Anonymous story submitted by: DB81024
We were looking for a dog. We had agreed we all wanted to get a dog, rescue one from a local shelter. We began looking at the dogs the local shelters brought out to area pet stores, my wife had read they often put their best adoption candidates on display at these events. We went to a couple of adoption events and didn’t really see the dog for us. We didn’t give up, we pledged to keep going the next few weekends.
I should probably take a minute to explain who we are. We are a family, only recently joined together in an official capacity. My wife, Teresa, and I met at work about 13 years ago, both of us had families of our own at that time. My children were in college and on their way to their own adult lives, Teresa’s daughter wasn’t in school yet. Over the first couple of years we knew each other, we could not deny the attraction between us and eventually acted upon it. By the end of the third year, we were together all the time, and a few years later were married creating a new family with the three of us. A few months after moving into a new house, we decided we wanted to get a dog, despite already having several cats.
On the second or third weekend of adoption events, we decided to visit one of the local No Kill shelters. There must have been 50 or 60 dogs in there almost all of them barking and yelping to either get attention or ward off another potentially bad human. It was easy to tell most were very afraid. We came across a beautiful white and brown hound who looked older than most of the other dogs. Gray hair was already beginning to mix in with the brown on top of her head. She reminded Teresa of Sugarfoot, a dog she’d had as a child in small-town Virginia. Sugarfoot was Teresa’s constant companion for a time. She would follow Teresa to the small schoolhouse and sit outside her classroom barking for Teresa. She followed her all over town and out into the countryside to play. Gina was the closest thing Teresa had seen to Sugarfoot in a long time. We inquired about Gina and were told she was deaf and had been in the shelter for about 6 months. Neither of us understood how her inability to hear might impact bringing her into our home, so for that moment, I voted we should keep looking.
On our next visit to an adoption event, we found Gretchen. Gretchen was a frumpy, dirty, long-overdue-for-a-grooming, mostly miniature schnauzer. She looked like she had been through some very rough times but you could see the kindness and love in her eyes. We took her home that day. Gretchen was lethargic and distant at first, unsure if her new home was just another temporary accommodation. I had miniature schnauzers in the past and called the groomer I had used for years. Jim got her in the next day and when I picked her up she looked like a completely different dog. Gretchen quickly grew to trust us and fell in love with her new home and all the attention she could ever ask for. Teresa still talked about Gina though.
A couple of weeks had gone by and Teresa still talked about how badly she felt for Gina. I had researched what it was like to have a deaf dog, the challenges of raising one, and the extra challenges of trying to introduce a grown deaf dog into one’s home. Both of us worked full-time jobs and Teresa’s daughter was in school, I was not sure we had the bandwidth to offer Gina the amount of time and attention she would need to become part of our home. Still, Teresa kept track of Gina through the shelter’s website.
About two months after bringing Gretchen home, we decided we would go back to the shelter to see Gina again. We learned that she had moved to a foster home because she had been attacked by another dog over food. The shelter took our contact information and sent it on to the fostering family. Monica contacted us and agreed to bring Gina to a park. Monica reported Gina had been doing well with Monica’s Bassett hounds. She also told us that Gina was definitely not deaf. Monica described Gina as having selective hearing at times and definitely had a personality of her own. We also learned that Gina had been abandoned by her former owner, left to fend for herself in another area park. She was friendly and gentle and had formed a noticeable attachment to Monica. We went home and talked it over and decided to adopt Gina. Monica met us at the shelter on the day before Thanksgiving. Teresa had another Sugarfoot to call her own.
Gina and Teresa bonded immediately. Gina was leery of me for quite some time. She may well have been abused by a man in her past. I didn’t help our relationship get off on a good foot on the very first day. We sat down to eat supper and Gina would not quit begging from under the table. This had always been a forbidden activity for dogs in my past. I tried to get her out from under the table, she wouldn’t move. I ended up raising my voice and moving the table, she backed into Teresa’s legs and growled at me. Teresa calmed the situation getting up from the table and calling Gina away with her. Day 1 had not gone well for either of us.
As time went by, we learned that Gina suffers from significant separation anxiety. We got her some medication but it never completely relieved her fear of being abandoned again. Gina settled into our home and a routine, I was able to win some points with her by walking her and Gretchen once or twice a day, Gina was always happy to walk through the neighborhood nose to the ground all the way, a true hound. I also took on the task of feeding the dogs more often than not, another way to build trust. As Gina became more comfortable with us, she introduced us to more of her personality. A very vocal girl, she will stand in front of you and whimper when she wants to take a walk, looking toward the front door or even walking over to it stretching and moaning. She also makes it no secret when she wants her belly rubbed laying on her back and moaning while smiling and snorting at you. She loves to play with certain soft squeaky toys and expresses her joy for Teresa’s returns home by trotting around squeaking and barking for at least 10 minutes after Teresa’s arrival. Gina also loves to play hide and go seek with Teresa’s daughter. She has truly become a family member. Through her time with us, Gina and Teresa have helped me become more empathetic and patient.
A few months ago, we learned that Gina has cancer, it is in her lymphatic system. She has been with us for five years now and she is somewhere between 14 and 16 years old by best estimates. Treatments would be extensive and beyond our budget and of course, there’s no guarantee they would be successful. We are giving her medicine that has been proven to slow the growth of tumors and ease pain she may be experiencing now. Our vet has assured us she will let us know when her disease begins to overtake her. In the meantime, we are going for more walks. We are taking her to walk in a local nature preserve where she can catch the scent of deer, rabbits, and all the other wildlife that cross the trails. She is enjoying 3 and 4-mile hikes through fields and woods whenever the weather permits. We don’t know how much more time we have with her but we want her to have the quality of life such a beautiful dog deserves.
My experience with Teresa and Gina has taught me that all God’s creatures deserve respect but especially the ones that we humans breed and bring into our homes as pets. We have an obligation to keep their populations from exploding by neutering them. We owe it to the animals to carefully consider bringing them into our homes not trying them out for a couple of days of a week and then dumping them in a shelter, or worse on their own. We need to make the commitment to them long term, not just when it is easier to care for them. While they are in our care, they deserve all the love we can offer.