Sunday, June 8, 2014

Old Pugs

Last Wednesday, we dropped a six-year old pug off at our vet's office for a dental. Her name is Isabelle and she only came to us because her owner died of cancer. Isabelle is a fantastic pug: Confidant, outgoing, friendly to everyone, Isabelle was clearly loved by someone. She showed evidence of having had previous dental care, and needed only a cleaning - something we rarely see. She had been spayed and was heartworm-free, unlike many of the dogs we get from that southeastern Missouri.

But somehow Isabelle had still ended up in a "kill" shelter.
Luckily, this particular shelter worked with rescue. Six is up there for an adoption prospect in any shelter. Puppies fly out the doors, but a six year-old - even a purebred - is another story. Had the shelter not called us, Isabelle's chances of survival would've been iffy.

Isabelle spent the day at Noah's Ark, had a cleaning, then rode back to our house in the pugmobile with a new friend named Lulu. Lulu's owners have a three year-old child with allergies, so they decided 12 year-old Lulu had to relocate. After trying briefly to talk them out of it, we simply had them leave Lulu at the same vet's office where Isabelle was having her dental done. The kind staff there trimmed her nails, which had grown into her pads, and cleaned her ears, which they described as "filthy". The owners had left a donation that might cover her dental, but not the tumor I found under her chin when I bathed her. Clearly, Lulu had received little attention or care for a very long time...I'm guessing about three years.

Before that came Piggy and Howdy, whose owner also died of cancer. I was in touch with the owner's daughter while she was still in hospice. Piggy and Howdy's owner had her daughter promise to care for them. The daughter, who was a lovely person, was not in a position to do that. But she promised anyway. What choice did she have? She endured considerable guilt over relinquishing them to rescue - unnecessarily, I assured her. Calling rescue was the best thing she could have done for them. What I meant to say was, calling rescue is better than leaving them in a shelter, where the foreign environment, smells and noises would certainly confuse and frighten any animal who had lived in a normal home up until that point.

Change is no picnic for the best of us. I promise you, this only worsens as we age. I work at an aging agency during the day counseling seniors who will dig in their heels at the mere mention of relocation, regardless of how obviously practical that might seem to everyone else. Then I go home to a houseful of elderly, displaced pugs.

In rescue,we try to make the displaced pets as comfortable and happy as we can, but it's sad and difficult. They don't want to be in a rescue house. They want their homes. They want the children who cuddled them, the owner who sat with them on the sofa in the evening...everything they've always known is what they crave. At work, we call it "aging in place". It means not being uprooted just because you've grown old. It's what most of us want. If dogs could speak, it's what they would ask for, too.

Gertie, Bebe & Angus
I have made provisions for my dogs, should anything happen to me. I don't want Bebe, Angus and Gertie to ever find themselves in a shelter pen somewhere. The tiny puppymill pens they once knew must seem another lifetime to them now, as they sit on the bed beside me while I write. Their well-being is paramount. They know that I love them. They know they are safe now. I've made certain to the very best of my ability they will stay safe,even if I cannot care for them personally.

Isabelle has a wonderful home waiting for her. Next weekend, she'll be leaving with a couple of "repeat offenders" I've known for years, a perfect match, a happy ending after all. I have a brand new bunch of fearful breeder release pugs who will require far more emotional rehabilitation than physical.

As I grow older, I find myself identifying more and more with these senior dogs. I have the same arthritis, dental woes, declining vision and diminished hearing, and need for familiarity and repetition. Lost, displaced, abandoned. All I can do is marvel at their resilience, help the ones I can, and ensure that I do better for my own than their families did for them.