As some of you know, Jon and I ran an animal rescue out of our home for many years. Of all the fantastic ideas I’ve ever had during our years of marriage, that was probably by far the least fantastic. But I have a wonderfully supportive husband and although he’s always declared himself “not an animal person” he has nonetheless taken care of more animals in his years with me than he’d probably ever seen in all his years without me. Isn’t he lucky, to have found someone willing to broaden his experiences the way I have?
Today I was reminded of a time when our family rescued a 150 pound, purebred rottweiler from owners who had used him to guard a meth lab. Our kids were 4, 3 and 1 at the time. Not kidding.
Unaware that we were bringing home an elephant (I’d only been told his breed and that he was “friendly”), Jon took the two oldest of our small children to pick him up. He was chatting with our vet when the dog arrived and they both fell silent as they witnessed the scene: The biggest canine my husband had ever laid eyes on, attached to an inch-thick horse rope, dragging his large male handler from one end of the parking lot to the other. The vet turned to Jon, standing awestruck with our two little girls beside him, and said incredulously: “is THAT the dog you’re taking home?” My husband, undoubtedly cursing the day he ever met me, said “apparently so.”
Jon called me from the vets office to tell me that this dog had to go back. IMMEDIATELY. He said there was no way I would ever be able to handle him and detailed the struggles he’d undergone to wrestle the behemoth into the back of our van. With nothing else to be done, though, he reluctantly brought the creature home.
As it turned out, we didn’t have anything to worry about. At least, we didn’t have to worry about the things we thought we’d have to worry about. From the moment that dog stepped paw into our home, he fell in hopelessly and irreversibly in love with me. He walked beautifully on a leash when I walked him, he sat calmly at my feet when I sat beside him and he followed me everywhere. He made it his life’s ambition to be within five feet of my person at all times and if I left the room, even for a moment, he would cry like his heart was broken.
So he went everywhere with me that first day, one part of his 150 pound body resting against some part of my body at all times until it was time for bed. Not having space to put his Saint Bernard sized crate into our bedroom, and not wanting to leave him free in our house for fear he’d have a potty accident (you know where this is going, right?), we bedded him down in his crate in the living room and shut the doors to the back of the house so we couldn’t hear him bark. Between that and the fan my husband sleeps with every night, were able to block out the sound of his lament fairly well. Too well.
The next morning after being up for just a few minutes, Jon came right back to bed. He lay beside me in silence for a while before saying quietly: “That dog pooped all over the entire living room.” He didn’t say anything else. And for perhaps the first time in our whole married life, I (wisely) didn’t say a word.
We lay there without speaking for a long while before I got up the courage to go and look. My living room – with it’s beige carpet and off-white walls – was BROWN. Everywhere I looked, BROWN. It was on the floors. It was on the walls. It was on the couches, the end tables, the kids toys…. every surface of that room was covered in feces and smelled like the very depths of Sheol. This dog hadn’t just pooped, he’d artistically expressed the anguish he felt from – literally – the very deepest part of himself as only a 150lb Rottweiler can.
It was a day of marital firsts. Something warned me not to even ask my husband for his help with this plague of misery. The man who had scrubbed fleas off infested dogs, countless messes off household rugs and gotten up an hour early every morning for weeks to run with an overactive boxer had reached the end of his considerable tolerance. He didn’t yell. He didn’t fuss. He remained in the bedroom, as far away from that mephitic stench as he could get, as I cleaned every inch of that room by myself. It took HOURS to clean. It took DAYS for the smell to go away.
That 150lb Rottweiler slept on a leash at the foot of our bed for the remainder of his time with us. We never had another incident with him and if the experience of walking into that brown, malodorous room hadn’t been permanently seared into the deepest parts of my husband’s soul, we would have kept that dog because I grew to love him dearly. As it was, we were able to find a home for him quickly, which is probably a good thing since I never could have left my house again, had we kept him. (Or is that a bad thing?)
We don’t run a dog rescue anymore.