By Sue Giovino
There is a distinct difference between the smell of life and death, particularly with a dog’s acute sense. We came to this realization as we watched our Jack Russell and beagle mix, Gracie, circle our beloved Lab mix, Molly, who lay too still one cool morning several years ago.
Life had to move on as we contemplated Gracie’s life without her beloved companion. Of course if we had consulted her, most likely she would have opted to be the top dog of the house. But we didn’t.
Eventually this took us to the Pet Connection, a “maternity ward” shelter, out in Marilla. I really appreciate the emphasis this shelter places on moms. We moms need extra care and attention to do what we do. Canine moms are no different.
Lo and behold, we found the perfect little pup. Emma, as she came to be known, was so calm and mild mannered that we thought she might be sick. She was simply projecting exemplary puppy behavior, because she knew this was her big moment!
We all agreed that this little one-of-a-kind terrier, beagle and dachshund mix was to become part of our forever family. We had just about made a clean escape out the door when something happened that was to change our lives.
In trotted this big hound puppy with big paws, nose, ears and just about everything else. He came and plopped himself in my daughter’s lap. It took about 3 milliseconds for this irretrievable thought to go through my head: Could we get two?
What in the world were we thinking? But there we were, driving home with these two lapfuls of puppyhood. We now had a pack. Little did Gracie know that her life was about to be turned upside down.
From the get-go, George, who by the way grew into this very handsome, 105-pound, 95 percent Rhodesian Ridgeback, appeared to be the biggest weenie there ever was. The day we brought him home, he ran and hid behind the only tree in our backyard when he heard the neighbor’s lawn mower start. We thought: “Aw, how endearing!”
Well, that “delight” turned into fear aggression. He is the most lovable, loyal, funny boy, but he is also hostile with other dogs. So we have a strict protocol we follow when new people are introduced. The vigilance is constant and at times is exhausting.
During the November snowstorm in 2014, the snow was as high as our fence in the backyard. Our trio decided to simply walk over to the backyard of our neighbor. Not good. George panicked because he was out of his comfort zone and he did not have the best encounter with our very tolerant, dog-loving neighbor.
Recently, we were out walking the pack – on leashes – minding our own business when a dog got loose and charged at us. In seconds, George had the dog pinned down, my husband was down and the next thing I knew, there was blood everywhere. The stranger dog had a hold of my husband’s hand and wouldn’t let go. George was trying to protect his alpha.
It has not been easy. However, I am from the school of thought that when you adopt an animal, you’re in it for the long haul. You commit to the inconveniences and issues, with the exception of extreme circumstances. George has been a real challenge in unconditional love, one that we wish others would take as seriously when considering the big decision of adding a pet to the family.
When the day comes that George leaves this earth, we perhaps will breathe a sigh of relief, but he will leave a huge hole in our hearts.