Contrast in Canines

Feeling the need for some literary relief, I was looking around me… Aha! My unsuspecting and, as far as I know, illiterate pets! Of course, they could be sandbagging me…

Rosebud Jane (Rosie) came into our lives in the spring of 2004. Art saw her on the Mutts ‘n Mutts website, a rescue agency. Give it a once-over if you live in the southeastern Michigan area. Being a man, he liked her looks! She was pretty, white-haired and fluffy. Funny how he does not find those traits attractive in all females!

After e-mail contact, we arranged to meet Rosebud and her foster Mom. One of them was petrified to meet us. We felt rather unsettled when we left, that day.

The next visit was only a bit better. I tried to walk her through the pet store on her leash. She preferred to nearly run and pull me along. She would try to hide under her foster Mom’s arm. We felt worse than the previous visit. My doggie Momma spirits definitely were sagging.

Visit #3 was the first time I felt a little spark of “maybe.” We were allowed to try her on leash again, this time outside. Rosebud felt all right, as long as we kept her foster Mom in her line of sight. She allowed me to brush her, which felt like monumental progress.

Another week progressed and we were wondering if Rosie (I had already shortened her name, cautiously/expectedly) would be the one to come home with us. We had met a few of Rosie’s housemates. They all seemed more energetic and possessed of random acts of silliness. They appeared happier to see us than did she. We were falling in love with the fluffy blonde, however.

I approached foster Mom and Rosie and knelt beside them. I had learned not to appear so huge and intimidating. I greeted foster Mom first, and then scratched Rosie on the chest. She slowly rolled over onto her side and I started rubbing her belly. That’s when foster Mom said, “It looks like Rosebud has found her new Momma.”

After another week of a vet check and paperwork, we were allowed to bring her home. “Dad” went to pick her up; I stayed at home, just having had major surgery and not relishing the thought of a ride in the car. About 90 minutes later, the door opened and in bounded Rosie! She ran up to the sofa where I was sitting and nearly sailed over the back of it (which caused me some concern about the safety of my furniture). That was the first time I saw the characteristic Samoyed “smile.” Commence the smelling of the entire household. I had taken a backseat, already.

Life with Rosie was always something different. She didn’t make a peep for two whole days. We discussed if she was going to be a “silent partner.” On day three, someone knocked at the door. All dog communication hell broke loose! Such barking I had not heard! Yep, that German Shepherd/watchdog part of her had asserted itself and she now “owned” us, the house, and everything within her excellent senses. Especially the court on which we lived. Unfortunately, other people lived there, too, in that they now were subjected to rather loud “alarms” whenever they ventured out their doors.

We discovered that a dog being “trained” in one home did not necessarily translate once the venue had changed. She looked so confused when we would scold her. Apparently, her foster home had no carpeting and carpeting just felt like grass under canine feet. She also chose to take any and all treats to the carpeting to disassemble and macerate; even though her dishes were well within the kitchen area. Something she continues, to this day.

Contrary to what we were told, she did not run for the hills if we had her off leash. She stuck by us. She engaged us with her funny little play bows and her spinning. She quickly learned a few new tricks so she could get those yummy rewards. She didn’t remind repeating them of her own volition, if she thought you might be coaxed into extras.

Over several weeks, Rosie’s loyalty to an alpha switched from Mom to Dad. I still don’t understand that, as I am the disciplinarian, by far. Himself is the most lenient dog Dad around! I thought I had heard a lot of excuses from my children! We were adjusting to the possibility of those jarring alarm barks occurring at any time of the day or night. They could be embarrassing, or reassuring that no one could EVER sneak up or sneak in. Rosie was on guard and she took it seriously!

Fast forward now about 1.5 years. Mid February. Rosie and Dad go out for the morning doggie duty. They use the front door, since the snow is piled deep on the backyard deck from overnight snowfall. About 10 minutes later, the front door opens and Rosie slowly enters. Dad sticks in his head and says, “Guess what I found?” Now, we had a soon-to-be 20-year-old son living with us. You can guess what ran through my mind. All I could muster to say was, “What?”

Dad then moves aside, and in pokes a black dog head with brown eyebrows and muzzle. The poor chap slowly walks inside, head hanging with eyes looking from the top of the sockets. Who was this Eyore-appearing creature?

Rosie, in a fit of graciousness never before witnessed by us, actually welcomed him in with a small nip and rambunctious play bow. New canine kid on the block comes over to me and leans against me. He’s thin enough that his distal spine is visible, along with his hips. He quietly leans against me and gives me the most pitiful look I have ever seen—beating out even my children’s best of efforts.

After some obviously needed food, once again, the smelling and sniffing (much louder with this guy) commences. Rosie, trying to look nonchalant, follows along. The people in the home are still in the kitchen area. New kid is getting out of sight, now. I spend the next 15 minutes saying, “Get out of there, Buster. Come here, Buster. Where do you think you’re going, Buster?” Thus, a name is given. We tried calling him with all the male dog names we could bring to mind: Prince, King, Duke, Buddy, Lad, and about 50 more. Not so much as a tail wag. The newly named Buster was just as homely as Rosie was pretty. The head and coloring of a Rottweiler, but the thinner body of a Labrador. Dew claws still present. An “intact” male. Trying to do the intact male-marking-thing in my great room! He did not like a collar and would scratch at it. Dad’s co-worker had lost a canine companion and sent over an entire grocery sack full of scarves, collar, leash, and toys. We once again were back at the pet store and buying bowls, yard stake, and assorted doggie necessities. Of course, more FOOD!

Buster had, and continues to have, a fairly voracious appetite. He may have slowed, recently, but still finishes ahead of Rosie on most occasions. Tasting is optional. Other parts of his personality include a “goofiness” that frequently makes us laugh. He is very vocal and talks to us whenever he wishes. He looks so confused that we have to ask him to repeat! He has a definite vocal pattern that means, “I want to go out NOW.” “Roar, roar, roar-roar-roar.” I’m not kidding, that is what it sounds like. He actually will bark when he is finished outdoors and wants to come back in. This has come to sound like, “Hey, I want in; hey, I want in, hey I want in.” Rosie will scratch on the door but does not bark to gain entrance. We should just be hanging around, anticipating when she will be finished with her sunbathing and wishes to re-enter.

Buster has, at the same time, an endearing and annoying habit of plopping his big old head (now gone from slightly gray to an all white muzzle) in my lap or on the laptop keyboard, sometimes on my book. He, too, had an exaggerated play bow until the years caught up with him. Now it’s maybe not so deep a bow. If the Queen ever visits, she’ll just have to pretend not to notice. When first joining the family, he would demonstrate what I termed “the doggie dance of joy” by galloping in the backyard and then kicking up his back legs. Hilarious to see! Of course, accompanying loud vocalizations.

Buster has given his share of “scares.” And that’s a double entendre—meaning an initial scare when something unpleasant happens, and then a secondary scare when we see the vet bill. God bless our vet, Dr. Lewis! She absolutely adores our furry kids. Buster showed up at her office one day, unaccompanied by his parents. He had been trusted off the leash (which I quickly learned never to do, but the other half took much longer—the indulgent one, as I hinted) and took off after perhaps a squirrel, a person, or another dog. Heck, sometimes I swear he was chasing leaves that were blowing across the yard! We ran around the block, calling and searching. No Buster. Ran back home. I hopped into the car, while Dad started walking along the tributary that ran along the back of the property. It was just barely daylight. Up and down each block, slowly. Window rolled down and yelling for the escapee. Nothing. Rounding a corner, there up ahead was a large, black lump right next to the curb. My heart did not pound, it literally stopped and dropped. Someone had hit my dog and left him to die at the curb. Racing towards my lumpy, old dog, I’m relieved to find it is a black garbage bag. My heart slowly climbed back up about five ribs into the pericardial space. But Buster was nowhere to be found.

He has a curious habit of having to: a) Smell e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g and b) tinkle on most of it. Even things like a tall chicory plant sticking up in an otherwise flat lawn. So I could not fathom where he had hidden himself, as I knew he could not have outrun me, my having now driven around the entire subdivision three times.

More than morosely, I had to return home. Well, Buster had come to us unannounced, unexpected, and obviously lost. He had chosen to leave the same way.

Dad was home, already. No Buster leaning against anyone or anything. My heart was in the right place, but it was bruised and sad.

Then, Dad explained that he had just checked the answering machine. One of the staff at the veterinary office had called, saying a kind lady had just dropped off our Buster because he obviously “had gone for a walk.” We were extremely relieved…in a perturbed sort of way, having spent over 45 minutes looking all over kingdom come on a workday. Someone had a scolding, that day. Maybe two someones, as one of them had let the other go outside unsecured.

Today, we’re in a different neighborhood and different home. The canine kids are 8 and 6 years older than when we joined their pack. Make no mistake, they had to accept us into their pack—we did not decide on our own.

Rosie still is Rosie. She has learned that when Mom says, “No barking,” she means it. She knows she will have to come inside if she insists on prolonging that alarm at which she is so successful in announcing. She is fluffy and pretty with a little more darker, caramel color along her back. Her nose has turned completely pink. She still has incredible eyesight and hearing and proudly proves it, everyday, lest we forget. She loves to play chase, but only meaning you chase her. She quickly tires of chasing a profoundly slower prey, such as her parents. What challenge, that? She loves squeaky toys and catching them in mid-air. She simply drops them or watches them sail by when she’s finished indulging us with that game. She pushes her nose into the furniture where we’re sitting—and hard—when she wants attention or a cookie. Or when she wants you to move so she can jump into your spot on the sofa. She tries to engage Buster in play, but he cannot oblige her very often at all.

For his part, Buster is content to sleep a lot. His rear legs both are stiff until he can walk about a bit. Then, to walk too far causes those back legs to give out. As of yet, he has been able to recover himself fairly quickly. He no longer seems able to chase us in the backyard, but instead will sit down and loudly bark at us. He has lost no strength in that exuberant bark! For some unknown reason, God sends the quiet ones past our home. And the small ones. I was glad a moose never wandered into our yard. Buster’s right front leg has a never-ending limp. He does not whimper, except extremely rarely; maybe lasting a millisecond. While he no longer can run, he can do a remarkable fake job in his sleep! He runs for the hills in his vivid dreams! About three times over the years, he has loudly howled—twice in the middle of the night! Those two times have brought goose bumps and a rapid heartbeat to me. Is he glimpsing his pack in Heaven? Running to try to catch up? Or maybe even leading the way in which he never has on this Earth. Our faithful, fearless, funny Buster. How dear he is to us. How heartbreaking it is to see him age and become frail. How I miss those doggie dances of joy.

It is painfully obvious that Buster is drawing near to leaving us with only wonderful, hilarious, and full-of-love memories. How I wish every friend was as faithful as Buster! How I wish I were as much like him! Sometimes, the tears do roll down my face, as they are now. I hope he doesn’t understand why. But he does look up at me and will sit as close as possible. Someday, there will be lots more room on the bed and I will have swept up the last black hair. And my life will be just a little less rich and hilarious. Hopefully, Rosie will remain a bit longer and ease us through the hurt. I worry about how Dad will come to terms.

And so each day truly is a precious gift of our canine children. They either slowly weasel their way into your heart, or just come bounding in, knocking over stuff along the way. Our kids, who never grow up, yet must grow old, sustaining us for as long as they possibly are able with their loyalty and acceptance and selfless love.

Please remember the homeless pets if you are in position to add one to your family pack. There definitely will be a Rosie or a Buster (or both when you aren’t looking) waiting to go home with you. Let the joy and the lessons begin!

Just at the off chance that they really DO read:  I love you, Rosie Posey and Buster B. Bedhog! Even if you do shed all over the place and take over the bed. 😉

Buster passed away on Aug 5, 2015, a beautiful, sunny, white-fluffy-cloud day. The previous several days were very hot, but that particular Wednesday was much milder. The Berman Center-Humane Society made sure it was painless and peaceful.

With each break in our hearts, more room is made for a little more love. Buster was filled with love!

On November 16, 2016, Rosie’s Dad made that final visit with her to the vet. She had developed a persistent limp, had a fall, and eventually was diagnosed with a neurological disorder, approximately six months before she peacefully left us. As the disease progressed, she lost more and more function. She undoubtedly missed her walks, which were more like jogs! For the rest of my life, I will miss the challenges, chores, and plenty of chuckles, my fur babies provided. Most of all, the pure love they gave every day. And I will grieve my significant loss.

All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small; All things wise and wonderful, the LORD GOD made them all.

–Cecil Frances Alexander



~ by saginawrobin on April 9, 2012.

2 Responses to “Contrast in Canines”

  1. Reminds me of times in our own pack here at home. Dan continually talks of when Maddi leaves us. I try not to think about it and just enjoy her in the moment. Her heart is weaker but she continually loves. Thank you Lord.
    That was very good writing Rob.

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