Thursday, August 30, 2012

A Case of Puppy Love

What has happened to me? It is close to 1 a.m., my apartment seems to trap the heat of the day into my living room and I can't sleep. As I lay on my couch watching the "tele"  trying not to think of the heat my useless air conditioner cannot rectify, my eyes drift to the neighboring couch I gave over to Rusty and he is fast asleep gurgling in his dream world. It is just too cute for words. He makes these odd sounds from time to time in his sleep that sounds like bubbles in his throat. Clearly he is dreaming something. I would love to know what it is but he is enjoying himself - I think.

As it is still less than a year since we came together, it continually sneaks up on me just how much he has wormed his way into my heart. He is for the most part  a quiet dog. He hardly ever barks.The most are these funny musical sounds like he is about to actually say something, perhaps burst into a song or something closer to a "meow" or a parrot imitating speech . When company stops by he is friendly and affectionate. If he hears dogs on the television or in the apartment complex barking, he makes a whimpering sound and dashes from the front door to the balcony off my bedroom in search of his fellow dog as if he wants to rescue them. It simply makes me laugh.

Taking him for a walk however is a different story. His time on the streets as I like to call it, made him guarded with other dogs. He makes up for his normal silence with a barking fit that is quite bizarre. Mostly it is with bigger dogs or dogs he initially meets on our daily walks. I know it is fear of the unknown because on our route we have a few dogs we see daily. The ones that are his size or smaller, he does his whimpering sound and greets them in friendship. The dogs bigger than him, he stands his ground as if he refuses to be intimidated.

Sadly in February, one day on our walk a large pitbull/boxer mix decided to race out of the building he stayed at with his owner down the alley from where we live. As we passed I waved hello to the owner. The dog charged at us from the back yard through the office building and out the open front door where he bit Rusty on the rear just as I yanked him in the air to relative safety. I swang around with this wild beast leaping for Rusty like he was a meal until the owner raced out and stepped in to get the animal away from us but the trauma had its effect.

(Hades' Gate where the hellhound "Cerberus" escaped)
Rusty recovered physically but his guard was up. The owners kept the dog away but we avoided the area for months. Then one day in late April without realizing it we passed by the back of the building where we were surpised to find the same dog in the back yard again. Like a bad case of deja vu, the same crazy dog wanted Rusty for his meal. Somehow it squirmed through an opening in the back fence that normally they blocked with a large trash can.and he charged us again.

I screamed for help holding Rusty high up in the air. Like Houdini, Rusty squirmed out of his harness and said "I'm outta here!" I blocked the wild dog's way to keep him from chasing Rusty. I was strangely overtaken with a need to protect my guy. The dog turned his aggression and rather large teeth at me and decided to try to make a snack out of me instead. I ran down the alley of my apartment complex distracting him from Rusty long enough for him to be too far to catch. The dog's owner finally came out and got control of that damn creature.

With him secured away, I ran after Rusty asking strangers if they saw him. I only heard he ran like a bat out of hell and no one saw more than a flash of him as he ran for dear life. I searched for 30 minutes screaming his name like a crazy person. It dawned on me that I had no idea if I was ever going to see Rusty again. He was scared out of his mind. The wild dog's owner begged my forgiveness but I wanted to ring his neck.

As luck would have it, the investment in my dog tags with my cell number paid off. The clerk at a liquor store three blocks away, called to say Rusty came strolling into the store a little terrified and seeking shelter. He put him in the back room and gave me a call. I raced over with his harness in hand, literally shaking with nervous energy. Rusty looked at me like "What the hell just happened?" I struggled for a minute trying to put the harness back on with my hands shaking from the sheer relief knowing that my little guy was safe and we could finally go home. I told the clerk the story so he didn't think I was some strange abusive owner Rusty was fleeing. He laughed and said Rusty probably decided after all that drama he needed a stiff drink.

As we left the liquor store, I think I was more traumatized than Rusty. He carried on like nothing happened. He wanted to keep on with our walk pissing on every tree and sniffing every blade of grass. I wanted to get him home and away from any other drama. The wild dog's owner found us and apologized again, seeming genuinely happy Rusty was safe. Rusty wagged his tail and didn't hold a grudge so how could I? The owner promised to no longer bring the dog with him to work since keeping him confined was more than they could manage. My desire to see that dog put to sleep faded to sympathy for the owner and whatever made that dog so intensely angry at the world. While Rusty was missing I wanted that dog dead! I never felt such fury before. It was a bit startling. In the end, I just couldn't bring myself to call animal control. Perhaps I was wrong, but I think the threat of calling was enough. He has no longer been brought to the building near our apartment and the owner says he is safely secured at home where he cannot hurt anyone else's unsuspecting dog.

It has been less than a year since Rusty came into my life but it has been an adventure without question. I have become this protective pet parent and he follows me around like we have been together for years. He makes me laugh with his peculiar ways but I wouldn't have him any other way. Perhaps in time I will learn how to get him to calm down as he meets new dogs on his walks but for now, after all he has been through, I feel patience on my part is something he earned.

He lives in the moment. A lesson he teaches me to emulate as often as possible. Hours of "The Dog Whisperer" did not prepare me for how much I still have to learn but it did help me to realize our relationship is based on the energy exchange that goes beyond words. With each day our bond grows and I am continually amazed at how much he is changing my life for the better. This journey I am on would not be half as sweet without him to share it with!  .

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