Monday, July 09, 2007

By Barbara D’Amato

Woofy is a yellow Labrador, nearly four years old. At any rate, we think he’s a yellow lab. Woofy was sort of a stray.

Near Halloween three years ago, our friend Deb noticed a yellow lab wandering around the fields behind her house. She lives in the country, and people there do let their dogs stray, so she didn’t think much about it. The next morning, she went to her garage and found the lab and eleven newborn puppies.

“Eleven,” I said. “You must have counted several times.”

Deb put a “dog found” notice in her paper and posted cards in stores in her area, but nobody ever responded. Deb has labs herself, and we think that the mother dog may have smelled them and thought, rightly, that Deb’s place was a safe place to go. Deb raised the puppies and at twelve weeks started to look for homes for them. All were yellow and looked like the mother.

Shortly before Christmas, Deb came to our house with the three males she had not yet placed. Just for us to play with a little while, she claimed. She went home, of course, with two. Woofy is really my son’s dog, but he brightens all our lives.

Woofy is serene, not the sort of dog who barks at every falling leaf. He will chase deer that come into the yard, but not far. He doesn’t seem to want to worry them. When rabbits hop across the lawn, he watches as if thinking, “How nice. Rabbits having fun in the summertime.”

Woofy is pleased with almost everything, even the vet. We often remark that every day that comes along is the happiest day of his life.

He’s a watchdog in the sense that he barks when a stranger come into the yard. But he’s no guard dog. Woofy completely lacks a killer instinct. But we don’t want and wouldn’t have an attack dog. Woofy is just sweet. He will let you take a bone from his mouth—unless you’re another dog. That’s the only thing up with which he will not put.

My point, and I am getting to one, is that Woofy is very lucky his parent found Deb’s house. Had she not done so, Woofy and his siblings might have been dead by the side of a road somewhere or attacked by the bobcats we have around here in Michigan. If they had been found by someone who did not want them, the best that could be hoped for is that they would have been taken to the local animal shelter. Our local humane society animal shelter is no-kill and good, but that doesn’t mean that a dog wants to live out its life there.

Other good animal-helping organizations are People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the American Anti-vivisection Society.

So, two things:

If you want a pet, visit your local humane society.

Two, visit your local humane society or shelter anyway. See whether it’s pleasant and clean. If not, do something. Contribute.

Woofy has just told the UPS man that he may come to the door as long as he leaves promptly. Woofy is having a wonderful time. A lot of good dogs aren’t.


Sara P said...

okay, I'm in love.

Matt said...

My wife and I got our dog at a shelter.

In college, we worked at the local newspaper and every week the shelter would send us a picture and description of the "Pet of the Week." One day, I get a call that a woman had found a box of 14 puppies left on the side of a county road.

I placed the story in the next edition and most of the pups were adopted within a week or two. My wife, who was my girlfriend at the time, talked me into adopting one of them.

So I go to the shelter and there are three pups left--two females and a male. The male seemed pretty friendly and curious. He also had a little green tag around his neck. I asked the shelter manager what the tag was for and she told me that he had been slated for euthanasia! I immediately said I wanted him, pulled out $25 and took him home. He was only six weeks old.

Today, he is nine years old. A beautiful, 80-pound Rott and Shepard mix with thick black fur mottled with brown markings. Other than a couple cases of pink eye, he's not given us a lick of trouble. (Side note, we knew someone who adopted one of his brothers; he grew to only 30 pounds. So, his true patrimony has always been in dispute.)

He's a little slow these days and has never quite overcome his fear of thunder (or water), but he's been an incredible companion.

Knock on wood, I hope he has many more years ahead of him, but when the day comes to get a new dog, I am going back to a shelter. This time I plan to adopt a pup, as well as an older dog; it was heart-breaking to visit the shelter and see all the adult dogs destined for the gas because everyone wanted a puppy. I intend to make a small difference by given just one of them a chance.

We still joke that he's our Death Row dog--a perfect pet for an aspiring crime writer!

Barbara D'Amato said...

Thanks, Sara. We are too.

Matt--you are SO right. But what is his name? I can't believe you called him Deathy.

Matt said...

His name is Nolte. Yes, after the actor.

For a couple of days after we got him, we couldn't decide on a name.

Then one night, I found myself in my basement apartment (this was college) watching "48 Hours."

Because my dog was so young he had yet to develop legs strong enough to bend his joints as he walked. So his gait was very macho-looking: stiff-legged, chest out. (Although this was just to keep himself from tripping over his own two feet.)

To me, he kinda resembled Nick Nolte. Hence, the name. Of course, his namesake has since run into quite a few legal troubles, so there's that to live down.

They say that dog owners tends to stick to a basic name category for all of their canines. (If you named your first dog after a sports hero, you'd likely name all you subsequent hounds after sports heros.) Looks like I may be stuck with actors.

I think the next dog might be named Asta, after the dog in the Thin Man.

Sean Chercover said...

My wife and I got our dog at the pound, too. His name is Edgar, he's a mutt, and we love him.

Thanks for the post, Barb. Good message.