My spouse and I, like most married couples, have areas of amiable disagreement, areas of agreement and a couple of areas of fanatical agreement. Among them: dogs.
We're crazed dog lovers. For years, we've lived with our two rescue dogs: Daisy, a 5-year-old, 50-pound Catahoula mix and Dudley, a 7-year-old, 75-pound Chesapeake Bay retriever.
Neither of them are easy dogs. They both need work, and we're a lot better at loving our dogs than teaching them how to behave.
Even two perfectly behaved dogs create problems. There are the problems that have to be picked up in the yard, vet fees, dog food, dog walking and housecleaning. Some may dream of 65-inch flat-screen TV under the Christmas tree — we yearn for the top-of-the-line Dyson animal hair vacuum.
But with all their and our faults, our dogs are a continuing delight. Troubled by the plight of shelter dogs, we've often thought of adopting another.
But we never followed up on our good intentions, until Karen saw this profile of a Texas rescue dog on bestfurfriends.com, written by the woman who was fostering him.
"Dudley, oh how we love him! Awesome dog! 8-9 years old, about 80-85 lbs, super smart, (knows commands), very well-behaved, super affectionate, rides in the car like a champ, calm, gentle, dog-friendly, kid-friendly, and the list goes on and on! This gentle giant will make an amazing companion. He is so loyal, and lives and breathes to be with his people. No need to crate or confine when you are gone. He will just snooze away, dreaming about when he can see his human again and give an enthusiastic paw shake."
Photos showed a brown gray-muzzled dog with mournful amber eyes. Karen fell in love.
"Let's adopt him," she said. "He's old and so are we. It would be a mitzvah — and I'm sure our dogs would be fine with him. I don't think there would be dominance issues — he seems so mellow."
Best Fur Friends is a Texas-based dog rescue organization that takes dogs scheduled for euthanasia at high-kill shelters and finds homes for them in Colorado. Julie Rohr, who represents the organization in Colorado Springs, described the problem in stark terms.
"Texas is Auschwitz for dogs," she said. "There are hundreds of thousands of homeless dogs. People don't spay or neuter their pets and unwanted dogs just get dumped in rural areas. The shelters are overwhelmed — older dogs like Dudley just get put down immediately. So far this year we've placed about 150 Texas rescue dogs in Colorado Springs."
We paid BFF a $200 fee (discounted from $350 because of Dudley's age) and the organization swung into action. Smaller dogs are transported by plane (Pilots N Paws), while big boys like Dudley go by van (Kindred Hearts). Prior to transport, the dogs are checked by veterinarians and fostered for several weeks.
Prospective adoptees are also carefully vetted. Soon after we signed up, Julie came by to make sure that we could give Dudley a good home. We passed inspection — our ramshackle Westside home has a big fenced yard, a spacious interior, and scarred, comfortable leather couches that have accommodated two generations of dogs.
Two weeks later a big brown dog jumped out of a van in front of Kelly O'Brian's, Julie's North Academy bar. Transport from Dallas via five relay vans had taken more than 14 hours. The next day, we checked his paperwork and formally introduced him to the dogs.
Our Chessie is named Dudley, so new Dudley became Buddy. He's much bigger and younger than BFF had estimated. He weighs more than 100 pounds, and that gray around his muzzle is the white hair that he was born with.
"He might be a lab/mastiff mix, or maybe lab/bloodhound," said our Vet, Dr. Cynthia Florek, who had recently adopted a dog from BFF. "He's 4 at most, maybe 3."
So began the dog wars, as our three dogs tried to figure out the canine pecking order. Two weeks later, everything's sorted out, but coping with three big dogs is interesting.
Fine Arts Center curator Joy Armstrong has four dogs, so I asked her for advice.
"I love my dogs" she said, "but it's like having another job!"
Maybe we should adopt another ...
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