If you’ve read my other stories and my profile you know that since childhood I’ve been involved on some level with animals. During my teen years we had a few puppies that didn’t survive due to not having vaccines and one that was hit by a car. My parents grew up in small towns and on farms, and were from a generation that didn’t commonly take pets to the vet. But this story isn’t about that. It is about my borrowed dog.
I usually have a rough idea of who the different animals are in my neighborhood whether I see them behind a fence, dogs out walking with their people, occasional loose dogs, cats on their own, and sometimes someone will tell me about an animal I haven’t yet met. When I was 15 years old I’d heard about a dog in our neighborhood named Rex, and one day as I was walking to a friend’s house I saw him sniffing at a telephone pole. He was big, had long gray wavy hair, folded ears and a curved tail. I said “Rex?” and he came right over to me. I gave him a few pats and he came with me to my friend Lorie’s house, where we gave him a bath! Apparently he didn’t hold it against us because he continued to be my friend and hang out with me.
His owners either let him out on his own or he’d break free from being chained in his yard and then he’d make his way to my house on the next block. I wasn’t driving yet so we walked a lot in those days and he’d tag along anywhere I went. I eventually got some sort of rope or a leash so he wouldn’t be in the street and boy that dog could pull! I’d either wear a glove or wrap the rope around my waist because it hurt my hand so much. I knew nothing about dog training and I don’t think he did either. He wasn’t only strong but graceful too. It was wonderful to throw a ball over a fence and see him sail over it with ease.
Rex never bothered our cats but he really was bonkers for my hamster! He’d stand over the cage and look down at the little fellow sleeping and wag and look very longingly into the nest. When he was in our house I’d make sure the door was shut to my bedroom. One day I must have forgotten. I came into the bedroom and there was a head shaped hole mashed through the top of the cage and the cage was on the ground and no hamster in sight. My heart sank. I looked under the bed and found my hamster! He was sopping wet like he’d taken a bath but he was unharmed!! Rex could have had him for a snack but he didn’t.
This next bit is tricky because I don’t want to go off on a rabbit trail about how things were growing up, but I need to add some of it for this part. My dad had anger issues and was abusive. But let me say right here that once I was an adult we were able to be friends and I believe he was sorry for his earlier behavior. So, during one of Rex’s visits by dad slapped my face and Rex immediately raised himself onto two legs and put his open mouth at the front of my dad’s neck. He didn’t bite him, just warned him not to do that to me. Wow! You should have seen the fear on my dad’s face! Thank you Rex!
That is why I called this story My Protector Pal. He was fun to go places with (except for his pulling) and he watched out for me. In a nutshell that’s what dogs do isn’t it? They’re our friends who like to spend time with us and they warn us and others with their barking or more if necessary. They don’t call them man’s best friend without a reason.
I’m so glad we were allowed to have pets growing up!
Bootsy was such a sweet and tolerant cat and didn’t mind sharing her babies with us. She almost looks like a kitten herself.
Through the years we always had cats, a few special dogs, a few hamsters and fish. One summer my brother and his friend rescued an “Easter duckling” from a nearby lake. I was always bringing home baby birds that had fallen out of the nest, at least I thought that is why they were on the ground. When I got older I found out about local wildlife rehabilitation organizations and I’d bring them there. Still do!
Max, Ruby and I used to walk daily and sometimes twice a day. Max was an Australian Shepherd with a love for greeting people and other dogs and a very happy disposition. I’m so fortunate to have been the one to get Max from the Humane Society when he was 4 1/2 months old. He was my first dog as an adult; we had a shared family dog and I borrowed other people’s dogs for walks but he was my very own. Max and his sister were found when they were about 3 months old in a field in the suburbs with porcupine quills in their faces – ouch! They went to a foster home after the quills were removed and then to the shelter. When I got to the shelter Max was alone and his sister was already adopted. Max had been adopted but returned because his new owner said “he doesn’t come when I call him”. I won’t tell you what I think of that comment, but I will say that it was a great decision for me!
Ruby was a German Shepherd-mix who started life out feral, as best as we can tell. See the separate story –Trapping a Feral Puppy. In the earlier part of our life together she was super leery of people. She was most comfortable at home, in our yard, or in the company of other dogs. Eventually she became more comfortable around people and had several favorite people. When on a leash she’d often stand behind me if we stopped to talk with someone.
In the beginning when teaching her to walk on a leash I’d walk both of the dogs together on a double dog coupler so Ruby would have her trusty friend Max right beside her. It also made it easier for me having to hold only one leash. Sometimes when she was frightened she wanted to run and hide. One of those moments happened while we were walking on a nice summer day near a ferry dock. It was before the ferry was ready to load the passenger cars so there was a 4 to 5 block line of stopped cars waiting to board. We were on the opposite side of the street so they had a good view of our side of the street. Each of these cars had at least one person waiting behind the steering wheel. There wasn’t another soul in sight…yet.
While we were walking Ruby noticed a person coming in our direction about 1-1/2 blocks ahead of us. She put herself in reverse and started walking backwards along my right side. Max had no choice being hooked to the coupler with her, so he went in reverse on my left side. The dogs had me lassoed by the legs! All I could do to get untangled was go forward onto my hands and kick each foot up in the air and over the leash to free myself. I’ll always wonder what all of those people thought as they watched me do a partial handstand on the sidewalk with a few mule kicks thrown in for good measure.
In 1995 I came home from work to find a friend had left me a sort of frantic phone message about a puppy she saw loose near where she lived. She wanted help getting it to a safe place. I didn’t see what the problem was so I left a message on her machine telling her to get some good food and it’ll likely be your new best friend. We finally talked and she told me that the puppy would run into the brambles in a green space near the road whenever she tried to approach it and she had family coming from out of town and couldn’t deal with the puppy. So she asked me to get involved and I went to investigate.
Sure enough the 4 month old German shepherd mix would run for cover when I came to where she was staying. There was an area about a block long that had a uphill slope full of blackberry bushes mixed with native trees and ground cover that was a perfect hiding place and really difficult for humans to get into. There was a ditch beside the road that had water, but where was this puppy finding food and where did she come from? I brought her food and a cow hoof to chew on and left them both, then went home to start calling animal shelters to see what to do next – these were pre-internet and pre-cell phone days.
The person at the Seattle Animal Shelter told me that they’d have to get within 10 feet of her to catch her with a catch pole – one of those loop on a pole things. I didn’t think that’d work so they suggested I rent a raccoon trap. I called the local rental place and picked one up the next day. I put a dish of canned cat food in the trap, set the trap up where I’d seen her the day before and went back to my car to wait.
Within a half hour I had a big puppy in a trap! She chowed down the food and when I approached the trap she went into shock. I’m not a medical person but that is what it looked like to me. Her eyes fixed on something straight in front of her, sort of like she wasn’t there, if you know what I mean, and drool came out of her mouth (maybe from the yummy cat food). I knew I’d have trouble lifting the trap into my hatch back without it jostling her a lot so I waited for someone to come by that I could ask for help. A young woman came walking down the road and I said “excuse me but could you help me lift this trap into my car?”, she smiled and came to help without hesitation!
I got the trap home and my neighbors helped me get it and and the puppy into the house. I put my 1 ½ year old dog Max outside until I knew a bit more about what I was dealing with. My neighbors left and I put up a baby gate at the kitchen door to keep her in the kitchen if and when she came out of the trap, then I left her alone for a few minutes.
When I came back she was out of the trap and standing in the kitchen with her head hung down and an expression that I think said “now what are you going to do with me?” I needed to know if she was healthy so I grabbed my keys, acted like I knew what I was doing, picked her up, put her in the car and took her to the veterinarian. The doctor said she was healthy so I brought her back home. When she saw my dog Max I saw that she could act like a normal puppy … the end of her tailed wagged and I knew then things would be alright. I put the dogs together and they played and played. That was the beginning of our lives together. Me, Max (Aussie mostly white), Ruby (the feral German shepherd mix puppy) and 2 cats Phoebe and Sassy had many more adventures that followed.