? Do we have time to devote to a dog? I’m a working single mom with two kids and receive little help from their father. Can I afford a dog? I work a lot so do I have time to devote to a dog? These are real considerations.
I complete the adoption application. We are approved. But they need to spay her so we can’t take her home that day. They will call when she is ready. We go to a pet store, buy all the necessities including a crate. When she is ready to come home, we find out that during her surgery, it was determined that she was actually younger than they originally thought. She was only about two months old. Sad. Barely old enough to be away from her mother. But we are excited to bring our new family member home. We name her Sydney. Let the house training and our new life begin with our little new addition.
She turned out to be the best dog ever. I laugh at the stranger’s comment that she is not active enough. That could not be farther from the truth. She runs so fast and is so agile. I thought about agility training for her. She is smart, loving, friendly, a great guard dog for us but at first is very wary of strangers that visit us at her home but she becomes a friend to all our friends. She is skittish – afraid of storms and vacuum cleaners. She grew to be 50 lbs. We had so many great times with her. I am so grateful that she is a member of our family. It was a good decision.
Over the years, we rescue another dog. Sydney enjoys the company.
Fast forward to January 2011. The kids’ dad (“Dad”) wants to take Sydney for the weekend. He is good with Sydney. He has even helped train her. He has taken her before when he takes the kids out to visit his sister in the country. But, he does not live near us. I’m in an established neighborhood. He lives in a different type of neighborhood. He lives in a high rise on a busy street (Westheimer) with lots of shopping centers, and near a railroad track. But he is good with her and he is attached to her just as we are. I’m worried about saying yes because in the off chance that she would get lost, she would not be able to find her way home but she should be safe. I am definitely a worrier. So off she goes on her weekend retreat.
He takes her for a walk at night down Westheimer across the railroad tracks (which she did not like at all because of the narrow bridge) and it is a very busy street but Sydney is well-behaved, walks on a leash and follows commands. Sydney is enjoys the walk and the attention from people. They were walking back home and had to cross the railroad tracks. A train approaches. He knows that she can be nervous about loud noises so they wait in a parking lot near the tracks until it passes. As the train crosses the tracks, Sydney panics, starts pulling on the leash and her collar breaks and she runs off in the opposite direction and towards Loop 610, a busy freeway. Sydney is black and gray merle color and she is lightening fast. He chases her but she is just too fast. He spends hours looking for her. He is mortified – holding her broken collar, tags and a leash. Sydney is gone.
He calls me Saturday morning to tell me what happened. I am devastated. Oh and by the way, it is our daughter’s birthday. She is on her winter break from college. I cannot tell either one of my kids that our precious Sydney is missing just yet. I do not want to ruin her birthday. I am convinced we can find her. I quickly make flyers, put them in sheet protectors, and head to the last place he saw her. We divide and conquer – we both get in our respective cars and go on the hunt. We post the flyers everywhere, I stop and talk to everyone I see and handing them flyers and when I run out of flyers, give them my cell phone number. I make more flyers, post about my missing dog on every website I can think of then drive around for hours. It is supposed to freeze that night. I cannot imagine how scared Sydney must be but I know she is smart. She will find a place to shelter if we cannot find her before nightfall. It is now time for the birthday dinner. It is cold already. I try to act normal, hoping nobody will notice my eyes are swollen from crying. I cannot wait for dinner to be over so I can continue my mission. I feel guilty that I can’t wait to leave the dinner and because I am hiding this terrible secret from my kids.
Sunday – still no word, no sighting, no phone call. I told Dad that he needs to tell the kids what happened and they can help us look for her. Sydney will recognize their voice and maybe come out of hiding. As you can imagine, that did not go well. They are devastated, worried, crying and angry. It is raining and supposed to be freezing cold for days. I already had more flyers ready so off we go.
Monday – I have to go to work. I am just sick over the entire situation. I look for her during my lunch hour. 5 pm I receive a call on my cell phone. Someone spotted her. I leave my office and look for her. I did not find her. Remember it gets dark early in January.
Tuesday – Another call! I abruptly leave the office. No luck. But the “sighting” is in the same neighborhood so I focus there. I see all my flyers, just a sad reminder for me. I am more determined to find her. I talk to more people who are walking their dogs, give them my number. I go back to the office. I’m feeling defeated.
Wednesday – Another call! I text my friend, Ria, who is active in dog rescue, who knows Sydney. I tell her what street the man just reported seeing her and luckily, she is literally two streets away. I leave the office. She heads to the street. The man who called me was still there so she was able to talk to him. He works in the area and had seen the flyers. He tried to get her but she ran off and he could not see where she ran off to, just the general direction – she is so fast and dark colored. A woman who lives on the street was there and I told her about my dog. She said she has seen my dog the last few days and has been feeding her but Sydney will not come near her even if she has food or treats. She leaves the food then watches her eat and drink from her house window. She showed me where Sydney has been sleeping. She found a small protected and hidden area with a fence on two sides and a tree. She walks her dogs but had not seen the flyers. I cannot believe I was so close to finding her. I told the man, my friend, and the good samaritan that I’m going to park my car under the street light with the doors open and wait. The caller and the homeowner leaves. I move my car. Ria and I were just talking and I decided to call her name. “Sydney, Sydney.” Unbelievably, Sydney runs out of the bushes from the house across the street from where we were all just standing and jumped into the back seat of my car. She had waited until the “strangers” were gone to come out of the bushes. We are laughing and crying. I can’t believe our luck.
We rescued two more dogs from the Harris County Shelter. We went to get one and ended up adopting two. One of them was in quarantine for kennel cough and 1) I knew it was not kennel cough – it is reverse sneezing, and 2) most people would not even look at this dog because it was “sick” and they had him isolated. It was just luck I even saw this dog. I knew his fate. I’m becoming a “dog lady” in my old age.
Fast forward to March 2016. Sydney is getting old. She lays down most of the time on her favorite spot on the living room sofa. She has been having health problems, we had put her on medication but she is having trouble walking, incontinent, etc. She seems miserable and is in pain. She is really having trouble walking now. I can’t stand to see her this way. I think that we are keeping her alive for us at the cost of her well-being. For the first time, I can hear Sydney crying/moaning on the sofa in the living room. That was the deciding factor. We make the heartbreaking decision to let her cross the rainbow bridge. My kids do not want to go to witness her dying. I can understand that. I take her to my vet, I had to have someone help me carry her in. I am crying uncontrollably. We go into the exam room. I am second guessing our decision. I do not want to let go but I cannot stand to see her suffer. Is there anything else we can do for her? Give her more medication? The vet reassures me. He has been her vet all her life. I am holding her, talking to her, they bring the shot, and I know it is the best thing for her. I tell Sydney I am heartbroken, grateful for all the years we had with her and I love her. She is looking at me, I am still talking to her, petting her, they start administering the shot, she closes her eyes, and it was peaceful. I have never had gone through that before. I am devastated. But she is not suffering and that is what is important. What is best for her. I would not want to live that way.
I vow never to adopt another dog again. I cannot handle the end. We still have two dogs but it is not the same. Each one is special in their own way. We tragically lost another dog two years ago. It was hit by a car and the driver did not bother to even stop to help her. Just lucky again, we found her and rushed her to Texas A&M but they were not able to save her. More on that later.
I want others to know how awesome dogs are and how adoption can change your life. If you want a dog, please consider rescuing a dog from a shelter. At times, even though I rescued them, I think the dogs rescued me. Although the end is heartbreaking, the rewards are worth it.
By the way, writing is therapy for me and it is way cheaper than therapy.