Hawkeye was born at my house. In fact, I literally pulled him from his mother, Beverly, tore open the sac and cut the umbilical cord. I’m not much for puppies as a rule, but he was the exception.
Born March 25th to a mother who had lost all three of her other pups, it was touch and go with this one for the first few days. I said an earnest prayer (“Please, can’t I just have this ONE?”). God was good. Hawkeye lived.
Initially, he was referred to only as “the puppy”. I refused him any other moniker thinking he might fade and die at any moment just like his siblings had. When I felt sure I could trust him to stick around, I chose a favorite character from “The Last of the Mohicans” for his namesake. Every step of his development was scrutinized. His eyes opened at 10 days. A week or so later, we realized he was actually starting to see us. Before we knew it he was walking – stumbling, really. The one day, he began to run, a feat he accomplished with great enthusiasm and zero grace. It was a sight that made us roar with laughter! Our houseful of old puppymill girls doted on the sole youngster in their midst. Hawkeye was constantly being washed or diapered, or dozing dreamily between the paws of any of a dozen adult pugs in the rescue house. Our old man, Angus, quickly became a favorite playmate and role model. Having a puppy around seemed to put some extra bounce in Angus’ steps; he was endlessly patient, like a doting grandfather.
I can’t imagine any puppy ever having a happier life. Little Hawkeye was swimming in love and acceptance everywhere he turned.
I began to think about keeping him forever.
I have always had a rule about puppies: No keeping them. Everybody wants puppies, there’s no reason to keep them. The fees they generate help provide medical care for the sad old mill survivors with their bad skin, tumors and rotten teeth. Puppies deserve to be the center of attention and part of a real family, rather than tossed into the continual flux of a rescue house. Yet, the bond I felt with little Hawkeye was so strong…
We rarely see puppies in rescue, and I knew that was part of the problem. Getting a puppy in rescue is like finding a gold coin in the dirt – it just never happens and, when it does, it generates a lot of excitement. We cannot keep every dog or puppy who comes into rescue, of course. Most of us who operate rescues end up keeping the unadoptables…the unhousetrainables, the blind, the elderly…pugs more like Vincent.
Vincent – aka Vinnie Bamboose – still howls at night on occasion. Vinnie has one ear – the other has a tiny opening that must be cleaned regularly. His paws are stubby little clumps, deformed by years on wire cage floors and recurring infections. Vinnie is pigeon-toed – he has a comical walk that I find endearing. He has three teeth. He looks at me with big, liquid eyes and I see trust there. That trust was not the casual trust of a puppy who has never known cruelty. Vinnie’s trust was hard-won, the bond between us all the more precious because of it…my regard for him higher because I’ll never understand where he found the courage to give it.
The day soon came when I had to make a decision. With a mixture of hope and loss, and the certainty that I was doing a proper job of rescue even if it hurt, I sent Hawkeye home with the most wonderful young family he ever could've hoped to have. I have to admit, I miss him a lot. But his new mom is my Facebook friend, so I get to see pictures of him as he grows. He has a pug brother, and is obviously very loved and very happy.
Every night when I go to bed, Vinnie Bamboose comes into my room to be lifted and sat beside me. If I'm lucky, I get one small kiss, am allowed to scratch his bony head and clean the deformed whisper of an ear. He never stays. Vincent has a post on the raised dog bed next to the TV in the living room, where he guards us against intruders. Vinnie takes this job very seriously. But we still share our special time together each evening and I know that when I wake in the morning and look over the side of my bed, Vinnie will be standing there. His tail will wag a bit. Sometimes he even plays. And if I’m not up by 6:15am, I’ll soon hear him howling. Vincent has achieved a level of safety and comfort here that he might never recover were he to start from scratch somewhere else. “Who needs a puppy?” I ask. I wrap my arms around him, give him a gentle hug and kiss his nose, which makes him squirm. He knows the answer to the question hovering between us, and now so do I.