Guest Blog: How Dogs and I Found Each Other

Kathy wrote a thoughtful response to how she has ended up with her dogs at different times in her life; I decided it was something I wanted to post so welcome Kathy, as our first guest blogger! And if you like Kathy’s writing style like I do, check out her blog:

Gus the Golden as a Puppy

I think all those reasons have drawn me to my dogs, more or less any one reason, depending on the dog [particular breed characteristics; dog needing a place; person needing a dog….]

I grew up with springers, a lab, a basset hound, a GSD.  Your blog has made me realize I really love and know hunting dogs. 

My own first personal dog was a show quality springer, Ben.  He was given to me as a kid when he was a pup because a family acquaintance boarded their springer with us while traveling (we never boarded any other dog) and I cared for his dog.  The pup may have been, in essence, a stud fee to him, and he wanted me to have him.  So, I didn’t really choose Benjamin of Butternuts.  He was a lovely, big, very beautiful, showy springer – tall, with feathers that went forever.  Definitely a “gentle” boy.

Breezy the Bluetick

I got my bluetick coonhound, Breezy, from a rescue 3 years ago.  She was listed as 7 (was acutally 9) and had had some physical problems (she’d been hit by a car and broken a leg that went untreated for a week or so).  I wanted a starter dog who was older and was willing to care for a dog with physical issues.  And she was GORGEOUS.  My vet’s office had an ear contest going on and Breezy won for widest ear.  Her markings were black and tan (and old fashioned bluetick) with some ticking.  She had a face to die for. She was a great beginning for me – very sweet with everybody, very loving, and I had the satisfaction of taking her from completely lame to hiking for a couple hours at a time (but she couldn’t be off-leash).  I think I was drawn to fairly large, older hunting breed who I could help.  And her looks didn’t hurt  :-)  She had been a top of the line competitive coon hunter given up because – wait for it – she wouldn’t hunt anymore due to untreated arthritis and hip dysplasia and, as noise sensitive as she was, she had to be gun shy…

Gilly the German Shepherd

Gilly, my GSD, was my first pup as an adult – he came from a breeder.  I wanted a smart, trainable, people-oriented dog who I could take to nursing homes and hospice.  I believed that aggression is brought on by the owner, not a breed characteristic.  I was naive about the role of genetics in temperament.  And, classic story, we had a wonderful, gentle, sweet GSD when I was a kid – “Kim.”  Gilly was very people-oriented and smart – he adored me and kept an eagle eye on all my actions.  He was very loving and a lot of fun.  But, tragically, he was, despite tons of training and socialization, afraid and aggressive with almost anything that moved, other than me, my cat, and other dogs – from school buses to butterflies.  My rationale for GSD was smart and “Kim.”  As they say, never get a dog because you had that breed as a kid…

Ruby the Collie-Lab-Golden

I got Ruby, the collie-lab-golden rescue, when I found myself very suddenly dogless, having lost two dogs in two months.  She was 12, quite people-oriented, bossy – I was afraid she wouldn’t find a home because she was so old and that she wouldn’t get treatment for her arthritis, so I took her on.  The alternative was a 110 lb yellow lab who ate cats (not a good fit for my cat Fred).  Ruby is a good all-around dog.  She’s great with people of any age, does well volunteering in nursing homes, and is generally quite easy, her only tough habit is her barking aggressively at people and dogs (she’s very friendly, she just barks!)  I got her because I needed a big dog, she needed a home, and she didn’t eat cats.

Gus the Golden grown-up

I still wanted a pup for training and nursing home and hospice volunteering.  I asked my vet what he recommended (I neglected to do this before getting my GSD – he would never have recommended one, nearly all the GSDs in the practice have aggression problems) and he said lab or golden (he IS biased as these are the breeds he always gets).  Big hunting breeds – nice.  Everybody has a golden, so I hadn’t been psyched about the breed, but I had been humbled… 

My vet said that I needed certification for eyes, hips and elbows on the parents.  The only breeder of labs and Goldens who did all those certifications within a half day drive was a great golden breeder.  So, I ended up with Gus, the world’s best dog!  I guess obviously, I was attracted to temperament.  Afterwards, I learned that Goldens have a reputation for dominating obedience competitions.  As we’re starting to get into that, a nice bonus.  And there isn’t a gentler, more people-oriented, affection sucking dog out there.  I sometimes think that it would be a crime to keep Gus from volunteering by visiting people in need of a dog visit – he ADORES meeting new people and being touched, in any way – from nail clippings to strokes.  And he is very obvious about it – his eyes get all squinty and he grins…  And he’s wonderfully trainable.  And calm.  And fun (we were out berry picking today, me by hand, him by tongue).

Gilbert the Beagle and Fred pseudo-dog [cat]

Finally, your favorite senior beagle, Gilbert (who, I think needs to take an extended visit to his favorite dog blogger so she can experience being awakened by a beagle bay between 6:07 and 6:18 every morning and crawling around on hands and knees on the carpet sniffing for the elusive dried up 14 yr old beagle piddle spots  :-) ).  He lived in a rabbit hutch for 14 years until the owner decided he could not hunt anymore and surrendered him to a shelter.

14 year old deaf and half blind beagles not being in high demand, Gilbert sat, unadopted, for 4 months at the shelter (actually, he was lucky enough to be fostered most of that time, but it was clear he was not going to be adopted).  I had sworn off hounds (that inability to respond to a recall thing).  But I figured, beagles are little.  He’s old, he needs a home, I can furnish it, and I can deal with his limitations (at that time he was sleeping in to 8 am…).  He has arthritis I’m treating with meds and exercise and he’s stronger and healthier.  So, I felt sorry for him, was willing to help, and liked the little hunting dog thing…

I don’t think I’ll do any more rescuing after this for quite awhile – when Gilbert and Ruby and Fred the cat go, I think I’ll get another golden pup, for a matching set, and keep things simple with two young Goldens and that is it (vet and kennel bills will certainly be much lower).  I’ve happily sunk a lot of love, time and money into rehabbing elderly rescue dogs and now I’m ready to keep it simple for awhile.

So, I’ve had a lot of reasons for adopting my dogs – looks, temperament, breeding, my need, their need, breed-type, availability/timing….

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