Everyone thinks I hate my dogs. Probably because I say it all the time. But really I have tremendous guilt issues where they are concerned, feeling as if I never give them enough attention, training, exercise. But this week is about my accomplishments so let me share the other side of the story.
When I first adopted my greyhound, Callaway, off the racetracks, he was shell shocked at being in a home. Knowing nothing but a crate and a track, he was clearly unnerved by his new surroundings. And when approached by small children, including my own, he would growl and snap.
This concerned me enough to make a phone call to the adoption agency telling them I had to return their dog. But the next morning as I was packing his things, I realized I couldn’t do it. This dog needed another chance. So I dug my heels in and spent long hours training him around the house and specifically with children.
It took many months of patience and kindness and Callaway responded, finally accepting my love and trusting me enough to let his guard down. Becoming confident enough to romp around the yard with tons of kids and let them rest their heads on him when they were tired. He was the best pet (or I should say companion animal) I ever had.
After Callaway died, from cancer, we adopted a black lab from a family who needed to find her a new home. Annie became the new family pet. But I noticed over the years that her allergies were getting worse and worse until they completely took over her body, becoming more of a yeast overgrowth than allergies. Annie was on death’s door. She lost all of her fur, she couldn’t eat, and I had to carry this 70 pound lab back and forth to the yard every time she had to relieve herself.
I began to prepare the kids for the worst, even as I tried everything, from traditional medicines, to acupuncture to raw food diets. My entire life was focused around saving this poor animal. And finally, through plenty of research I tried yet another new diet, and this time it worked. Within days, she started to recover. All of her fur grew back, and with the exception of chronic ear infections, she is happy, healthy and strong.
I count these stories as accomplishments because too often I beat myself up for not taking good enough care of my dogs. And yet, maybe on some special level they know that even though I yell at them for sneaking food or ignore them when company is over, I chose to put up the good fight for them, so Callaway could spend his retirement in a safe and comfortable environment, and so Annie could have a few more years to enjoy winning the food wars against me. I guess deep down I really do love them. (But don’t tell anyone I said that.)