As I was watching a movie last night, Strider rang the sleigh bells hanging from my front doorknob to let me know he needed to go out. In this case, I suspected it wasn’t so much need as it was want. He was bored, heard the neighbors (and more importantly, their dogs) outside, and he wanted to go say hi. I, on the other hand, had other thoughts. We spent over 2 hours the afternoon before hanging out with the neighbors and their dogs, and my introverted self needed a quiet evening in. So, I promised him “in a little bit” and kept watching my movie. At one point as he was waiting, Strider sat on the other side of the coffee table from me, just patiently watching until I remembered his request. He was so adorable, I had to take out my phone and snap a picture. And the picture was just so cute, I had to post it on Facebook. The caption I used was “Seriously. How could anyone not love this face?”
I meant the question lightly. I just love my goofy mutt so much, and I love to share his fuzzy cuteness with everyone. I’m sure there are plenty of folks who just shake their heads, or laugh at my silliness, and scroll on. However, as I was getting ready for bed later in the evening, somehow my thoughts returned to the photo and caption. At first I just smiled again. But as I thought more, it came to me. Someone didn’t love this face. Or at least, didn’t love it enough.
I adopted Strider from Animal Control. A friend came across his picture on an adoptable pet page one day, remembered I had once told her I wanted to have an Irish Wolfhound someday, and that I would name him Strider, after Aragorn the Ranger/King in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. My friend called about him and learned he had been brought in as a stray and had been in the shelter a week. He would only be held there one week more. Though the clock was ticking, the good news was that a couple of Wolfhound breeders/rescues had already called about him and would take him in if no one adopted him. Even though I protested that I really wasn’t ready to have a dog, my friend convinced me to meet the shaggy stray, drove me the hour to the animal control shelter, and introduced me to the sweet boy who I could not help but love. He was so eager to please when we took him out of his kennel to get to know him a bit. He demonstrated that he already knew all the basics (sit, down, etc.), making it clear he’d belonged to someone, and they’d spent the time to teach him. I should have known instantly that it was meant to be, but I tried to be practical. I told my friend that I would look for a new apartment that would allow me to have a big dog. If, in the week I had, I found a place for a price I could afford, I would take the plunge and adopt my first dog ever. Needless to say, I found a place, and took Strider home with me a week later. He had his first vet exam and the surgery required as part of his adoption. The Veterinarians told me he was 3 or 4 years old.
3 or 4 years old, and clearly trained. He’d belonged to someone. Someone had taken the time to be sure he was well-trained in at least the basic commands. Someone had seen what I can only imagine was the world’s most adorable puppy face. Someone had watched his puppy antics, when his rapidly growing legs made him all gangly and awkward. Someone had watched that puppy face elongate and broaden into this handsome face, with those deep brown eyes that gaze off into the distance. And when he escaped, or chased a squirrel, or was frightened, or just ran for the love of running, that someone let him go. Or maybe they deliberately let him go. He had no tags, collar or microchip. Maybe he didn’t grow up true to the breed they’d expected. Maybe he was too hairy. Maybe he bark-howled too loud, or ran too fast, or had an accident in the house one too many times. No one called or came to animal control looking for him. There were no notices posted. Someone he loved and trusted (because Strider is not capable of anything less for that one special person in his life) let him wander away.
It is unfathomable to me that anyone would not go to the ends of the earth to find him when he was lost. I know I did. I’d had Strider for about 2 years when he and his cousins (my sister’s dogs) decided to go for a jaunt instead of being brought in from the outside pen at my sister’s house. My sister’s dogs came home. But Strider was not at his home, and didn’t come back. He was missing for an entire week. I was heartbroken. I called the shelters and the local police. I put up flyers. I drove around calling his name. I put ads online, and friends shared it for me. At the time he was not microchipped (he is now), but he had a collar with tags. In the end, that was how we were reunited. He’d been hanging around a mini-farm that had several animals, including 2 dogs. The owners of the house put food out for him, but for a few days he was too shy for them to grab him. Finally, they succeeded. When my phone rang late that Friday night, and a man told me “I think I have something that belongs to you” and mentioned a dog, I literally could not believe it. At this point, hope was fading that I would ever see my boy again. The statistics were against us. It was cold and there were many busy streets in the area where he ran off. I had to ask the man to repeat himself, and I was almost in tears on the phone. He described Strider, and his collar, and said he’d found my number on the tags. I got directions and drove right over. I hoped but would not allow myself to believe that it was my boy until I laid eyes on him. Our heroes had allowed him to temporarily take over one of their dogs’ crates. He just about broke the thing when I came down the stairs and around the corner. Once out of the crate, he almost knocked me over, and smacked me in the face in his excitement. And I didn’t care. I had my boy back. There was nothing to do but hug him and cry into his fur. If it ever happened again (heaven forbid) I would do it all over again to find him.
My Strider is one of the lucky ones, to find a home where he will be loved fiercely and forever (despite bark-howls that could wake the dead, stubbornness unless there are treats in it if he obeys, and long, grey hair everywhere). I am blessed to have him. He warns me of strangers. His racket deterred an attempted break-in. This dog of many nicknames and many faces makes me smile. When he leans in for more scratches, I know he loves me fiercely and forever (despite cranky days when his excitement annoys me, or grumbles when he has to go out at 3am, or laziness that makes him wait until the end of the movie before he can go out).
If you are blessed with or are considering getting a dog (or any pet), I ask you to remember that a pet is forever. Eventually, puppies become dogs. Kittens become cats. They won’t always be as adorable. Sometimes they will misbehave. They’ll get old and weak. They might become sick. But they will love you more completely than you can imagine, and are more than worth the trouble. Please do your part. Adopt from a shelter instead of a breeder (and never a pet store, unless they are partnered with a shelter). Spay and Neuter your pets. Keep collars on them, with updated tags with at least your phone number. Have them microchipped (if you do a little research, you can find groups that will microchip inexpensively; don’t let the cost deter you as it did me for a few years). Scratch them behind the ears. Let them give you kisses, at least once in a while. Take them to the vet if they don’t feel well. Play with them. Talk to them. Love them. And don’t give up on them.