Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Mantras of Logan

All rescue dogs have a story to tell of how they defied the odds of survival and triumphed over those odds that were so stacked against them.  I think that Logan has one such story.  

It was November of 2006, and the rescue was contacted by another group about taking a senior Golden that had been rescued from a shelter.  His family had brought him there saying they were afraid he was going to bite their grandchildren.  With overcrowding in the small rural shelter, and with the 'fear' of a possible behavior issue with children, the paperwork was completed and Logan was to be euthanized as soon as possible.  However, as you may know, small shelters can be understaffed and employees overworked, and this particular shelter was no exception--Because that night, for whatever reason, the animal warden given the job to euthanize Logan did not get around to it.  The next morning when a shelter worker arrived and she saw Logan, looking at her and wagging his tail, it kindled something inside her--She felt strongly at that moment, that Logan did not deserve the fate that was awaiting him and she took the bold step to hide Logan and keep him safe.  Logan's story at this point gets a little fuzzy, and the details are not very clear about what happened next--All I know is that Logan found his way to safety and was truly rescued that day!
Logan's journey to his new life began at the home of the shelter worker who had rescued him.  A week or so later he was a passenger on the 'canine underground railroad' that made a stop in the deserted area of a  parking lot at a local mall. When you pick up a dog from this type of a transport, you are given a time to arrive and told to be prompt because there is a tight schedule that needs to be kept.   As I waited, I looked around and I could see that there were several others also waiting for the arrival of the transport.  At the appointed time, two cargo vans pulled up.  Everyone waiting got out of their cars, and got into a line.  When it was my turn I was asked by one of the drivers  who I was, and who I was picking up.  They checked their paperwork, and took me to the back of one of the vans and a crate was opened and out came a tall, lanky and very bewildered dark red Golden Retriever.  Before we could be properly introduced, someone handed me Logan's paperwork, his leash and they moved onto the next person waiting.  I put a very bewildered Logan into my van and we were quickly on our way.  On the trip home, a dog with the most beautiful copper eyes I had ever seen sat staring at me no doubt wondering what was happening to him.  I talked to Logan and told him he had nothing to worry about, that he was going to be okay, that he was safe.  He finally laid down, but never took his eyes off of me for the entire drive.
Logan was a very quiet, unassuming dog that held his head high and had a proud and regal spirit about him.  I quickly found out that any concern about his issues with children had absolutely no foundation of truth.  He was one of the most kind and gentle dogs I've ever known.

Logan was said to be about 13 years old, but seemed much older because he had only known life as an outdoor dog.  He was plagued with terrible food allergies, sores on his skin and around his eyes from rubbing them, and if it could be worse, it was because he had tapeworms.  He would constantly lick his feet and chew his paws.  Logan's ears were so badly infected that they were swollen shut and he was unable to hear.  He had arthritis and had trouble even walking up a few simple steps--His coat, so oily and thin that I am ashamed to admit that I could barely stand to pet him and when I did, I felt only bones.  It would be months before all of his health issues were completely resolved.  Through all the treatment, Logan never made a sound or uttered a single noise.  He would lay there so stoically as I cleaned his ears and and other sores and when our eyes would meet, he would look at me with gratitude and wag his tail.  Logan knew I was helping him.  His eyes would show that same expression when he would be given a meal.  In my mind I can still see him standing in the back of the crowd at mealtime.  His head held high, his eyes so intense and focused and full of expression.  His front feet moving up and down like he was dancing, all reflecting love and thankfulness.  Even even now when I think about it, it touches my heart and soul beyond words.  

I'm not exactly sure when I first noticed that Logan's hearing had returned or that his coat gleamed so beautifully in the sun.  I suppose it was at about the same time I realized that the hair on his feet had grown to a point where it needed trimming because he was no longer chewing them--However, I couldn't bring myself to do it.  I felt that we had waited so long for it to grow that it deserved to stay, and so it did.  Logan stayed too--we officially adopted him in the spring of 2007.
~Logan (right) and Cubby~
With our move to the country on the horizon Logan took all the changes in routine in stride.  Focused, steady and patient are the words I would use to describe him.  Logan never changed.  He was content to be on the edge watching all that was happening around him.  Logan never barked or made a sound.  His soul filled eyes said it all.  His low-wagging tail never changed its slow-steady pace, his head and chin were always held high and the gratitude Logan felt flowed from him each and every day--All were the mantras for who he was.
Logan loved living in the country.  I can only guess that it was because it was what he knew first.  Warm days were made for him to be outside in the grass and the sun.  When the ground was cold, Logan warmed himself on the porch. On the days that I wouldn't allow him out, he would curl up on a dog bed, and I would cover him up and he'd stay that way for hours.  He was at peace.  He was happy.

Logan's time with us would end in the late spring of 2008. It was his favorite kind of day, warm and sunny.  At the time I was mourning  the death of my Mother, and his loss would mark the first at Golden Pines. If Logan had any faults it would be that he was the least photogenic of all the goldens we've ever had.  I was never able to capture that perfect picture of his soulful eyes, the quiet reassurance of his spirit, and gentleness, love and calm of his personality.  But those are all things that can't be captured in a single picture--You can only show and feel them, and Logan truly felt them all, and from him, I felt it too.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Spirit of Scout

The rescue that I volunteer with has been in the area for more than 25 years.  One of the policies that I respect so much about them is that if a Golden Retriever placed by the rescue ever needs to be returned, for any reason, they will take it back.  This is what happened to the next senior boy I would meet, named Scout.

Scout was surrendered to the rescue in 1994 as a young, wild maniac that was out of control.  The dog that I met in June of 2005, was not that dog, but was a gentleman in every sense.  The family that had adopted Scout had a change in their family circumstances, and were moving to California.  They felt that the trip across country would be too much for a 14 year old dog, and they made the decision to return him to the rescue.

~Scouts designer collar~
Scout had truly lived the life of Riley!!  The home was large and lavishly and very tastefully decorated.  The cars in the driveway were an indication of the lifestyle the owners had been living.  Scout had been given everything; a big, beautiful and perfectly manicured yard, a custom made down-filled dog bed (that matched the ottoman) were all his to enjoy. He wore a designer collar and the family had even had a watercolor painting of him.  And there I was, in my old Dodge van, to take Scout to what I would call 'the group home.'

Scout had lived his entire life as an only dog and his now being part of a multi-dog household was very upsetting for him.  I can still remember him standing in the corner of my kitchen that first day, scared and shaking because of how upside down his world had become.  Needless to say, I felt terrible!  I recall thinking that if his family could have seen him, they would have changed their minds about returning Scout because he was so miserable.

Thankfully with time, Scout got used to the household and his new life and routine.  He was such an enjoyable, gentle and affectionate companion and like Kasey, I loved taking him with me whenever I could. People were astonished by Scout's age and how healthy and vibrant he was; I told people every chance I got about the dog I called either 'my little boy-scout' or 'my little rich boy.'
~Our Gang in 2005: Scout far left, Kasey, Charlie, Josh, in the back Wendy & Tosh~
Scout's favorite place to be was outside under the shade of a tree. At the time, we were living in a subdivision, and Scout would spend hours laying under the trees in our front yard sleeping and watching people walk by.  There was always a feeling of peace and contentment about Scout during those times and I let him spend as much time outside as I could.
We made the decision in the spring of 2007 to move to the country.  When our house went on the market that June it brought stress and chaos.  Scout was now 15 years old and he was beginning to have health problems and the change of routine wasn't helping.  A good friend of ours offered to keep Scout during the day, and so he spent that summer and early fall enjoying the peace of her home and her very shady yard; he loved it!  By the middle of September, our house was sold and we were getting ready to move to what would become 'Golden Pines.' I remember looking at our property and envisioning Scout enjoying the shade of our large trees, and taking walks with us.  I couldn't wait to bring him here.
However, we all know that there are some things that are just not meant to be. It was a cool October morning and Scout was doing his usual 'sleeping in' and I went upstairs to wake him when it was time for breakfast.  He hadn't eaten the night before, but I wasn't concerned because our friend sometimes fed him along with her own dogs--It was also not unusual for him to go upstairs and go to bed before we did, which he had done the evening before.  I remember kneeling down next to Scout that morning and he could barely lift his head.  Carl carried him outside and placed him under the trees that he so loved, hoping it would help, but it didn't.  As I drove him to the vet, the song 'One More Day' by Diamond Rio' was playing on the radio and I prayed for one more day with Scout. However, his spleen had ruptured and another day with him was not meant to be.  I held Scout as he peacefully and quietly left this life for the next....
It's now almost 5 years later, and I will sometimes look at our trees and think of Scout and how much he would have loved laying under them in the cool grass.  And, as I write this, there is dove sitting in the shade of one--I have to think it's a sign that even though Scout never lived at Golden Pines, his spirit resides here and it's found under the shade of our beautiful trees.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Kasey: The First Matriarch of Our Pack

It would be a year until another senior Golden found their way to us.  It was June of 2003, and I now refer to it as "the year of the dogs" because we officially adopted 4 dogs from the rescue by the end of September.  I was still serving as President of the Golden Retriever Rescue and someone was needed to pick up a Golden that had come into a shelter in Stafford County, Virginia as a stray.  I wouldn't be fostering her, but I would be taking her to the family that would be.  The shelter estimated her to be about 9 or 10 years old and had given her the name 'Happy.' She and I met like we were old friends.  I would tell everyone later that the beautiful white faced Golden jumped into my van and into my heart that day.  I was immediately taken with her and called the foster home coordinator and asked I could foster her.  The answer that was given was an emphatic 'no' and so I took her to her foster home.

The foster home would rename her 'Lily' and while she was in pretty good health, she had a puncture in her sternum that had become infected and surgery would be needed.  I wouldn't see Lily again until afterwards when she was being groomed.  All cleaned up, she was even more beautiful. At the time dogs were not being micro-chipped and it was not unusual for them to be tattooed as a way of permanently identifying them.  While being groomed one was found on Lily's stomach with what looked to be a social security number, and the letter 'K' after the numbers.  A friend of mine contacted the state police to see if the number could be connected to someone, but no information was found. Lily's past life would remain a mystery.

It would be a several weeks before I would see Lily again. To this day, I'm not sure how it happened that I needed to go to the foster home that had Lily, because they did not live particularly close to me.  All I can think of is that fate played a card.  Because when I arrived at the foster home, I found out that Lily wasn't getting along with their dog, and she was being kept in the garage all day and night.  Of course this was totally unacceptable and so without offending the family or causing hurt feelings I convinced them to give me Lily.

So, Lily came to live with us.  While I had been totally smitten with her in the beginning that all changed when the honeymoon ended.  She wasn't house trained and she was constantly getting into the trash.  Added to that, she didn't listen or really respond to me.  Lily also had a borderline obsession with tennis balls.  I think she named every single one that we had.  She was always nudging me to throw it for her.  At the time we had birds and they were another obsession; it became life threatening for them to have her around.  So, needless to say, I just didn't feel that Lily was going to be a fit for our household and so I made her available for adoption. The calls came but in the end, no one seemed to really want her.

However fate had something else in mind, and played yet another card.  Lily became very ill with pancreatitus.  My having to take care of her, created a bond between us.  One day as she was sleeping on a dog bed next to me, I was thinking about the letter 'K' that was part of her tattoo.  At the time it was a practice for breeders to tattoo a letter indicating a litter or a name of a particular dog.  With that in mind I started saying 'K' names to her.  I tried several and there was no response from her.  Then I said the name 'Kasey' and she put her head up and looked at me.  Just to make sure it wasn't a coincidence, I would try several more times, and each time she responded to it--With that, her name became Kasey!

With a name change, good health, house-training all worked out, my bond with Kasey continued to grow. What I had felt the moment I met her became even more clear, and I knew I couldn't part with her.  We officially adopted Kasey in September of 2003.
~Our Gang in 2003 (left to right) Ben, Josh, Kasey, CarrieAnne and Wendy ~
Kasey was a real gem that had only needed a little polish.  Her classic looks and personality were all a Golden should be!  I loved taking her with me wherever I went.  She seemed to attract attention because of her blonde coat, white face and tennis ball that she always had in her mouth.  She would drop it at your feet, back away and wait for you throw it so the game could begin.  She was a perfect dog to be taken on home visits for the rescue because she loved children and other dogs.  At one home visit she was taken upstairs by one of the kids in the home and proudly returned with a cat box lid around her neck--Apparently she'd stuck her head inside the box and gotten caught on the flap when she pulled her head out.  She was always good for a laugh!

~Kasey (left) and Wendy~
Kasey found her place as matriarch of the pack and was respected by all the dogs.  She and Wendy were the top dogs in the pack and become companions to one another.  She was also a mentor and stabilizing influence for Rudi.  By the time we moved to Golden Pines in 2007, Kasey was probably about 14 years old and she was starting to slow down.  Walks that at one time had to be on lead, could now be off leash because she wouldn't venture very far.  We would start our walks all together, and she would eventually lag behind and I would leave her to do whatever she wanted.  Afterwards I would come back and find her laying in the grass, waiting for me to help her get back to her feet and we'd walk back to the house.  Kasey loved living in the country.  She especially loved the front porch and spent as much time there as she could.    
~Rudi and Kasey (right) on the porch~ 
Kasey's story would end in the fall of 2008.  I don't remember the date, but I remember that I was off work, and it was a Thursday...I woke to find her laying on her bed, and she was unable to really stand.  I sat with her for a long time and talked to her.  I told her again that day what she meant to me, and how much I wanted her to stay. But Kasey seemed so tired, and I knew it was time to let her go. Kasey's loss was felt throughout the pack.  There would be 'adjustments' in the Peking order as Wendy took her place as matriarch, and Rudi became the undeniable pack leader.  Kasey was our 'first girl' that we sent to the Rainbow Bridge and was truly unlike any dog we've had.  Every day of the 5 years we had her were truly a gift, and I will never forget the summer day when Kasey jumped into my van, and into my heart where she still remains today.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Where it All Began - Miss Lacey

To understand my love of senior dogs, I have to go back to March of 2002, where it all began ...I was serving as President of the Golden Retriever Rescue in our area. We found out from someone that there was a 14 year old Golden Retriever in the shelter of the county where I live.  She had been brought there by her owner because she could no longer walk up the steps to his second floor apartment.  The shelter was not yet working with rescues, and so I called as a resident of the county to ask about adopting her.  I was told that her health and temperament needed to be evaluated before she would be placed up for adoption.  I told them that I didn't care about her health or temperament, but would take her regardless. I was told this wasn't possible that I would have to wait until when and if she was made available for adoption.  Knowing how some shelters operated, a couple of my fellow board members and I felt strongly that they probably wouldn't put a dog of her age up for adoption, so we decided to try and find another way to get her out of the shelter.  Luck was on our side when a volunteer for the rescue contacted a friend of hers who worked at the shelter.  She confirmed that this senior Golden would probably be euthanized at the end of a hold time of 3 days.  But she gave us some hope when she broke a rule and provided us with the owners information.  She told us that the only way we could possibly get this senior girl out of the shelter, would be to contact the owner and convince him to reclaim her, and turn her over to the rescue.  That seemed simple enough to us.  

With time running out, a determined board member was finally able to reach the owner on her third and last day.  She roused this young man out of bed, and in her very best Mother voice, told him to go to the shelter, reclaim his dog, and give her to someone who would meet him in the parking lot. Thankfully, he did just that.  I was the person who met him.

I found out her name was Lacey.  She was a small, red Golden with a beautiful white face.  Her previous owner, whose name I don't remember was only 22 years old.  He'd gotten Lacey when he was eight years old. I later couldn't help but marvel at all the things she must've witnessed in her lifetime with him.  The boy who she first met and grew up with.  The young man who graduated from high school and went to college. Did he notice her growing old, or was she always that young vibrant puppy he had known so many years ago?  Did he feel any remorse or worry about her being left alone in the shelter?  I'll never know the answers to those questions, but I do know that in the end he did the right thing by giving her to me.

Miss Lacey, as I came to call her, was truly a lady; a lady that I thought should wear pearls and a scarf.  She was a quiet, gentle and affectionate golden that loved walks and laying in the warm sun.  She attended events for the rescue was a perfect example of dignity and grace.  She became an ambassador for the rescue and for senior Goldens like her who needed someone.  We had her with us until the end of May.  Our time was much too brief.  But I am grateful to have known her, and that her life didn't end in the shelter, but with someone who cared about her.  Miss Lacey ignited my love for senior Golden Retrievers, and our lives have never been the same.
Miss Lacey's paw-print