In February, 2010, I took a trip to Mardi Gras in New Orleans, a destination on my “bucket list” for a long time.
My 14 year old dog Mickey, the love of my life, had died in December of 2009 after a long year dealing with pancreatic cancer and various other ailments associated with it. I vowed that I wouldn’t get another dog for at least a year or two, but certainly someday, and I planned to do some traveling and relaxing in the meantime.
While I was away, my friend Linda volunteered herself and me to become “Hunter’s Helpers” at ARF. Linda had taken her dogs for training with Lisa Edwards, who runs Three Dogs Training, and is also the non-resident doggie trainer who volunteers her time with ARF on a regular basis. Lisa was looking for people to come and work with a specific dog, Hunter, a handsome Pointer mix, who had been at the shelter for around a year and a half, and who had regressed such that he was afraid of most anything. He loved the people he knew, was somewhat fearful of strangers, was deathly afraid of any cars in the parking lot, certainly afraid to get into any car except maybe Charlotte’s, and would only go out for a walk with the few volunteers he loved, like Charlotte and Pete for example. He didn’t play with any sort of toys or balls…he just like to steal the other dogs’ rawhides for fun.
So from a distance, I agreed to work with this sweet boy, and the rest, as they say, is history. I met Hunter and was immediately struck by his appearance. He is very handsome. His facial markings are very symmetrical and striking. I began to go up to ARF several times each week and spent some quality one-on-one time with Hunter. For months, he was always happy to see me would jump out of his pen and lie down on his back for a belly rub immediately. Still, he wouldn’t go for a walk with me without Charlotte or Pete along too. Finally, on a Sunday night in June, he came out the back gate with me for our first solo walk…..I was so excited! I came back in and happily told Charlotte, who smiled and patiently told me it just takes time. It was then that I knew that I wanted to adopt Hunter and give him the good loving forever home that he so much deserved.
We continued our routine through the summer and with encouragement from Lisa, even had a few home visits and a sleepover. I finally brought Hunter home for good on Sept. 17, 2010. Charlotte and I had to trick him to get him into the car that day, but we went home and never looked back.
At first, we struggled at home with his not wanting to walk out to the street never mind walk DOWN the street, and he was very fearful of getting into the car. Luckily, I have a wooded area behind my house, and he was willing to walk in the woods each day. I think the woods reminded Hunter of the wooded trail area at ARF, so he felt safe there. For a few weeks, that’s the only place he would walk. I tried bringing him to a local park for walks, but if he saw a person or a car, he would literally become paralyzed. After about 3 weeks, I brought Hunter’s buddy Russo home to my house for a day to visit with Hunter, and suddenly, because Russo would walk down the street, then Hunter, too, would walk down the street. And he’s walked ever since. I will be forever indebted to Russo for that.
Who knew that Hunter was really a mountain goat in disguise…..he loves to walk in the woods at home or even in the park and his favorite thing is to romp up onto big rocks and oversee his domain. And he has lived up to his name..2 weeks after I brought him home he “hunted” down a poor unsuspecting groundhog….and I thought to myself, Oh my god, what did I get myself into?
I’ve had the pleasure of seeing him so happy on those rocks and trails, checking out the deep snow of winter, meeting and relaxing with friends and family, opening his own Christmas presents, and sleeping soundly on the couch, the living room chair, the bed (get the idea??). He even plays with toys sometimes now…his favorite is a stuffed spotted cow that looks a little like him!. He adores the neighbor’s grandson, Jonny, and cries at the window when he sees him outside …..ah, there’s nothing like a boy and his dog…..and young Jonny is a very good dog trainer!
Hunter has brought me great joy since he’s come home..…even though he’s probably taken a few years off my life with all his hunting escapades! He really is sweet and loving and just wants to please…..and get belly rubs. And I always said I would like to do some sort of volunteer work after I retired, and because of “helping Hunter”, I’ve found that opportunity in working at ARF with great people and great animals. What more could I ask for……..
And then came Sandy…
A pregnant Shepherd mix was scheduled to be flown in from Goldsboro, NC to ARF, but she gave birth to 8 puppies earlier than expected, so she couldn’t fly until the puppies were not so brand new.
The shelter she was at in North Carolina agreed to hold onto her and her pups for a bit, and then suddenly, Ann Jordan’s contact at the shelter, Sandra, called her to say that The Momma and pups needed to be out of their shelter immediately as they needed the room there. Unfortunately, ARF was full to the brim….including a Momma (Carly) and her pups that were there already. Ann tried to find fosters down south and along the route but was unsuccessful, so as a last resort, she asked if there was any chance I would foster Momma and seven 3 week old pups (one died) for maybe a week. I thought for a second, and said I could do that…..I really had no idea what I was getting myself into.
The next day, Ann and I went to pickup Sandy and the puppies from the pilot that flew them into Conn. She was beautiful! And the puppies were so cute and very lively, crawling all over the back of Ann’s car on our way to my house. As it turned out the puppies were more like 4 weeks old, starting to eat puppy food, nursing on Momma (who was renamed Sandy in honor of the shelter contact in SC) with sharp little teeth and nails, and peeing and pooping continuously so it seemed. It was quite an experience for me, as I had never had a dog who had puppies before. I didn’t know how much to feed them, whether to force Sandy to let them nurse, and what their poop should look like!!! Luckily, they all survived their stay at my house. And Hunter became an Uncle! Sandy spent time with the puppies in a basement area I set up, and when she wasn’t with the puppies, I let her come up and “live” with us. Hunter was very good with her…she, on the other hand, was tough with him. If he attempted to come downstairs where the puppies were, she would growl rather ferociously at him…so I kept him away from that area for the most part. He was very patient while I attended to the puppies’ needs and escorted visitors in to see the little cuties. After all, this was HIS house!
As it turned out, Sandy and the puppies, who I adored, were with us for 2 weeks instead of one week. When I brought them up to ARF, I cried as I brought Sandy out of the car and into the shelter. Charlotte laughed at me……she knew I was hooked right then and there. My heart really went out to Sandy..…she’s a young dog, maybe a year and a half ish, and she’s already dealt with being homeless, being in a shelter, being flown up to NY just after childbirth, being a good Momma to her 7 healthy puppies, and to top it off, she’d been diagnosed with heartworm down in SC, so she couldn’t be up for adoption until she’d been treated for the heartworm, almost a 3 month ordeal.
Sandy’s puppies were all adopted quickly. She got her 1st of 2 heartworm treatments in the end of May. I had been considering fostering her maybe for a few days a week or something like that while she was being treated, since she couldn’t be adopted and the quiet of a home would be better for her healing than the noise and stressful environment of the shelter. The day she returned from the Vet happened to be a Thursday, my “night” to volunteer walking the dogs at ARF. As I came in the door, Barb asked me if I wanted to take Sandy home for a few days. I said yes, I could do that. She’s never been back to ARF since. Hunter greeted her nicely that night, and now shares everything with her, including, somewhat reluctantly, me. Sometimes she “manages” him, and sometimes, she defers to him. I think he’s happy to have the doggie company. He loves to steal her rawhides just like in the old days at ARF (he was the BEST thief there!). When I open the door to the deck, they both try to be the first one out to run at full speed down the stairs into the yard chasing NOTHING! They are BOTH hunters, smelling every blade of grass and pouncing on scents and sometimes critters like cats. And they both wimper when they see little Jonny outside.
I never expected to have 2 dogs, never. Now, Hunter is my handsome boy and Sandy is my pretty girl. And may we all live happily ever after.