Yes, I used to love German Shepards, Collies, Labs, dogs sort of like that. And the mutts they become when they fall in love with each other. I loved their size (not too big, not too small); I loved their disposition (friendly and warm - and obedient); I loved their big paws, their noses, their brown eyes... you name it and I just loved those dogs!
Carmie, my beloved girl from 'back home' was a Shepard/Lab mix. Or so they told us. One is never sure how accurate these determinations are. She was a gentle soul, riled when she needed to be, and wary of children, but devoted to me and when Tom came along, she grew devoted to him, too. We did not invite Carmie up on our bed, the way we do with today's crew - but we loved her, nonetheless. (she was my son's dog who, gradually, became my dog - isn't that the way?)
When we lost her - when she had to make that trip to the Rainbow Bridge at the ripe old age of 15, almost 16, we lamented our decision but agreed that to prolong her suffering would have been for us, not for her. I still wonder if I shouldn't have given her another day, or week, or month.
Several years went by... we were dogless. No dog in our house. Wabby, the now passed on kitty, seemed to wonder where Carmie was. I would find her staring at Carmie's empty bed... which we should have put away, I guess. I wondered if she wasn't actually communicating with Carmie. I mean, they were close. They grew up together. Losing Carmie had to affect kitty, too.
Once we moved on and took the cross-country trip to relocate to Colorado, with Wabby the kitty in tow (well, she sat in her carrier in the truck, up front, between us... sleeping most of the way, meowing for some of the way, and occasionally looking out the window if I held her in my arms during the refueling of the truck), we knew it was time to consider another dog.
The choice was not an easy one. Tom and I both wanted a "real" dog... in other words, one like Carmie - a bigger dog. Not a little yappy kind of dog. Oh, do forgive! What did we know- except that the little dogs we had experience with were just that - yappy and loud and sometimes... a little mean.
After several trips to several shelters, we met our Chester. What a kind soul he was, from the very beginning! No, he didn't 'take' to us... he accepted us. The Kindness Ranch folks, who rescued him from a research lab that was 'done' with him...sigh... came to inspect our home and granted us the adoption rights. We welcomed Chester with open arms.
Chester, however, was having none of it. He paced. He stared at us. He couldn't figure out the stairs or the back sliding glass doors. He was clearly out of his element. While it was sad, we knew it would take time to show him how welcomed he was. We gave him love and affection, set up Carmie's bed for him, offered him his own space...and promised patience.
"You know," the folks at Kindness Ranch told us, not long after we'd adopted Chester, "Chester has a friend back at the ranch. They bonded when he was there. Emily is also a research facility dog."
"What kind of research?" we asked, our interest peaked. It had occured to us that Chester might like a friend.
"Oh, we can't tell you that," the folks said. "We're not allowed to reveal the research. All we can say is that Chester was in a nutrition study and Emily was a drug research dog."
Not which nutritional study ... not which drug. It was frustrating.
"We'll look at Emily," we said. And, that weekend we went to Longmont Humane and saw Emily. We were just in time. She was being walked by a family with children and they said they might consider adopting her!
I know - Emily could now be part of a nice family, with children, but... she really wanted to be with Chester. And we knew that immediately - well, as soon as we let her into our backyard with Chester. The two of them were like old friends from the neighborhood! There was no doubting that they cared for each other and were happy to be together!
Two hound dogs. Not two Shepards or Labs or Collies. Two good sized hound dogs. Who melted our hearts with their love and affection. Who like to sleep together and hang out together and share everything. Emily, the younger of the two, eats Chester's food, if we aren't paying attention... and, ever the gentleman, Chester steps back and lets her. But, she shares with him, too. There is no dominance or meanness in her attitude toward Chester. To his credit, he often allows other dogs to get the better of him.
They are settled in for sure now. It's been close to three years. I doubt Emily, at only 5 years old, remembers much of her 'old' life. Not sure about Chester. He's nigh on 11 now and lived in the research lab most of his first 8 years. It was clear he was not used to running free, taking long walks, sniffing so many new smells!
Later this week I'll tell you about Olive. About our little girl... the exact kind of dog we said we didn't want. And how she adopted us... because she fell in love with our big dogs.
Olive, missing Emily, at the Salt Lake City BlogPaws conference. Only Olive attended. Chester and Emily stayed home together.