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Fate Or Circumstance, Part 3

Once at  Sandra’s we found the kennel, made sure Husky had food and water, we promised her that Sandra would be home soon and that we would visit during the week, and with great reluctance we walked away.

Husky screamed!  She didn’t bark, growl or howl, she screamed.  Never had I heard such a noise, it sounded like somebody had taken an old rusty spoon and used it to carve out her heart.  We couldn’t take her with us and we couldn’t wait all night.  Husky was safe, she had water and Sandra would soon be there to take her inside.  Being the cruel heartless people we are we walked away with heavy hearts and tears in our eyes and the most horrific sound echoing in our heads.  The neighbour promised us he would check in on Husky once Husky had settled down.   As we drove home with that god awful noise still reverberating in our heads we started thinking up ways we could keep her with us until we found a suitable home.  Logically we knew husky was fine, emotionally we were drained.  Some would argue that this was when we decided to keep Husky, and again they would be wrong. 

We made a vet appointment with Lee (the best vet ever) who gave us a lecture on dog ownership and given our situation and the temperment of our cats, how owning a dog was probably not the smartest idea.   Lee also forced us to see the obvious, if Husky did  kill one of the cats, how would that make us feel? then what would become of Husky?   Lee did admit that this husky was not a typical husky.   Husky took all her shots, gave blood and submitted to the exam without all the usual husky drama.  For the most part she lay on her back paws in the air waiting for somebody to rub her belly.  Lee who is not only the best vet, is also a friend who cares about her patients and despite her lecture informed us that she would support our decision and help us any way she could both as a friend and a vet.  Did our vet just open the door a tiny crack?  There were a lot of issues and the potential for deadly disaster, I was still focused on finding Husky a suitable home but maybe there was a way to share the household, maybe we could find a way to separate the cats from the dog when we were all in the house at the same time, maybe…just maybe…

During this time we took Husky everywhere getting her as much exposure as possible figuring the more people who saw her the better the chance we had at finding her a good home.   My wife was busy being a detective and with only Husky’s rabies tags she managed to uncover  a lot of  information.  The previous owner owed the vets money, making them reluctant to give us any information, but with a little explaining on our part each vet we talked to agreed to release Husky’s records our vet.  We found out that Husky was a mom but the dog law officer realized this guy was unable or unwilling to look after Husky never mind husky puppies and forced him to have Husky fixed.  He did comply but once again never paid the vet.  From there my wife was able to track down the breeder.  Husky was a purebred and we got all the information we needed to get her papers from the American Kennel Club.  We had no interest in getting her papers but it was a good ‘selling’ point to tempt a possible owner. 

Finding Husky an owner was a difficult task,  we were not about to ‘dump’ her on just anybody, how would that help her?  how would that put her in a better situation?  Most people want a dog that they can throw out the door on a cold day and then give a whistle and the dog will come running back, unfortunately with most huskies you can’t do that, once they are outside and unrestrained, they are gone.  Training a  husky is not as easy as training a lab.  Before a husky will do anything they ask themselves “whats in it for me?” and there better be something as they are certainly not out to please you.  Huskies are not always good with children or other dogs and other dogs don’t always like huskies.  In our studies we learned that huskies have their own language which other dogs don’t understand.  A husky owner in northern Canada who has working huskies warned us that huskies play a lot harder than most dogs and the difference between husky play and a husky fight is the amount of blood spilled.  To make matters worse our husky is very dominant and doesn’t play well with others.  If another dog doesn’t respond the way Husky wants them too she goes on the attack. 

One Sunday we went to Sandra’s to drop Husky off, (thankfully we could now do this without the screaming)  there was a pen set up in the yard with all the husky puppies playing inside.  We brought Husky into the pen and she immediately went into mothering mode.  She played with them, let them crawl all over her but when they crossed the line (as huskies are prone to do) she would roll them on their backs and hold them there until they calmed down.  We stayed for a while, playing with the puppies (we really liked zag and Sandra actually tried to get us to adopt zag) and really enjoyed watching Husky play with the pups.  Once again that dreaded time came when we had to leave we said goodbye to Sandra and the woman helping her, said goodbye to Husky who was only paying attention to the puppies but just before I got into the car I happened to look back and noticed Husky had stopped paying attention to the puppies, all her attention was on us. Later when my wife mentioned that particular behaviour to Sandra she told us that Husky always watched us leave and looked for us once we were gone and on Saturdays she would wait by the door for us to pick her up.  I though back to when we first met Husky, she didn’t look at her previous owner, she never looked back.  Some would say it was at that point we decided adopt Husky the truth of the matter is Husky had already adopted us.

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This is the second part of Fate or Circumstance?

This post like all the others has taken on a life of its own. Many forgotten details are floating to the surface as I write.  All of which means it will be broken up into more than the two parts I had planned.  I hope you continue to enjoy.

One Friday not long after the Shadow incident one of my wife’s co-workers asked my wife if we would be able to help out a dog that was in a bad situation.  A relative of this co-worker lived next to this guy who would leave his husky tied up for days outside without food, water or shelter.  It is believed that the dog, out of hunger killed and ate a cat. The landlord had enough and gave the guy an ultimatum, he had to get rid of the dog or leave. 

We had four cats certainly we couldn’t keep a dog that eats cats.  Besides, a husky would never be happy spending most of the day indoors and they always have to be contained which meant not only a dog house but a dog kennel.  Huskies are very active and we live a pretty sedate lifestyle.  When huskies get bored they chew everything and they get bored easily.  Huskies have no guarding tendencies and huskies shed and shed and then shed some more.  However they are big enough, they don’t drool often and are not known for barking, howling is another story.  We needed a plan!

I made a call to Sandra the customer at the bank who, two years earlier had shown me the picture of her husky puppies. It turned out that Sandra was raising yet another litter of huskies, she did have an available kennel and would take in the dog in while we found it a home, (or as she put it, until we decided to keep the dog).  The next morning we would make the 48 mile drive to Avis Pa to rescue the dog, if we got back into town early enough we would bring the dog around to Sandra’s work so she could get a look at her new charge.  Indeed, we had our plan!

Upon meeting the dogs owner it was clear that this guy was not exactly the pillar of society but he signed husky over to us without incident.  What my wife and I found interesting was husky never looked at him and when we drove away husky never looked back.  We had been driving for just a few minutes, us in the front seat, husky in the back when husky put her head on my shoulder and licked my ear.  Some would tell you it was at this point that we knew we would be keeping husky, but let me set the record straight, it was not.  That day was still over a month away.  We did shed a tear or two knowing that this was a great dog and we were not going to be able to keep her.  She eats cats for crying out loud.

We had seen many huskies in our day.  In fact when I was young we owned one for a while (to spare my mother from tears I won’t go into that story) but we had not seen the likes of this one.  She had obviously never seen  a brush, there were tufts of fur popping off her body, it was sad that she had been so neglected but funny as heck to look at.  She was a pale yellowish colour and her coat was/is incredibly thick and soft despite all the tufts.  We got back into town earlier then expected and decided we would run her by the bank and show her off a little, perhaps somebody there would want her, (nobody was in a position to adopt her)  but husky was an immediate hit she rolled over on her back and let everyone rub her belly and of course left a pile of fur on the carpet which remained there for a week or two.  We brought her to Sandra’s work as planned.  You know you have an impressive husky when the husky breeders are in awe.  The plan was for Sandra to come over after work stay for a bonfire and take husky home from there.  In turn we would pick up husky on Sunday and take her to a local pet place and start trying to find her a home. 

Sandra came over that evening and we had fun talking about huskies, roasting marshmallows and eating smores.  We decided that we would keep husky on the weekends,  Sandra assured us that husky would be fine in our laundry room with the cats sequestered in the bed room.  Monday we had to go back to work and we couldn’t leave her locked in the laundry room all day so the new plan was to drop husky off at Sandra’s sometime Sunday night.   Sandra was going to be working the late shift so she told us where the kennel was located and we should just put husky in the kennel.  If we wanted we could let her neighbour know that we were dropping husky off, being husky owners themselves they would be sure and look in on her until Sandra got in that night.

Stay tuned for part 3

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In the early 2000’s I was standing at my teller window when one of our regulars came in to make a deposit. She showed me a picture of the cutest little Siberian Husky puppies one could ever imagine.  Except for the fact that they were adorable and that for once somebody wasn’t showing me baby pictures,  I didn’t think too much about it.  Time passed, another litter of puppies came and went and life continued on its merry way as it tends to do.

Two years later my wife and I are standing in the parking lot of a grocery store in the tiny town of Phillipsburg when my wife tells me she is ready for a kitten, we already had four cats.  “I’m ready for a dog” came my reply.  She told me to start building a dog house.  Building a dog house sounded like fun so why not?  We thought about what kind of dog we would like, we both agreed it had to be big, no drooling, no barking, good both indoors and out, had to like cats and have some guarding instincts.   The doghouse had just gotten underway so we were not quite ready for a dog but we decided to check out the SPCA,  upon entering the dog room the first thing that struck me was the unimaginable amount of noise, it was truly an assault on my ears.  I made my announcement in the middle of the chaos.  “The first one of you who is not barking has a shot at coming home with me.” In a corner kennel was a massive black dog.  It wasn’t barking, it wasn’t paying the least bit of attention to me, the dogs or anything really just lost in his own world.   My wife and I looked at his information.  Shadow was the dog’s name, he was surrendered by the owner with no explanation and it came from our little town.  We asked if Shadow had any issues with cats.  Shadow was then taken to the cat room where a staff member shoved a cat right up into Shadows face.  Shadow could have swallowed the cat whole but he didn’t so much as bat an eyelash, the cat was too stunned to do anything, so far so good.  We put Shadow on a leash and took him outside. The minute he hit the fresh air he came alive and took me for a drag.  He probably knew his name but certainly didn’t care.  He didn’t stop, he didn’t sit, he didn’t even acknowledge our existence and he was amazingly strong, stopping him was quite the issue. My wife would not have been able to walk this dog. There was a mountain of issues involved with adopting Shadow, he had no manners making him difficult to control, he had some health issues as he was loosing hair, but there was something about him that touched both my wife and I so he became a possibility but we were not about to rush into anything, the responsible thing to do was wait, we were not at the point of dog ownership and Shadow was a large handful.

At the end of our road across the highway there is a travel trailer and a dog house which was home to a large black dog.  (At this point we have to travel back about a year from the above story) while driving to work one day we noticed that the travel trailer had disappeared but the dog  was still there, worried that somebody had abandoned the dog we knocked on the closest door we could find.  Turns out the people who owned the house also owned the dog.  That dog was Shadow. (Another jump in time, to our current story) Earlier in the week my wife had commented that we don’t see the dog anymore and we figured the owners schedule had changed (he was a security officer for Penn State) and we didn’t give it another thought until driving home from the SPCA when my wife put it all together.  Once again life in a small town rears its head.

We never saw Shadow again but I think about Shadow often, I feel I let him down. I know Shadow was never meant to be ours, life has a way of telling us what is and what isn’t, all you have to do is listen and in this case there were just too many obstacles being thrown between us and Shadow.  In the end we wound up with the right dog.  Still when I think of Shadow I can’t help but feel a little heaviness in my heart.  I can only hope he found a good home.

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In post Number Ten I said that the end can usually be found in the beginning.  No matter how much we learn, how much we do, how many changes we endure I am becoming more and more convinced that the above statement is true.  Of course I can’t know that for sure as I’m not yet at the end, possibly the middle because now and again I get a hankering for a shiny red car, but thats another story.  

 I was talking to my oldest friend the other day and it sparked the memory of  his cat Skippy.  I am happy to report that Skippy lived a very long and luxurious life.  

The year was early high school and on most days I could be found hanging out at Richard’s house.

As Rich and I were leaving school I looked down into some bushes and there sitting ever so quietly was the cutest little grey kitten. Never before had I seen something so adorable and so pathetic.  It was all grey except for a white patch on his chest and huge polydactyl paws, that is, he had an extra toe on each front foot, a massive head and a tiny body.   I picked him up and looked at Rich, we knew there was no way I could take him home, but Rich had that look in his eye, he already had a plan.  We carried the cat 3 miles to Richard’s house and Skippy to his credit only panicked once while we crossed a busy street.

Once we got home I realized the brilliant plan Richard devised was to carry the cat home and figure out the rest when we got there. Skippy gobbled down the milk and Kraft singles we gave him and then explored the house. We knew Richard’s mother was due home soon so we put the cat outside and put more cheese on the porch so he would know which house to hang around of course Skippy gobbled down the cheese (so no evidence was left) as we headed to our usual spot in the basement. Richard only knew he couldn’t let his mother know that we brought the cat home.  The plan quickly became the ‘cat? what cat?’ plan.

We heard the front door open.

“Boys, there is a little grey kitten at the front door do you know anything about it?” we both went running upstairs to see the kitten that we ‘had never seen before’ . “Mom can we keep it?” was Richard’s plea, and of course the answer was no but we were not allowed to just abandon it we had to find the owner, our task was first to knock on all the doors in the neighbourhood and to call the local paper and put an ad in the lost pets section. We did as we were told, picking up the cat and knocking on doors knowing that there was no way anybody in the area owned this kitten after all it was found 3 miles away.  But Richard’s mother was watching us from the porch so there was no getting around it. Nobody of course had ever seen the cat before.

We were allowed to bring the cat in but had to keep it in the garage. We called the paper and placed the ad just as Richards dad came home. I always had trouble understanding him because of his heavy german accent but he was able to make himself  very clear this time,  the cat was to stay in the garage and under no circumstances was that cat allowed any further into the house.

The following day was Saturday, as usual Rich and I got together at his house, imagine my surprise to find the cat in the basement not the garage. Richard’s father relented and allowed the cat into the basement, but in no way was that cat allowed upstairs. 

By Monday morning Skippy had a name,  Mr. that cat is not leaving the garage had named the cat but it was some german name that nobody could pronounce luckily we were able to change the name to Skippy (because Rich saw him chasing a squirrel but the kitten was not running, he was skipping)  Mr. That cat is not leaving the garage not only named the cat but was now allowing the cat to sleep on the bed and rule the house and pretty much claimed the cat as his own.  Richard’s mother had gone to the butcher to buy chicken livers for Skippy which from that day forwards always topped off his cat food.  It quickly became the norm for Skippy to peruse the people food and only after determining that it was not better than his food could we all eat in peace.

All those years ago I never even thought about animal rescue, I was much to busy just trying to survive high school. It is only a good twenty-five years and many rescue’s later that I realized Skippy was my first rescue.  And now animal rescue which I only got involved in 10 years ago has partially defined who I am today.

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Magical moments

I’m sure you have come across those TV nature shows where an eagle gets wounded and brought to a rehab center where they painstakingly nurse it back to health then find some secluded spot on the side of the mountain where they release the eagle which flies majestically into the sunset.  The camera pans to the expert who has a tear in her eye and looks so at peace as she explains that these are the moments for which she lives.  Sorry to ruin the illusion but it just doesn’t work that way. 

Sparrow, the wildlife rehabilitator gave us 5 raccoons to be released, the volunteer, (whom unknown to us was soon to be our neighbour, yes the very same one that we took to the Hospital 2 yrs later) in charge of nursing them back to health had become attached to the little guys and seeing as she was not going to be at the rehab center that day Sparrow decided it would be the perfect opportunity to give them a clean break.  The rule of thumb is not to become attached and not to have the wildlife become dependant upon humans. 

Unlike squirrels who are given to us in a hissing sack, (Leave well enough alone) raccoons are given to us in a dog crate.  They chatter and make all kinds of raccoon noises, but nothing like the squirrels.  You take them into the woods, leave them some food open the crate doors and wait, eventually they move from the safety of the crate and mosey into the woods, at least that is how it would be in that wonderful TV moment. 

The reality:

My wife and I are now in our woods at our dedicated racoon release site.    We open the crate step back with camera in hand and wait to make sure they are all okay.  Out they come, five adorable little bandits, we hang with them for a few moments taking pictures and making sure they are okay after being cooped up in a dog crate.  We are careful to keep our distance after all they are wild animals.    As I take pictures they walk right up to me I back away and they follow, I just stand there and they quickly become bored of me and head their own way.  Finally we turn to leave and unlike our husky, they follow.  We shoo them back into the woods and quickly turn and head back to the house the raccoons are faster and running around our legs and between our feet.  My wife is who is running ahead of me is desperately trying to out maneuver the little bastards bandits, but they are having non of it as they decide climbing up her legs is the thing to do.  We still laugh every time we walk down that particular path.

Those moments are definitely on my list of the moments to live for.   Yes it’s that impossible to describe magical moment when the possums vanish into the undergrowth to enjoy the rest of their lives as they should, but it is so much more.  It is balancing on a ladder while nailing a squirrel box to a tree, hiking out into the woods  in 80 degree heat swatting mosquitos while trying to hold a 20 pound crate of chattering raccoons in one hand and food for them in the other, it’s driving down the highway scared to move, speak or even breathe as 4 wild (meaning fully scented) skunks hiss in their crates in the back of the car, (another story).  Most of all it is laughing with my wife as we share the moments doing the things we love.

One of the little bandits playing in the water.

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