December 17th 2014
Cooper was.. well I would say… Not planned! 😊 A few days before Christmas of 2014, Michael took me out for a last minute Christmas gift for the dogs (oh please! Yes! Our dog(s) get a gift for Christmas too…) at a pet store a few miles away from where we live. The store was closing its doors. It was selling dog accessories, toys, food but puppies from puppy mills too… Good thing they closed! And the sad story is… well they had to get rid of the puppies they had left or they would have to ship them back to the Puppy Mill in question… or just give them up for adoption at the local shelter… The fate of these poor babies was not looking too good… I was trying to focus on finding a chew toy for Buddy (tunnel vision… I know…) and felt something wet touching my arm. I immediately turned around and saw Michael holding the most adorable white Lab puppy in his arms. I melted… Not sure what were Michael’s intentions, I looked up at him and must have had the most questioning look on my face because he cracked up laughing and said “pick puppy food as well and a harness that fits. Merry Christmas Baby!”.
It was simple, sweet, touching and very unexpected. A perfect Christmas Miracle 😉.
We introduced Cooper to Buddy that night and Buddy immediately adopted him. They became best friends, brothers, inseparable buddies and Cooper soon outgrew Bud. To this day, Cooper always sits by Buddy, or lays by him. Buddy looks weary when Cooper is not around. They are very much attached to each other and it really is awesome to watch.
Of course, as any Labrador, Coops is very goofy, a Master in "goosing" 😉 and a beautiful, loving, sweet and funny boy never afraid of getting in trouble and in our home, he is the “Mama’s boy”.
Friday, March 17th 2017- Saint Patricks’ day-
Coming back from a walk with Sydney. She is doing exceptionally well today, considering the weather and the number of dogs Linda and I encountered on our walk this morning.
I work with dogs of all breeds and backgrounds, but have my weaknesses for the abandoned and injured…Sydney is one of them. She was rescued by my good friend Linda, before it was too late… she is now one of my favorite girls, the sweetest and smartest dog at times, but also one of a kind when it comes to other dogs…in other words, a wonderful training project for any trainer with compassion and love for the challenges that come with training dogs reactive to other dogs.
As we are heading back to the house, I vaguely notice a dog wagging his tail on the other side of a fenced in back yard. Usually, it would make me cringe and make me take more distance because of Syd’s reactivity. But not that time. I can’t tell what kind of dog he is, but he’s gently wagging his tail, happily panting and standing relaxed. Sydney barely looks in his direction and walks on by. Oh My!! “What a good girl!” Linda and I both praise Syd at the same time. Right then, a man approaches me. “Hey! Can I ask you a question!?”. I reluctantly stop and turn around while Linda brings Syd back into the house. “Yes?” I say, expecting being asked for training advice… And then my whole world falls apart. “You’re my last resort..” he says “I’m moving into a place which doesn’t allow dogs and I need to find a home for my dog. Please help me. I don’t want him to go to a shelter”.
Now… I’m confused. “Ok…?” I say.. And he then points at the dog behind the fence, still gently wagging his tail… He continues “I have had this dog for 3 years. He’s wonderful with my kids and my other small dogs. I have to find him a home. I can’t take him with me”. I cringe… walk over to the backyard where he’s pointing to get a better look at the dog, really not knowing what to say. He tells me his name is Pongo, he’s an American Bulldog/Dalmatian mix, 4 years old, rescued from animal control 3 years ago. The dog has old injuries, 2 torn ACL and a few scars, but has this huge smile on his face. He painfully walks toward me with a lot of gentleness and what appears to me, a very wise soul.
Let me stop here. Since I have started working as a professional dog trainer, I have met a lot of people asking me about rescuing dogs, finding them a home, and I have to say that it’s by far one of the most difficult thing I have ever faced. I’m not a rescue but I train dogs and educate humans on how to interact and understand dogs better. This is not part of the job “per se”, but when you are not able to help because you already are “maxed out” with your own dogs and can’t possibly take all the abused, neglected, abandoned dogs you hear about, it gets TOUGH.
Most of the times, I do not meet the dogs I hear about and I guess it’s easier not to get too involved when you are not actually seeing the dogs…It doesn’t make it right, but the less you know, the easier it is to stay as detached from their stories as possible, for your own sake…
Well here I am, and this time, not only do I meet the dog, but the owner is desperate (in a weird way…) and in some kind of rush. When I ask him how long he has until the move in question, he bluntly replies: “2 hours”.
I’m thinking are you freaking serious???!!! What is wrong with this guy!? 2 hours and what? How am I supposed to find a home for that poor dog in 2 hours! Why did this guy wait until the last minute?? You spend 3 years of your life with a dog and in a matter of 2 hours you’re done? Ready to leave him behind? I’m outraged, but silently take a quick history of the dog (bite history? Fights? Fears? Is he up to date on his shots? Is he on heartworm prevention?) from the “owner”… all I hear is “He’s a good dog. He’s good with other dogs, people, kids”. After a quick video and a couple of pictures we exchange phone numbers and I promise him to get back to him as soon as I put an “adoption” flyer out on social media.
Linda and I are huffing and puffing, calling all our contacts (I should say hers!!!) in the dog rescue word, posting pictures on Facebook, reaching out to no kill shelters and trainers who would know someone to place the dog with. A Foster maybe? As I scramble my brain and gather my spirits in front of my laptop I receive a text from an unknown number. Holding my breath and hoping for good news, I look at the text and gasp.
I am horrified, and mad oh so mad at this guy. How could he!?? Animal Control? Really?? This dog doesn’t stand a chance! He’s hurt, 4 years old and needs medical attention. No one will ever adopt him. He’s done! Just like that? His owner dropped him off because he had to move? I grab my head in my hands and break down in tears. The fear and helplessness felt by this dog must be unbearable. To me, it’s plainly cruel and I can’t just sit there. I know what the outcome will be if the dog stays there.
He will deteriorate, develop behavioral issues, and most likely be put to sleep because there are 50 others dogs just like him, waiting in the same hallway, for a home or a needle.
I grab my keys, get in my car and drive to animal control. I’m getting him out of there. I’m not thinking about my 2 other dogs, or my kids, or my boyfriend. I don’t even know what I’m going to do with this dog but I’m just uncappable of just letting things happen without moving a finger.
It takes me 2 hours to get Pongo released from Animal Control. For some reasons, they want to hold him for 48 hrs without ANY guarantees that he won’t be euthanized. I’m furious and desperate and grab a vet tech walking out of one of the long hallways filled with kennels.
Me: “Sir? Can I ask you a question?”
Him: “Sure! How can I help you?”
Me: “How long does it take you to pull a dog out of here if he was surrendered less than 2 hours ago?”
Him: “mmm.. it depends. What dog?”
Me: “This one!” pointing at my phone with the video and pictures of Pongo taken earlier that day
Him: “It can take up to 48 hrs mam” he softly replies
Me: “Listen. Don’t you need an extra kennel? I know this dog. He was just surrendered. He can’t stay here. Please let me get him out of here now. I’m not leaving unless I’m leaving with him.”
Him: …silence… “let me see what I can do” he leaves.
I thought he would never come back… 5 long minutes later, I see him walking back toward the main desk with a file in hands. He signals me to come to the desk and handles the file to the clerk. “Hi, ok. This one is ready. We just put him up for adoption. Please let this lady take him home.”
At that point…I could have asked this guy to marry me. A huge sense of relief floods my mind. I’m getting him out of here. I’ll figure the rest out after. It doesn’t matter.
Walking that hallway with kennels on both sides is heartbreaking, filled with stressed out dogs, yelping, crying or simply rolled in a ball…behind bars, all without families now, just left to themselves and locked up. Tunnel vision…looking for that white dog with dark spots. Pongo? Pongo?
And there he is, as shocked as I was to be there. He peeks at me and suddenly starts panting, crying while wagging his tail frenetically. He’s at the front of the kennel now. He recognized me!?!
Me: “Buddy, you’re out of here. With me. I’m so sorry about what you just went through. We’re going to figure this out ok?”.
Pongo was pulling so hard on the leash on the way out I almost tripped. This lady wanted to take a picture and while trying to hold him still for the camera was a struggle, I realized I was as much in a hurry than he was to get out of there. I stood up quickly and ran with him through and out the doorway. They all must have thought I was crazy but it was liberating!!
Pongo spent his first night at Linda and Den’s house, with all of their 4 other dogs and cat… I can’t thank them enough for that.
The week later was a blur and a hustle for everything; juggling with carpooling my son, Pongo’s daycare, work at the Lake and most of all, the enormous guilt I had to endure when dropping him off -every time- The tears and feeling of hopelessness for this dog. Everyone he met loved him but he was not doing well in daycare, barely able to walk and in obvious pain.
Four days went by, and Linda and I met a dog sitter for Pongo for him to stay out of daycare as much as possible. I tense up when he asks to hold the leash and have a “discreet” meltdown while he walks away with Pongo while chatting to Linda. I break down and text Michael…
...For the first time, he knows…
We spoke and decided that we would “Foster” Pongo so he could stay in a loving and safe environment while looking for a home. Pongo moved in, and 2 days later, as I was posting a flyer on Social Media, I heard Michael say: “Hey!? We are keeping him, right??”- This was the end of my search 😊.
Pongo now lives with us, and happily interacts with our cat, both my dogs and all 3 of our children. The first 2 weeks of living with us were a challenge, but management and lots of love and supervision seems to have done wonders, might be the subject for a whole another post 😉
Born in France in the late 70s, raised in West Africa, in the Ivory Coast, I was always surrounded by animals. Tortoises, Dears, Porcupines, Mongoose, Horses, Camels, Goats, Rabbits, Geese, Cats, Wild Birds and more... I grew up wanting to be a Vet, but my path led me to appreciate the behavior and psychology of dogs more than the medical aspect and physiology.