| I Prefer Dogs
I lay in bed hearing the rain hitting loose leaves outside. I could see them jumping and popping off the ground with each drop. It creates such a random, soothing beat. After listening to the rythm for awhile it's even harder to open my eyes as I’m gently lulled back to sleep. But then, there it is, the nagging voice of one’s internal clock . . . “Get up, it’s time to get out of bed!”
“Today is Sunday.” I said to myself, trying to quiet that annoying little voice. “It’s my only day off, can’t I be a little lazy, and just lay here?”
I didn’t hear any witty comeback, so my eyes stayed shut. I turned my attention back to the soft spattering of rain and drifted back to sleep.
Hours later I jerked awake to the clamor of all four dogs barking incessantly. As usual, the house wasn’t on fire nor was there a burglar trying to gain entrance. No, it was far more sinister than that. . . the neighbors Sheltie dog was in our front yard. How dare he! That was the intrusion that started my pack in a chorus of “get the hell off my lawn.” My girls certainly defend their territory.I reluctantly crawled out of bed.
“Hey! Chloe, Meisha, No!” I said loudly.
I hoped to calm the riled beasts that stood on my bed with noses pressed to the window. Thankfully, the other two dogs were at the opposite end of the house, in my son’s room. Their barking had slowed to intermittent warnings intended to ward off the intruder. I roughed up Chloe’s neck, gave her a kiss on the nose. Meisha, I gave a pat on the back as I stepped away from the bed. They immediately jumped off their perch on my bed, and hit the floor with a thud as they followed me into the kitchen. Meisha paused on the hardwood floor of the dining room to stretch the full length of her mid-sized, muscular body. Chloe, watched me intently as I filled the tea kettle and placed it on the stove to warm. My pack is made up of four female dogs. Chloe (3 ½ yrs.), Maddie (6 yrs.), Meisha (8-9 yrs.) and Calli (9 yrs.) and for all their diversity, they make a wonderfully cohesive unit most of the time.
Chloe is our only full breed dog. Gemmers Skyview Dawn (Chloe) is an AKC registered Labrador Retriever with a coat the color of sunshine. Blonde, red and cream all blend to create the gorgeous coat of a dark yellow Lab. She has an overabundance of intelligence and a human-like personality that makes her entirely unique. The way she looks at you with complete understanding when you talk to her always amazes me. The human/canine bond is very strong between us. She was my birthday present from my husband, Keith, in 2008.
We brought her home from breeder in a clothes basket filled with towels. I should say half the way home. The other half of the way from Oneota to Hartford, NY was spent in the front seat, on my lap. It is often in my lap or at my side that you will find her. She is a true “people’s” dog, needing to be where her masters are. When she is ready to retire at bedtime, she lets us know by getting in our faces until we ask her, “Chloe, you ready for bed?”
She will then jump up and head for the bedroom. Of course, our bed is her bed, although she is crate trained and will go in there on her own. Sometimes when she has had enough play time or exercise for the day, she will put herself in the crate and just lay there with the door open.
Meisha came from an animal shelter in Corinth, NY. She is certainly my husband’s dog. We always say that we didn’t choose her, she chose Keith. At the shelter, she came walking out and put her paws up on Keith’s chest as if to say, “Hey, where have you been? I’ve been waiting for you.”
We know she is a Boxer/Hound mix and loves to talk. It must be the Boxer in her that keeps her trim. We wanted to put weight on her when we first took her home. She was certainly on the thin side. She gained about ten pounds but over the years she hasn’t ever gained more. She is sleek and muscular with a predominantly brindle coat. The Hound in her comes out in her voice. She literally talks to you, saying “I DON’T KNOW”. She doesn’t just howl when excited, she honestly talks. It’s hilarious and always good for a laugh. Thus she has earned the nickname “Scooby”, after the cartoon dog that talks . . . roughly! Meisha is the “momma” of the pack. She is always the first to check on everyone else and make sure they are okay. Sniffing and nudging until she is sure. She is by far, the best behaved.
My son Kyle and I, share a similar strong bond with Miracle Maddie. She is the alpha female and likes to lord her authority over all others in the house, except me. She is a mix of Akita, German Shepard and we’re not sure what. She got the “Miracle” portion of her name due to the fact she almost died days after we picked her up from the shelter. Kyle and I drove to the shelter on a Saturday and by Monday morning I had her at the local vet’s office. She was only about 7 weeks old and weighed 5 pounds. She was bright, alert and eating the first day but by Monday morning could barely hold her head up. She was lethargic, dehydrated and could barely stand up. I called the local veterinarian immediately and was told to bring her in. Upon arriving at the office I told our veterinarian, Dr. Scott, of her sudden decline and he tested her for the Parvovirus.
This is a very contagious canine disease that eats away at the intestinal tract of the infected dog. With a puppy as small and young as Maddie, it was almost certainly fatal. Even in adult dogs this is a vicious disease and the infected animal takes days to decline eventually passing away. Maddie tested positive for the Parvovirus and the fight was on. She was given a 20% or less chance of surviving. With the dedication of our vet and a human medication called Tamiflu, she did survive. I took time off from work to take care of her; hand feed her, gave her medications several times a day and made sure she was progressing. She is now a beautiful, strong and healthy dog. It’s amazing the bonds we can form with animals. She started out my dog but she curls up with Kyle every evening. Maddie is lucky to be alive and I think she knows it. And in the end, she is still my dog and always will be.
You might be wondering about the fourth dog in the pack. That would be Calli, the Beagle/Lab mix with a variety of unique issues. We have found one major problem with adopting dogs from a shelter, especially if they are older when you choose them. Calli was just over a year old when we brought her home. The shelter staff said she had been adopted out three separate times and brought back each time. That was a HUGE RED FLAG and where others would drop the idea of choosing that particular dog, she immediately became the one I wanted. I’ll never learn, always rooting for the underdog and thinking I can change the world for them.
We have made a difference for Calli, starting with not returning her to the shelter. We thought about it once but could never go through with it. We treat our dogs as a true part of our family, they’re not just household pets. She was obviously abused early on in life. She is timid in nature, small in stature and a hunter to the core. That was part of the reason for her consistent return to the shelter. If she gets loose, off leash or slips out the door - she is gone before you can blink. Her nose immediately drops to the ground and she’s on the scent of something, anything. She will run until the pads of her feet are cracked and bleeding.
When we first brought her home we had only one other dog. I got her with the intention of being Gemmer’s companion. Gemmer was an 11 year old Chocolate Labrador that was my friend, my soul-mate for over seven years. Callie wasn’t exactly a calm counterpart for her. She was hyper when inside the house. At night she would run from one window to another for two or three hours straight, whining or barking constantly. I finally trained her to stop that behavior by putting a leash on her so she sat at my feet for small amounts of time at first. We worked our way up to keeping her still for up to an hour at a time. In her later years, she has mellowed significantly. Gemmer lived to be 14 ½ years old before I had to have her put down.
I have had dogs all my life. I have shed many tears in their ruffled neck fur, walked hundreds of miles with one by my side and have shared my innermost thoughts with them. Dogs have been there for me when I was sick or injured and helped me through some of the worst times in my life. In the end, I prefer the loyalty, faithfulness and unconditional love of a good dog over the complicated mix of emotions associated with sharing my life humans. That being said I love my children and family more than anything in this world. And yes, my dogs are a true part of that family.