Monday, December 7, 2009

THE ORDINARY BLACK DOG

At the Rocky Mountain Lab Rescue site, I saw the following.

TOP TEN REASONS TO ADOPT A BLACK DOG

10. BLACK DOGS ARE EASY TO FIND IN THE SNOW

9. BLACK DOGS ABSORB HEAT... PERFECT FOR COZYING UP TO ON A COLD WINTER NIGHT.

8. A BLACK DOG CAN MAKE YOU APPEAR THINNER

7. BLACK DOGS EXCEL AT NIGHT TIME GAMES OF HIDE AND SEEK

6.BLACK DOGS NEVER LOOK DIRTY (my favorite)

5. BLACK GOES WITH EVERYTHING SO YOUR BLACK DOG WILL ALWAYS BE COORDINATED WITH ALL OF YOUR OUTFITS.

4. A BLACK DOG ALWAYS LOOKS PRESENTABLE ON ANY FORMAL OCCASION.

3. BLACK IS A COMBINATION OF EVERY COLOR IN THE SPECTRUM, SO YOU WILL ACTUALLY HAVE A DOG WHO IS BLUE, GREEN, RED, ETC.,

2. BLACK DOG HAIR BECOMES INVISIBLE WHEN STUCK TO YOUR GOOD BLACK WOOL COAT.

#1 REASON TO ADOPT A BLACK DOG ... A BLACK DOG IS JUST AS LOVING, LOYAL AND TRUST WORTHY AS A WHITE, BROWN OR YELLOW DOG!


This is a story of an ordinary black dog it was my privilege to own.

She was a large and obviously not a pure bred dog. Her short black hair was broken up only by 2 small white stockings on her feet. She looked like a thousand other black dogs that are put to sleep daily by animal controls across the country. I knew when I found her that I would have a hard time finding a home for her. Anyone in rescue will tell you that black dogs are over looked and hard to find homes for.

The human eye is drawn to sparkle and we love those who stand out from the crowd. When you place a black dog next to a lighter colored or multicolored dog, the eye is immediately focused on the colorful dog first. Unusual marking draw our attention while the black dog with few markings is ignored. His features are hard to distinguish and tend to blend together. Unfair but true. I knew Boots, as I named her for the white feet, might be with me a long time.

As with most of my rescues, she came with the usual baggage, mange, worms and a beaten down nature. And like most rescues, food, medical care and attention quickly brought about a change. Her black hide became seal like and glistened. Her soft, wise brown eyes seemed to hold centuries of wisdom. She was very calm, patient, attentive and soon became a favorite. She would be hard to adopt out but the more I knew her, the less adoption became important. She was home.

I had seven enclosures on my property divided from each other by a 2x4 inch welded wire fence that was reinforced with electric fencing. In each area were shelters, room to run, automatic feeders and waterer's.

My biggest challenge was deciding which dogs to put together in these enclosures. If you have three dogs together, you have created a pack and I usually had at least 4 , often more, to an area. It took some juggling to make sure I didn't have two alpha dogs in the same pen. I really had to study my new dogs to know whom to put where. If I guessed wrong, someone suffered.

That is where Boots became invaluable. She free roamed the driveway area and slept in the barn with the barn cats and a deaf, albino Great Dane. They all loved her . After a new dog went through isolation in a pen to be sure they didn't have a communicable disease, they were turned loose with Boots. She was a born mother. She would lick their wounds, curl up close to them and was comforting to the often frightened and wary dogs. Every dog I brought in bonded with her.

Since the long driveway bordered each area, Boots would take the new dog to each area to introduce them to the other residents. They all knew Boots so her acceptance of the new dog helped to foster acceptance from the others. If there was a between-the-fence-shouting match, Boots would move between the quarreling dogs and lead the new dog away. By watching her, I could tell which group would be compatible. Had I taken the dog on the tour instead of her, my "pack leader" presence would have tempered the dogs reactions.

Boots did not get adopted and stayed with me for 14 years which made her about 16. She continued doing her "mothering" job faithfully. By the time I sold my place and was going to move to Arkansas, I had been out of the rescue business and was down to 6 un-adoptable dogs. Mighty, my pet, and five others.

The people buying my house were a darling couple who fell in love with the dogs and barn cats. They asked if they could keep them, even ancient Boots. I could not believe my luck for it turned out to be a tough enough move with one dog and one house cat. Still, I was really sick about leaving Boots. I just hated to leave her with people strange to her especially in her failing health.

She was really showing her age. Arthritis was making it very difficult for her to get up to greet me. Weight was dramatically dropping off her formerly chubby body. My vet diagnosed "old age". I decided I just couldn't leave her and was trying to figure out how to make the move with her included.

Probably the best thing would have been to put her down. However the only time I put dogs down was when they were in a pain that medicine could not relieve. She was not in pain, just very old but her tail thumped the ground each time she saw me. She still cared. I had a month before I had to vacate the property.

Five days before I was to leave, I went to the barn in the morning and saw Boots breathing heavily as she lay on her hay bed. I had seen enough dogs go through it to know, that very day was going to be her last. I sat in the hay, put her head in my lap and talked softly and constantly to her about all the dogs she had "raised".

While I talked, I stroked her face and shoulders for over an hour. Even as ill as she was, the tail kept up a slow, rhythmic thump on the soft hay. Suddenly her legs jerked, stiffened and she was still. So very quickly, every dog's mother was gone. Oh, yes, I cried, but along with that terrible sorrow was also relief. She would get to stay where she had done all her loving work. She was spared the rigors and confusion of the move. Once again, she had made things easy for me.

I was lucky to have owned an ordinary looking black dog that was indeed, quite extraordinary. If all dogs go to heaven, she is up there now, greeting and comforting the new arrivals.

If you know of anyone thinking of going to an animal rescue for a Christmas dog, please tell them to at least look in the eyes of those many black dogs. Their hearts are just a red and full as those cute flashy dogs. Thank you.

30 comments :

  1. Patti, I read that with tears in my eyes. I have always preferred black animals, and as you know I have 2 black cats. Over the years, I've had at least 4 black dogs, and they were my favorites. There seems to be no end to your compassion or for your excellent stories.

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  2. As you know, these kinds of dogs are almost always the best and seem to respect their owners and we had one Cuddles that lived with us for 23 human years. All of the kids got to live with her here.

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  3. What a touchingly beautiful story. I am certain there will always be a place for you in dog heaven.

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  4. I have felt every emotion you described as I approached the time my dogs needed to go to Rainbow Bridge.

    Shepherds are not all black,but the breed's reputation and size make the hard to adopt. Mine and most I've met are woosies.

    Heinz 57 mutt, Luckie, is a lot more black than anuy of my shepherds and is considered a large dog despite, certainly not like Shepherds and Dobs. I believe large dog category starts about 20#.
    To us her smaller than a Shepherd size, plus a tad of Shepherd look won our hearts. We did not look at any others. But her adoption story certainly became a winding emotional trip from shelter to vet to our home and hearts.

    Most of us animal lovers think we will meet our pets on the other side of the River. I am one of them.

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  5. Crying is not good for my sinuses right now, but worth it to read this beautiful story. I am forwarding this to my friend at the spay/neuter clinic who, incidentally, has a black dog--one of three she has, all rescue dogs.

    I know she'll cry, too.

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  6. Patti, you should compile all your stories about the animals you have rescued and put them into a book. Seriously! They are all so thoughtful and so good. You could donate part of the sales to animal rescue groups....... (maybe that will inspire you to think about it)

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  7. Our Cuddles looked like she was part lab, light brown/beige color. She had that mothering instinct about her. We also had a black, brown and white beagle we just called Puppy since we didn't plan on keeping her and sometimes we called her Baby, and a real small dog we called Benji because he looked like a poor man's Benji from the movie. We also had two white fox terriers, one had quite a few black spots, Autumn Eve and Tiger. Benji lived to be about 17, Tiger and Autumn Eve lived to be about 14 and 12. Puppy had to be put down early, not sure how old she was, our one daughter found her, someone had placed her in a cardboard box and sit the box in our little shopping center area by a door that people went in and out of a lot. Puppy had been hit by a car, at least that's what it looked like. Just happened that day, it was rainy, and I let her drive my car to work. She took the dog to the vet here in town, he operated on it, and set it, poor little thing had this metal bar like thing around it, but she never complained. I never cared a lot for this vet in town, so when it was taking the leg so long to heal, we took her to another vet, and he suggested we have it x-rayed. We did, there were quite a few slivers of bone showing, and they said even if they operated again, they couldn't guarantee they would get them all. So we applied warm moist compresses to the area,which was a open sore and we would see slivers and pick them out. The new vet said we couldn't keep her on steroids, so we took her off. We noticed the breast area was swelling, and some days greenish pus would come out. Then she got so she would cry/yelp getting up from her pillow and laying down. So we made a decision to have her put to sleep. Vet thinks she ended up with cancer, but unless he ran some test said he wouldn't know for sure, we didn't have any further test done. She wasn't happy, she seemed in a lot of pain. I remember well driving her, alone to the vet, while Abe stayed home and dug a grave. The vet had no helper, so I went back with him, I had never seen them put a dog down before. I told Abe I wouldn't do that again. But I have with three others. I guess that's one reason I don't want to have another dog, at 73, I think I'm getting too old to run them to the vet, lifting them around and all. Plus the heart ache of losing them. Dogs are nice and they are a lot of company, but they also require a lot of love and work, like having another child. At 73 I wouldn't want that either. LOL

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  8. As usual, your posts either make me laugh or cry. This one made me cry--not so much sadness, but joy that you were with Boots at the end. That was such a blessing for both you and her.

    I had a BLACK dog (Duchess) for about 15 years. She was a Cocker--and she did SHED... I laughed at the one about black hair not being visible on your BLACK coat. WELL--what about your WHITE coat????? ha ha

    Duchess developed a tumor --and we finally had to take her to the vet to be 'put down'... I cried for weeks over the loss of that dog. We surely get attached to them, don't we???

    Great story, Patti.
    Hugs,
    Betsy

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  9. Aw, what a wonderful dog. We left our cat Cruiser with the people that bought our house in Arkansas, they wanted a friend for their cat and dog and Cruiser was old and was used to the farm and they loved her and treated her like their own. She lived a good long life with them.

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  10. kenju
    Thank you. I shed a few writing this as I remembered Boots. Bless you for appreciating the black animals. I wish more were like you for there is a too heavy population of the black ones in animal shelters.

    Abe,
    How wonderful that you had a dog that all your kids could call the family pet. 23 years is phenomenal.

    Olga,
    If I should make it to Heaven, oh how I hope dogs are there also.

    netwit.
    I love the Rainbow Bridge belief. Heaven would be wanting with out our pets. Luckie is beautiful and very lucky but then so are you for letting her into your life.

    MML,
    Thank you so much and sorry about your sinuses. Thanks for forwarding my story and your friend sounds like a real winner. Have to admire her choice in animals.

    oklhdan,
    Thank you for your confidence. I guess if I thought anyone would buy such a book, donating proceeds to animal rescue is a fine idea.

    Patty,
    Puppy had a dreadful start but you have to admit, the people that dumped her at least did it where she would be found. They probably couldn't afford the expense you all went through. Unfortunately,sometimes even the best of care will not save an animal.I've been there and it is heartbreaking.
    The rest of your dogs were quite long lived which shows excellent care. Bless you, Abe and your daughter.

    Betsy,
    Thank you. I am so grateful that she passed in peaceful settings, loved and was not uprooted.
    You had a true cocker for only the black is called Cocker. As you probably all ready know, everything else is an ASCOB (any solid color other than black.
    A dog's relatively short life span makes owning one eventually very painful but I feel the joy out weighs the pain.

    Linda Star,
    Yes, you were lucky. Often familiar surroundings are easier on an animal than uprooting. The dogs and cats I left with the new owners, are still doing fine as far as I know.

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  11. You have known some remarkable dogs, patti, but this Boots just tugs at my heart. She is just the kind of dog I would love, big-hearted and an all around mom. What a great life she had all the way to her last breath. No one could ever ask for more.

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  12. Animals can pick up so much emotion from us...it's scary.
    Boots sounds as if she was a beautiful dog.

    My two dogs are black and I say yes to all the top 10 reasons for owning them :-)

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  13. You convinced me with "Black dogs make you look thinner". Nice story.

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  15. Your story brought tears to my eyes. My favorite dog was a solid black lab mix - Black Jack. He showed up one afternoon while we were having a cookout and stayed for twelve years. I still miss him, and would love to have another black lab.

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  16. Patty,

    My niece bought a small farm some years ago and the barn cats were included in the sale.

    My niece had recently rescued a black dog she called Ziggy and had built him a really nice house with straw under it and blankets inside to keep him warm in the Winter.

    At first the cats gave Ziggy a very wide berth,skirting his pen and staying away from him. But, then Winter came and one night it got really cold and one of the cats snuck into Ziggy's house and snuggled in and Ziggy just moved over and made room for him. Pretty soon the other 3 cats came into the little house and they all just cuddled together;first for warmth then later for companionship.

    This friendship between Ziggy and the cats lasted until Ziggy died last year and those cats roamed around that little house for a week wondering where Ziggy had gone.

    Now there are not one,but two new dogs to keep the cats company. They are called Dan and Anne. This will be their first Winter so we are waiting to see how well they share the little house...

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  17. robin,
    She was so special and had the biggest heart. She just loved and cared for every dog regardless of disposition. She saw no faults.

    Amanda,
    That's right, you do all ready have black dogs. You have certainly done your part.

    Betty,
    I like that idea also. Maybe more that one would do the trick for me.

    SVB,
    Black labs have this incredible need to please. They are wonderful dogs. Lately the yellows and chocolates have stolen some of the blacks thunder.

    Nancy,
    That is such a sweet story. I just love it. Animals really can show us how to all get along, can't they?

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  18. Wonderful story from a very compassionate woman...while reading it I thought of a book I read last summer...The Story of Edgar Sawtelle"...a coming of age story of a youngman and his dogs...whose family raised and trained them...written as seen from a dog's view too!

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  19. Patti~! I hate to cry before noon, but this story has made me do it! What a wonderful dog Boots was.

    I love the 10 reasons to adopt a black dog, and when I'm ready for a dog again, I'll try to remember this.

    If I've not said it before, I'll say it now: You are a remarkable, wonderful human being!

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  20. That was so moving. I would have loved that dog just as much as you did. They are a precious gift. Mainly mine have been black and tan; Patty is tricolour but mainly black. A small terrier cross who was totally black, she was called Scraggs, lived to be 17 and was like Boots probably. I would like half a dozen but don't have the space or sufficient funds for vets etc... But I wish.

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  21. Wanda,
    Thank you.I did read "Edgar Sawtelle" and enjoyed it though the ending was tough. Not what I expected but probably the only way it could end.

    Pat,
    Thank you so much. I am a greatly flawed person but perhaps my love of animals is my saving grace.
    All dog stories make me cry because of the difference in life spans. Sure wish they lived longer.

    LiZZie,
    I know what you mean. Had I not been restructured out of my job and forceably retired years ago in the first Bush administration, I would probably still do rescue work. I did it only as long as I could afford to do it right. It is a very expensive hobby.

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  22. What a tear jerker. All dogs, regardless of color, owe you a big tail thump. I'm sending your post on to a GF that takes in a few rescue dogs and rehomes them.
    My new Black Scotty, and ol Border/McNabb and I send you hugs.
    We would buy your book in a heartbeat!

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  23. Interesting that black dogs are harder to find homes for – is it the same for black cats? Boots was an extraordinarily smart and caring dog to have looked after all the new comers – very touching story.

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  24. I love the 10 reasons :)

    and the story of Boots is beautiful

    I have adopted 2 black cats over the years, they rarely get picked and of course I adored both of them

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  25. What a dear dear touching story, my friend...You got my tear ducts flowing! BOOTS sounds like she was just about the most wonderful dog a person could know and live with....I just love that she was such a good mother! Very very sweet memories for you, I'm syre! And she 'mothered' to the end, didn't she?

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  26. Brighid,
    Thank you so much for the hugs and also for sending it on to your GF who has to be one of the best of people in my book. It is not an easy job. The heart takes a beating.

    Jewels,
    She was a born mother and just a joy to have known. I often wondered if she had ever had her own litter before I found her.

    Dianne,
    Thank you and thank you also for adopting black cats. They suffer such abuse around Halloween. They say there is one white hair on an all black cat, find it and it will bring good fortune. I never found one on mine.

    OOLOH,
    Thanks Naomi. She was one of those dogs that should have had tons of her own puppies. She just had such a strong need to care for others.

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  27. How lucky dogs are to have people like you in their life.
    The very first dog I ever knew in my life was black, he belonged to my Grandmother. Nigel would watch over me when I was a little girl.
    Thanks for sharing your stories.
    Sunny :)

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  28. Thanks Sunny. I love the name Nigel. Could have used that one for after 250 dogs I was running out of names.

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  29. oh Pattie, what a sweet and adorable dog Boots is (cannot bring her to the past tense). You made me cry again. Just recently, I rescued my former kitten who is now a mommy cat with three kittens and one of them I had to surrender to the animal welfare (rescue center to yours). I'll blog that on.

    I miss reading yours. When you see me being inactive, please don't worry. When my brain is working, I'll surely make it up for what I have lost or missed.

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  30. Bonnie Bonsai,
    Good to see you back posting. I'll look forward to the kitten story.

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