Meet the new member of the Gumtrees and Galaxies family. It has been many years since we have had a canine member of the family. There have been a few reasons for this: our last dog was not always a happy or easy dog to live with. She had the worst separation anxiety I have ever known in a dog and it would sometimes manifest in destructive ways, sometimes self destructive. Many dogs have a fear of thunder but Lilly would begin to tremble if it just started to rain and that was only one of her phobias. She was still a lovely dog but I think we have been wary of again taking on a dog in part because life with Lily was largely about anxiety, her anxiety and ours in attempting to make her life as enjoyable as possible.
This is the longest period I have gone without a dog and I have missed that special companionship a dog brings. I grew up in the country and had never really known a time when a dog was not part of my life, both working dogs and companion dogs. Before Lily there was Jay, she was our first dog together as a couple and G’s first dog ever. Jay was a tough little Staffy German Shepard cross, with a passionate joie de vivre and a maternal instinct that earnt her a reputation as a perfect baby sitter for the neighbourhood children. Jay lived an extraordinarily long life, she was eighteen when we finally lost her and our whole family felt a lasting and devastating loss.
This week a litter of puppies with the same cross breeding as Jay came up on the RSPCA website, I sent the link to G, not for a moment really thinking he would succumb and give in to my, not always entirely practical desire to have a dog. We also have three rescue cats, not one of whom we actually chose, they chose us. I sometimes think there is a feline neon sign over our house saying; “absolute suckers live here”. We had decided ages ago to have no more pets at least until our elderly felines had lived out their lives, but then Morty came along.
A feisty tom cat, about one year old at the time, who turned up one winter and decided he was staying in our yard no matter what. He fought our cats, every other cat in the neighbourhood, and didn’t really want a bar of us but also didn’t want to leave. After about three days of yowling under our bedroom during the coldest days of the year I took pity on him and put out some food, partly because I felt sorry for him and partly because I wanted to catch him. I had already contacted the council and RSPCA, to see if anyone was missing a cat of his description, no one seemed to missing him. I finally caught him, I really should have surrendered him to the council but like I said, sucker. I talked to the RSPCA and asked should I hand him in or just let him stay with us until I tracked down his owner, they advised it was okay to keep him with us and just keep trying to find his owner, he had no microchip, so not an easy task. I explained he was a fighter and didn’t seem to get on with anyone, at our place he was limited to the laundry and the back family room if the other cats weren’t in there. After listing him on every lost pet site I could find and sticking up posters for a three block radius in the neighbourhood, I had a total of three people contact me and not one of them actually owned the feisty little black and white cat with a Hitler fringe and moustache and a black love heart on his back . I did try to talk one girl into taking him if she didn’t manage to find her cat but couldn’t convince her. Cut a long story short no one ever claimed him and after a couple of weeks I decided enough was enough and he had an appointment at the vet to get de-sexed.
A friend of my daughter who worked with the RSPCA said get him de-sexed even if is owner turns up, de-sexing him was doing him and any owner a favour and the last thing the world needed was more litters of unwanted kittens. So we ended up calling him Morty and he has been a member of our household ever since. When Morty first arrived we had three older cats one of whom has since passed away but we still have two grey brothers who had once belonged to a neighbour who decided to move away and just leave the cats. We had not planned on any other pets but Morty just came along and stayed. De-sexing by the way did not do much to improve his behaviour and to this day, he is still an idiot who wants to fight every cat in the neighbourhood and on occasion sprays in the house. Our cats are largely indoor cats, they are allowed out only when someone is home to supervise them and they are never allowed out at night. Morty still manages to get into scrapes. The thing about having the three cats is that it is a big commitment, feeding, care and veterinary costs add up, so that was one reason we were holding off on getting a dog. I have however been watching dog rescue pages and the RSPCA site. I actually thought when we did get a dog, we would get an older rescue dog but I think it was in part our experience with Lilly and the problem of having to find a dog who could live with cats that made a puppy so attractive to G.
It disturbs me greatly that the RSPCA and dog rescues are full of large dog breeds that have been surrendered by owners. I suspect many people take on puppies with no real understanding of what it takes to live with some of these breeds and that is not the fault of the dogs. I wish I could rescue them all but I can’t. It is in part knowing what a large dog needs that makes us think very carefully about taking on any dog and I sincerely wish more people would be better informed before ever taking on such a pet. Some breeds, like the working breeds just don’t ever make good pets for people inexperienced with dogs and living in town, working nine to five. I love working dogs but I am not so foolish as to think my current lifestyle is suitable for a dog like a kelpie or a border and even though I have a long fondness for German shepherds I am also intensely aware of the work involved in having such a dog. I just wish people gave more thought to taking on some of these breeds, they don’t deserve to end up in rescues because humans made a mistake, one they often compound by failing to train the dog or worse still actively mistreating it as a result of their own ignorance.
If you are ready to take on a dog, a rescue dog may well be the best friend you will ever have. Just don’t do it lightly and be aware that a dog is a huge commitment, they rely on you to teach them how to survive in our world and that means you can’t be lazy or ignorant about training. The patience and devotion a dog gives never ceases to amaze me, they deserve our patience and devotion in return.
And this little staffy/shepherd cross that won over my sensible husband? We have named her Ada after Ada Lovelace because like her name sake she seems a smart girl and the name was short and seemed to appeal to her. We have now begun Ada’s life journey with us, she is already giving us much joy and I hope we are giving her the security and love she deserves.