Baxter the Redeemer – Part 1
“Sherrie wants to know if you want her friend’s French bulldog. One-year old, house trained, healthy, the other dog in the home is harassing it,” my wife Cheryl asked, a rare smile across her face.
Skeptically, I asked, “How much?”
“Free. The owner just wants a good home for it.”
WOW! A French bulldog! I always wanted one, but couldn’t afford it, so we bought a wonderful Boston terrier named Barney, who was now aging. A French bulldog would be a dream come true. Given our strained marriage, Cheryl was surprisingly supportive, but very clear this was to be my dog. Not hers, not ours, just mine. Ditto on the finances for the little beast.
Several days later, Sherrie dropped off Petey. He was cream-colored, small, a little scrawny, and very shy. He’s just scared, I thought, he’ll open up in a day or two. He didn’t. Petey drank copious amounts of water and displayed little energy for his young age. So, off to the vet, where worms, ear infections and eye infections were diagnosed and treated. He also needed shots and I quickly spent over three hundred dollars on this free, healthy dog. The vet said Petey would be normal in a day or two. But he wasn’t. Four days later, I took him back to the vet.
“He has no energy, can’t climb a flight of stairs without breathing extremely hard or stopping to rest. He just doesn’t act like a one-year-old pup,” I told the vet, concern filling my voice. The vet took X-rays. He came out of the dark room with tears in his eyes and showed me the films. Petey’s lungs were virtually flat, filled with fluid.
“We normally put a dog down who is in this serious of a condition,” he sadly told me, “but he’s young. He might respond to very aggressive treatment, but there’s no guarantee.”
I said to go ahead, and the vet injected him with strong antibiotics. I watched as he next slipped a large needle into Petey’s lungs and removed over eight ounces of fluid. “Removing any more will cause additional problems. You will know in 48 hours if he’s responding. If not, well…” He couldn’t finish.
Unfortunately, Petey did not respond and so, on Thanksgiving morning, I sat in an emergency vet’s office watching poor Petey take his final breaths. Ten days of living with a dream and over one thousand dollars in vet bills left me sad, but focused on finding another dog. I originally wanted one to take with me to my job, to be a part of the lives of the foster children I worked with. But now, I realized I needed a dog for companionship, too. Dogs are wonderful therapy for needy kids. And lonely adults.
Eschewing pet stores and expensive pure breeds, I decided I would be socially conscious and find a rescue dog. I located a Brussels griffin in Ohio. Initial contacts indicated she would be a good match. Two days before leaving to pick her up, I was told she was sick with pneumonia and needed vet care. Having just buried one dog with lung problems, I told them I wasn’t ready for another health challenge. They agreed and later informed me the dog would need such intense health care that their vet adopted her.
I renewed my efforts to adopt and found a cute dog closer to home, part Papillion, part undetermined. I filled out reams of paper work, went through phone interviews, a background check and furnished references. Finally, my home visit was scheduled.
Somehow, this process felt similar to my job helping kids get placed into foster care homes or adopted.
Two, lovely, mature, rescue dog ladies arrived with Fred, an air of saving-the-world-one-dog-at-a-time emanating from them—the ladies; Fred seemed to care less about saving the world. As per protocol, they introduced Barney and Fred in my driveway. The dogs sniffed each other for quite a while, long enough to know each other’s intimate histories, which shouldn’t have taken that much time as they were both neutered. Finally, the good ladies deemed it safe to go inside.
The ladies looked through all areas of our small home, confirmed I truly did have a six-foot fence around our tiny back yard, that our cats could care less about Fred, and that the toilet seat was down (just joking – I think). Then the three of us sat awkwardly on the floor and carefully observed the dogs as they got better acquainted. We intently watched each of their interactions, ready to intervene at a micro-second’s notice if necessary. Barney halfheartedly snipped once or twice (after all this was his house). Fred responded with an obligatory weak growl or two. However, both quickly became comfortable and at ease with each other, then bored. No big deal on their parts. Fred and the ladies finally left with promises to contact me soon.
I thought the interchange went well and looked forward to moving Fred in. However, after a week of not hearing from them, I called one of the ladies, only to wait even longer for her response. “Well, umm, well, we decided Fred should be in an only dog home,” she sanctimoniously told me. “We just felt he shouldn’t be placed with other dogs. He’s just too sensitive.”
Fred sensitive? Really? How could I have missed that? I don’t think I missed anything. But I have worked with, supervised, and hired clinical social workers and child therapists, several of whom acted more looney than our needy foster kids. So, I feel eminently qualified to say, clinically speaking, these ladies were exhibiting severe symptoms of separation anxiety and other types of psychosis easily identified in the most current DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders). My God, I thought, I could have adopted a child easier than that dog, Fred.
Meet Baxter – next week!