Tuesday, September 30, 2014
Pitch Black - Weston, MA
I am sitting at the kitchen counter listening to my new dog Coal rip up a pumpkin chew toy. He is doing it with great gusto and joy. I have programmed a Petco run this morning to buy a bucket full of toys for him before his attentions turn to my couch or shoes.
As some of you may know from my last blog called Brazil in My Eyes, I lost my forever dog Caju in June of this year. He was fourteen years old and suffering a steep decline. I had gotten Caju as a puppy--he was 40 days old when he came home with me. While he was not from a breeder, he was from a family with a registered lab and he was a purebred dog.
In 2012, Haifa, a purebred labrador 9 years of age, came in to our house from the largest labrador breeding kennel in Brazil. She had been a puppy mill of her very own and came to us with a stretched-out tummy, was hard of hearing and not house-trained. It took her months to get on an even keel. She is now 11 and recently arrived from Brazil--another old blog tells of that escapade.
Haifa is getting older and slower and fatter. Aren't we all? I wanted to find a dog that would play with the kids (age 7) and grow up with them. I did not want a puppy but rather a 3-5 year old rescue dog. I did look at many labrador rescue organizations, a number of local ones, one in Houston (!!) but I kept coming back to Big Fluffy Dog Rescue.
BFDR makes me laugh. Just about every day. Their irreverent humor on their facebook page makes me laugh out loud at my computer. Yes, we all know that most of the facts behind rescue animals are not going to be laughable. Many are abandoned in terrible conditions, many elderly animals are simply tossed aside just when they get to the good age (my feeling anyway) and of course there are thousands of dogs who simply procreate every day and therefore many wind up in high-kill shelters. But BFDR makes you want to help by their use of humor.
I hate the term "high-kill shelter" but I use it just because it makes me uncomfortable. It should make all of us uncomfortable. So much so that you run out and spay and neuter your animal. That you support rescue financially or "bodily" as a volunteer. Because there are a whole lot of animals getting killed every day because they can't find a home. And before anyone jumps on my back about how there are kids going hungry and getting killed in various parts of the world, I know. And I do believe that humans are more important than canines, but let's not make this an either/or. Let's call it priority one and priority two. And yeah, I am not a vegetarian so I have to reconcile my ability to eat a cow or a chicken with getting nuts about dogs, but I never said I wasn't a hypocrite. We all are in some way.
In any case, BFDR (wow, I digressed) rescues dogs from high-kill shelters in the south and trucks them up north. They are not the only ones by the way. I am also a big fan of Rescue Road Trips which makes trips twice a month in a big 18-wheeler, grabs dogs from Arkansas, Mississippi, Texas etc and brings them to rescues and adopters up north. It is an incredible network that gives me chills. And this brings me to Pitch Black. And Coal Black.
As I followed BFDR, I read about a horrible shelter hoarding situation in Magnolia, Arkansas in August. BFDR had been called to pick up three Pyrenees (their original mission--hence the name) and came into the most sickening display of gross animal abuse most people will ever encounter. They rescued 59 dogs from abject starvation, overcrowding, mange, you name it. If you have a strong stomach, you can read about it here. If you don't, just think about the character Pitch Black from Rise of the Guardians--the bogeyman in the closet. The bogeyman is alive and well and lives in the deep south. He is every dog's nightmare.
And this is where I get amazed by the US and its legions of animal advocates. They found foster houses for these 59 dogs near their headquarters in Tennessee. Numerous people took in emotionally-disturbed and physically damaged dogs and made them well. For free. Nothing in it for them. Someone took a dog that looked like this:
And made him well. These volunteers do it again and again. And that brings me to Coal Black, the lab-husky mix. Coal came to us a week ago as a foster dog named Colton and fewer than five days later we decided to adopt him. He was supposed to be 2-3 years old. I think more like a year old. He is tick disease-positive. He ate one toy whole and ripped another to tiny white shreds. He is a love. He doesn't bark. He rolls around on the ground with my son. He runs like a comet to the back of the yard to do his stuff and races back to wait at the door.
Coal doesn't yet know how to play. He probably has never played. I am now taking him out for walks with a friend's playful labrador and yesterday he jumped into a stream for the first time: a splash to his butt made him leap with fear and then joy. He raced around, and brought tears to my eyes. He will have the best life I can provide for him.
Coal does not yet know his name. He doesn't come when called. He is totally untrained. His trainer comes for the first time tomorrow. We are already in love with him.The dog, not the trainer.
And this is how he looks this morning. Like a family dog. One who does not like to wait patiently for a photo:
And I have to thank here the people who brought him to us: Big Fluffy Dog Rescue, his foster in Tennessee, the woman who picked him up in Connecticut and brought him to the neighborhood. You are the Guardians. And this one Pitch Black did not get.