Their names are Batman and Starsky, like the cartoon and the TV Show. But I call them Stinky, Scruffy, Stinky-Four-Paws, Paw-some the Hound, Scruffaluffagus, Monsieur Hound, Scruff McGruff, and Chunk. And they answer every time. They are my best friends, the only thing I am loyal to, and the number one topic of conversation in my life. My baby-dogs, my children. I have learned so much from having dogs: growing up we had cats, and I was always a “cat person”, I didn’t understand why everyone enthused about having a dog so much. sure, they’re cute, but they’re basically just cats that can’t look after themselves, right?
Wrong. And I didn’t realize how wrong I was until Batman was placed unexpectedly into my arms. He’s basically never left. Even now, three and a half years later as I write this, he is laying morosely on my feet – he wants to go outside, but he’s mad because I won’t go with him and he won’t leave me. Batman was not, regrettably, a “rescue dog”. My husband and I stumbled across him at one of those pet store events where they have lots of puppies in a big pen. We weren’t even in the pet store for a reason – we were simply trying to walk off a big dinner and ducked into escape the heat. But Batman, literally, jumped into our lives, throwing himself off a high table in the process. It was love at first snuggle, and we left that store a lot poorer and a lot happier.
Over the last three and a half years I’ve started to believe that I really did “Rescue” Batman. All dogs need homes, after all, and my husband and I have been able to give him a fantastic life. As a Dachshund, we have kept him agile and exercised, not exposing him to some of the “cruel kindnesses” many uninformed owners do in error.
However, when the time came to find a second dog, our heart was set on adopting from a shelter. After nearly 18 months of visiting shelters on an almost weekly basis, my husband and I found Starsky. He was immediately the dog we were looking for. Four days later (he had to undergo surgery) we bought him home.
Rescuing an adult dog from an abused home was not without it’s problems. After an hour of having him at the house he managed to jump our back fence even with me standing only a few feet away from him. After a half hour of frantically tearing through the neighborhood yelling “come here, puppy” (he was unnamed at that point), I returned sobbing to the house to find him curled up next to the drivers side of my car. He wanted to go for a ride. In fact, for the first week the only way we could get him to enter the house was to drive him into the adjoined garage in the car and let him walk through the basement. But it’s a journey, and I’ve learned so many great things about our family, and the whole experience has inspired me in ways I wouldn’t have imagined. Here are some of my top unexpected bonuses from rescuing a dog:
- The love… oh, the love! Seems a little expected, but it had to make the list simply because of the amazing ability to love that dogs have. Starsky came from a home where he was clearly kicked and starved, but he came to us wanting to love. My husband and I joke that he doesn’t understand cuddling, and for weeks neither of us could comfortably pick him up despite him only weighing 12 lbs (he is now a healthier 15 lbs). When we would try and cuddle him he would get over-excited, desperately wantingto love, but not really knowing how to reciprocate.He also does this with Batman. Batman is always giving his “little brother” kisses, sniffs, and playful puppy ear tugs. Starsky generally freezes at these signs of affection, but every now and again he will work himself up and charge at Batman, trying to lick him all over. Fortunately, Batman isn’t easily put off, and see’s Starsky’s enthusiasm as endearing rather than frightening! One of the moments that bought actual tears of joy to my eyes was Starsky approached a sleeping Batman and curled up next to him on the couch, resting his chin on Batman’s back.
- Waking up is three times as awesome!When I was single waking up really was my least favorite thing to you. You know, all that dressing and combing and lack of conversation. When I got married, it got a bit easier with the husband and his ability to talk back, occasional “you look nice”, and sleepy recollections of his dreams about Transformers (Men!).The first morning we had Batman I woke up to the sound of hound-mewing: little tiny cries of “Mommy, I needs a pee!”, and – I’ll admit it – I rather grumpily picked him up and shuffled outside thinking “at least a cat can toilet itself”. However, potty time kind of became our thing, and pretty quickly my alarm would go off and I would immediately fling back the covers and head to the back door, four chubby puppy paws skidding behind me in anticipation. For the three years he was an “only child”, Batman and I’s morning stayed pretty much the same, we were on the same page.
With Starsky we faced the challenge of trying to crate one dog while the other slept rather self-satisfied in the bed with us. After four mornings of waking up after 3 hours broken sleep to a basement covered in shredded dog bed I caved in and Scruffy joined the “big bed” gang. Now my morning ritual has been restored, only Batman’s four paws have been enhanced by the choir of Starsky’s paws skipping along side him. Eight paws of excitement!
- My husband is kind of a big deal.Some distant relative told me that you never know a man until you have children with him. I always believed that the opposite would probably work better. However, as far as dogs go, that relative was right. The hubs and I entered the venture of parenting together, but the second dog was really my idea – I wanted the sibling experience for Batman, and I thought it would appease my sense of guilt at working long hours.Our first few days with Starsky at home were exhausting, and I felt as though the hubs didn’t really support what it was we were doing. A couple of times I almost willed him to ask me to take the dog back, because I felt certain that’s what he wanted. But he persevered, and by the end of the first week it was a no brainer on whether the situation was improving.
My beloved has done everything from clean up mid-night vomit, clip gnarly toenails, and clean our solid wood table for urine stains. He also routinely herds Starsky back towards the house when he escapes (that dog should have been called Houdini!).
Skip forwards to today and Hubs and Starsky are thicker than thieves. Scruff McGruff howls with excitement when the spousal Jetta pulls into the garage, throwing himself with (rather alarming) joy at the door. He sits on the “male side” of the kitchen table, patiently waiting for dinner to finish, while Batman tries to beg, climb, and perform a soliloquy in order the forage food from my plate. Seeing my husband carrying Starsky around – he’s the only person trusted enough to do it, even more than ME – has really taught me a lot about my husbands capacity to love and adapt to situations, but also show me how far he will go to keep me happy. Although, I maintain, things that make me happy make my husband happy too… It’s part of marital law.
- Y’all need to get some exercise.I have always been a big fan of exercise, but recently have found myself at a point where I have not been able to work out for an inconvenient health reason. This makes me sad. Batman was always easy to exercise just in the house and the neighborhood, as he would run around the house and gardens until he collapsed. Starsky, however, is more of a natural sloth. He is bigger framed dog that his big brother, with much longer legs, but he will sit or lay down until he is actively engaged in some kind of activity.This need to actually participate in his exercise program, paired with the fact that he needs close supervision owing to an unidentified lameness in his back leg, has called for regular family walks. This makes me happy. Now I have a reason to get out and walk slowly without feeling like an unfit, flacid, almost-thirty something. If people wonder why I’m not running and give them the “look at my tiny, limping dog” look. It works every time.
These walks have helped all of us – my knees are getting stronger, the husband is getting some fresh air, and we get plenty of time to talk. Batman gets the exciting world of five miles of other dog’s markings, and Starsky’s leg has improved to an almost perceptible shuffle in a few short weeks! Bonus!
- Are you mom enough?Yeah, sorry Time Magazine, I borrowed your sensationalist headline. Only I’m not talking about attachment parenting, I’m talking about adoption. This will sound completely gratuitous, but the sense of personal worth you get from adopting an animal – not just a dog – is amazing. Everyone should experience it, even if you just adopt a goldfish. I adopted a goldfish once. His name was gentle and he lived to be four years old by eating other goldfish. He was a bit of a bastard. But my point is, like the woman on the front cover of Time Magazine, you get to carry around a little piece of warmth in your heart knowing that, because of you, this animal is cared for and safe. No. Better. Feeling.One of the most surprising things that has happened to me is the sheer number of folks that come up to me to talk about Starsky and, after learning he was adopted, will thank me or shake my hand for choosing to adopt. People tell me all the time that they don’t have it in them to adopt, but that “would love to”. Do it. It’s a revolution, and we can all be heroes.
So that’s my five most important things I’ve learned and/or experienced through adopting my baby. This is also probably the longest-ass blog post of all time. My macbook is telling me we are over 1800 words, and my watch is telling me we are after 11pm.
So adieu, good world, I am settling into a bed filled with paws, snores, and amore (yeah, that one was pretty bad). If anyone reading this has an adoption story about a pet, not just a dog – I really do love cats too – please feel free to share. Spread the word!