By Jon Aldrich
“We are not coming home with a dog today”, I declared as we all piled into the Ford Explorer on a Sunday afternoon about a week before Mother’s Day. It was one of the few, warm, sunny days without rain that we have had this soggy spring. Trent is now 19 and had just arrived home after completing his freshman year at the University of Alabama. Trey is 17 and just completing his junior year at Hononegah high school. And my wife, Tammy was just finishing up another year as a school social worker at Rockford East.
It had now been several months since we had to endure that heartbreaking Labor Day weekend when we had to say goodbye to our beloved dog and family member, Oreo, after losing her battle to bone cancer. We had started to adjust to life without a canine in the house. For the first couple of months after Oreo was gone you expected to open that door when you arrived home to the gleeful greeting and thumping tail of a companion you had last seen only hours ago, but to them it was if you were gone for months.
We were just getting used to not hearing the “alternate” doorbell of Oreo barking whenever someone arrived at the front door, or when there were turkey or deer trespassing in the front yard. Tammy was also growing accustomed to not having to “Swiffer” the wood floors every day to collect all the dog hairs. No one had to carry the large bag of dog food arriving from Amazon every few weeks that needed to be hauled in and dumped into the large, plastic dog food container in the closet.
We also started to enjoy the freedom of coming and going as you wished and not having to worry about letting someone out to use the bathroom. You could leave town and not have to make arrangements at the doggie hotel for our four-legged family member.
But, something was missing. The emptiness you feel when you are home alone and there is not a furry friend nearby to watch Netflix with you is difficult to adjust to. Heading up to the lake and not observing the joy of your smallest family member running down to the dock to terrorize the minnows leaves a void.
We had been so busy with our lives the last few months after Oreo was gone that we did start adjusting to the new lifestyle. Trent was away at school, Trey was heavily involved with the high school robotics team and was rarely home, and Tammy and I with our busy work schedules. But now with summer approaching we all would be around much more.
As anyone with a dog or cat that has become such an integral part of family life knows, the pain of having to say goodbye to them can be excruciating. Having done it a couple of times with our other dogs over the years, it never gets any easier. We had sort of come to grips with going on without another dog and not having to face that inevitable day again. But when you look deeper and you think of the saying “It is better to have loved and lost then not to have loved at all”, you start reminiscing back on all the great times you have over the years with them and think, how can we not welcome another dog into our lives. Plus, since we have “rescued” our last 3 dogs from the shelter we are also providing a good life to an animal that may have not been dealt a great hand in their life.
So, here it is, around 4:30 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon, and after having some discussions the last few weeks about welcoming another rescue dog into our lives, we were on our way to the Animal House Shelter in Huntley, IL. Animal House is a no-kill shelter that finds forever homes for dogs and cats rescued from “kill” shelters around the country, or from rescues from other circumstances such as abuse, neglect or pets having to be given up by people for other reasons such as death or health issues.
I did want to go, but I also didn’t want to go and make a hasty decision, so I cautioned that since we only had a couple of hours on this fine Sunday, that we were going to just go and look for the time being. We could get some ideas and could also consider dogs at other shelters in the area, so I didn’t want everyone to feel that a decision had to be made today, especially since they closed at 7 and there wasn’t a lot of time. But, you already know how this is going to turn out.
Oreo was an American Staffordshire Terrier (Amstaff) mix with a bit of Retriever is her. This is probably why she loved being in the water so much. Amstaff’s are a close relative of pit bulls, but are one of the most loyal, loving friendly dogs around and have a great temperament. So, we were leaning toward another Amstaff mix, although Trey wanted a beagle, but was outvoted. Not that there is anything wrong with a beagle but we agreed on another “Staffie” of some sort.
We get to Animal House and go into the lobby and they have a few computers set up and you can go in and look at all the pictures and bios of all the dogs and cats available for adoption. There are hundreds of each, as there are a lot of dogs and cats out there looking for homes. They have a few search filters you can use to search for age, gender and breed you are looking for.
We had them bring out the first dog we selected from the search list. We took her outside to the yard where you can spend some time with them, throw some balls or play with toys with them. We did this for about 10 or 15 minutes, but the dog was not all that interested in us and was much more interested in sniffing around and doing other things. There really wasn’t the chemistry that you will know instantly when you see it with a dog you are looking to adopt. She may have been a good dog, but there just wasn’t that “connection”.
We had somewhat similar results with another dog we chose, so we went back in to keep looking. For dogs to get adopted it helps if they can “sell” themselves to prospective adopters. What this means is that they come out and are eager to play with you, show you affection and attention and are basically saying to you, “Please take me home with you”. Some dogs are great “salesmen” others have not acquired that trait yet, but probably will over time when they figure out that is their ticket to a forever home.
When we adopted Oreo from Animal House 10 years ago we had the same results with the first two dogs we selected. But, then we met Oreo and she was one heck of a salesman, and within the first couple minutes we all knew that she was going to come home with us.
So, now we were homing in on our third dog to look at for the day, and this probably was going to be the last one on that Sunday, as it was quickly approaching closing time for the facility. We selected an Amstaff, Border Collie mix named Chase. When Chase first came out he had this peculiar habit of putting his head and shoulders down on the ground with his butt up in the air. This was his way of getting you to pet him and to rub his belly. We all got a kick out of it, but he was a super sweet dog.
Chase looked to be about a year old, so he still has a bit of pup in him, and he was found wandering around somewhere in Kentucky a few weeks prior. He was rescued from a “kill” shelter down there and made the trip up to Huntley. That is all we really knew of his background. However, Chase knew how to “sell” himself and really wanted to find a forever home. He came out and played with us, gave everyone in our family some attention, and did a lot of licking and letting us rub his belly. Our family was smitten, however, I still was trying to hold out and tried to make my case that maybe we should take this a bit slower and not make a decision right now. I was overruled. Not only by my family but also by Chase.
Before long, we were signing the adoption paperwork (we had previously been approved as adopters after rescuing Oreo) paid the $350 fee, and received all his paperwork, shot record, and instructions for getting him to the vet to remove the stitches from his recent neutering. We were now ready to get back in the SUV for the ride back to his new forever home. However, Chase didn’t know what to make of the SUV and did not really want to get into the vehicle. I had to pick him up and put him in, and he was not a big fan of the ride home.
On the way home we had some discussion as to whether we should keep his name from the kennel, Chase, or give him a new name. Our last two dogs were “Snickers” and “Oreo” so are you sensing a theme here? We bounced around a number of names, but couldn’t really come up with one that fit. Finally, Trey suggested “Ande” like the chocolate mints that are so good after dinner and other occasions. At first we weren’t sure, but we couldn’t really think of anything else that fit, so Ande it was.
Since Ande was only about a year old, he still has a lot of pup in him. Plus, he also was not really house trained very well, so we have spent the first few weeks training him for this. Gradually, he took to jumping into our vehicles and going for a ride, and he now looks forward to when that truck or SUV door opens and jumping in to go for a ride. I mean he REALLY looks forward to going for a ride somewhere.
He loves going for walks, and he really thinks he can catch birds and ground squirrels and thought he could climb a tree but I think he is figuring that might be tough. He gradually started getting used to his new home and he is not the barker that Oreo was. In fact, we have only heard him bark a couple of times, one at a fake blue heron that he thought was real and another when he was scared of a vacuum cleaner, other than that he is a rather quiet fellow.
He loves his toys, but they do not last all that long as he goes to work on them to find the weak stitches that can be pulled out and gradually gets to where all the stuffing is completely torn out and then he concentrates on ripping the remainder to shreds. However, he has not chewed on things he is not supposed to chew on. Of course, he tried a couple of times, but after learning that he is not supposed to chew on items that are not his toys, he has been a very good boy.
He still has that peculiar habit of putting his head and shoulders on the ground with his butt up in the air, when he first sees you as he wants to be petted and have his belly rubbed.
We are back in the swing of having that extra family member around again, and it is wonderful. You don’t realize how much joy and fun they can bring to your life. He has so much fun just playing with simple things or chasing sticks or balls. It is just unbridled enthusiasm for life.
When we arrive home now, the familiar thumping of the tail and the greeting like you have been gone for months is back, and I am so glad it is! Just don’t forget to rub his belly.