Saturday, February 02, 2013
(2/02/2013 10:00:00 PM) - Al
We are celebrating the Rambling dog's 17th birthday this weekend, as well as his 13th anniversary with us. Those of you that don't care can move on, because there's nothing in this other than the love and appreciation of an elderly cocker spaniel.
On the first Saturday of February, 2000, we visited the Washington County shelter, in Woodbury, MN. The Rambling wife said we could go "take a look," and gave me two non-negotiable conditions:
1. No puppies, as it had to be housebroken.
2. It had to be small enough so that it could not knock her down if it jumped on her.
We quickly found that very few dogs fit her criteria, as most were big, and many were "unknown" if they were housebroken. I was watching a young pit bull named Nitro jump non-stop on the front and back of his area; sadly, I knew the odds of him ever finding a home were approximately the same as me ever wearing an adult size small shirt. The Rambling wife stopped at the next cage, and said, "Well, this one looks nice." He was, of course, the exact opposite of Nitro; he was sitting quietly on the piece of carpeting in the back of his 6-8 foot area, shaking. He had a "hold" sign on his clipboard, and we also found out his name was Ronnie, he was 4, and his favorite toy was "ball." We walked through the rest of the facility, not finding a single other possibility.
Many people were taking dogs out for walks or into the "get to know you" rooms, so we asked one of the workers about the hold sign. They asked around and found that it had expired, so we took him for both a walk outside and into the little room, where he played nonstop with a tennis ball, proudly bringing it back and often kicking it and chasing it by himself. He was a very mellow fella, and we both wondered why he was there. He seemed so friendly, he was cute as a bug, he just seemed out of place.
We found out more bits and pieces that day...he had been found as a stray, and had been brought in 12/26 (Merry Xmas!) for surrender. He had gone home several times since, only to be brought back. This was his 2nd day "back out on the floor" after being neutered, which someone said had been done to "give him more time."
Then and now, we don't know much at all about the whys to the story that come to mind...how he had ended up as a stray (though every time he gets off his leash or chain, we have a good idea, he just runs full speed in one direction and never looks back), why other folks took him home and then returned him...more than once; and if he had been fixed to extend his time frame; how close he had come to being a victim of limited space and resources, as they gave him a week to heal after surgery.
We couldn't think of any reason to not take him (and trust me, the wife tried). The staff was just thrilled, and gladly put up the hold sign again as we needed a couple hours to "dogproof" the house (we had potpourri on the floor in a glass holder for one thing, which would have been eaten in seconds) and buy some supplies at Petsmart. We returned, and one of the "walkers," who couldn't have been more than 12, proudly informed us he had taken Ron for a long walk, and that he had "done his job" and that he was ready to go. We did paperwork, wrote out a check (I recall the charge was about $110 or so, but we were young and much smarter then, so we gave then a "tip" of sorts, donating more, I think we made it $150), and led him out. On the way, he was hugged and loved by everyone; staff, people there visiting, especially children. One of the last people to say their goodbyes was that young "walker" who after petting him for an extended period of time, said in a very stern voice while shaking his finger, "Now, don't come back!"
That's what I remember most, actually, that and the ride home. After a minute or so, he shook the rest of the way, a 7-8 minute trip, just like he had been doing in the back of his area when we first saw him. We walked him around the block, and then led him through the house, and the entire time, he sniffed everything like his nose had the secret to life in it (looking back, he was just looking for food). Finally, we let him off the leash, and he continued wandering. That night, he all but ignored me and hung around the Rambling wife, often getting underfoot (which he still does to this day). We figured maybe his previous owner had been a woman, but who knows?
After an hour or so, he walked into the living room. He walked up to the sofa, looked over at me, hesitated, and jumped up. He looked at me again, and sensing it was OK, did his famous walk around in a circle a couple times and plopped himself down on a pillow.
In a manner of speaking, that's where he's been ever since. He still loves "soft" and still insists on resting up for an exhausting task that never seems to be asked of him, but I guess always could be.
I just mentioned a few days ago that of all of the dogs in that shelter that day, the odds are, ours is the only one still with us. Heck, many of the people aren't either...13 years is a long time. We can hardly imagine a household without him in it, and the Rambling son, who is 10, truly can't, as he's never lived without him. When he was a youngster, the Rambling son started calling him "Woof." The irony is, after a while, he started answering to it. We'd tell the Rambling son we couldn't find Ronnie, even though we knew he was lying out in the other room. He'd say, "Woooof. Wooooooof." And, around the corner he would come.
Also of note, in 13 years, he's never missed a meal. Never hesitated to eat a meal. Never turned down a snack. Never disliked anyone. Always has been friendly to everyone. And, whether we've been in the pet store, the dog park, or out on a walk, he's never backed down from a bigger dog. He whines all the time because he's an incredible wimp, used to be scared of motorcycles, boats, thunder (now that he can't hear, his fear level is far lower), but by gosh, he'll stand up to any dog, even ones that could literally tear him apart. I'm not sure if he thinks he's protecting us or if he's just brave among his own kind.
The years have had challenges. It is a lesson in many ways...e don't get healthier as we get older. He has suffered all of the maladies of his breed, as cockers all have bad skin, eyes, and ears. We learned early on ear wash prevented ear infections, and he hasn't had one in a dozen years. He ears are all but useless, though he still may hear some high pitched sounds now and then. His eyes have began to fail, simply giving out before the rest of him. He's always slept a lot, but now he sleeps really hard, and doesn't care much for playing games anymore. He still loves love, and still wants to be a friend to all.
For all of his body parts that have declined, his nose is still the gold standard. I often take a couple treats, or a carrot when we have them, and break them up into 5-6 little pieces, and throw them all over the room. It's a rare day when I "win" and he doesn't find them all in a few minutes. The funny thing is, he plays this game far more often than myself, as he does a tour around almost every time he comes in from being outside..."just in case."
We know his days are probably few, and most of all, we hope they are painless. Of course, we've been saying this for a half-decade or more, but Father Time remains undefeated. In the meantime, we're lucky to have him.
2/02/2013 10:00:00 PM