So we weren’t planning on getting another dog. At least not till we were both totally retired. Overall, the caregiving duties in our household have grown over the past couple of years, and were not entirely relieved when we lost Pippi when she was felled by her tumor last May. After Pip was gone, Poppi seemed to enjoy her new found freedom, as she no longer had an overseer monitoring her every move. Even though Pip was about half her size, she was the total alpha dog. In fact, when we first brought Pippi home at 8-1/2 weeks old, she immediately started bossing our ginormous chocolate lab around.
So Poppi never really got to decide what she did and in what order or where, everything had to get Pippi’s approval first. Poppi is so mellow we figured she was happy just going along, but after Pippi died she did seem to be totally relaxed for the first time ever. But after a while, Pop seemed a little lost and when Blaine told us she had whined and cried when Ric and I went out one day, we started worrying. Then she whined and cried when I left the house for a while one day and was pretty much inconsolable until I returned, we knew we had to figure this out.
Those who know us understand we are pretty much fixated on Bichon Frises. That’s what happens when you have one. Or even meet one, as in our case. Blaine and I were set on them way back when Blaine was in elementary school and there was a Man’s Best Friend store with stuff for dogs on Hawthorne Blvd. near our home. The owner had a Bichon she brought in to work with her. Blaine and I would roll and walk respectively down Hawthorne just to visit the dog. There’s just something about Bichons. They have SO much personality and are such great companions, especially in the city. They’re just….special!
Because they are so desirable, they are really expensive when you get one from a reputable, responsible breeder. Pippi came from a backyard breeder we found in the newspaper classified ads (remember them??) before we knew about backyard breeders. A few months later we got Poppi from a family moving to Sweden. We actually went looking for a playmate for Pippi, who was becoming more human than canine. They advertised a two year old male, so we went to take a look. Their dog was a stud dog and we no more than entered the door than he hopped astride Pippi and humped her through the kitchen, down the hall, around the living room and back to the doorway where Ric scooped her up to save her from this serial rapist. In the meantime, I had picked up the ‘pick of the litter’ puppy that had been their payment for his last consenting adult sperm donation. And instantly fell completely in love. We purchased Poppi before Pippi could suffer any more indignities and made our escape. That was more than 10 years ago, and the price has gone up a whole lot in the interim. Out of our reach, especially considering what will be our meager income in retirement.
I’m all for adopting a “rescue” dog, but I didn’t think Bichons come up very often. Actually, it took me a while to get my head around the whole rescue situation. I didn’t hear that term growing up, but I pictured it meaning a dog had fallen into a roaring river and a fearless human dove in and pulled the dog to shore just above the crest of a 50-foot waterfall. Or the house was burning down and all the people were accounted for but the little girl cried out, “Where’s Sparky?” and the fireman sprang through the scorching flames and carried the pooch out and administered oxygen before Sparky coughed his first breath. One day when someone told me her dog was a rescue, I asked what calamity the poor pup had survived and she told me the family down the block decided they couldn’t give him the best possible care and asked the neighbors if anyone wanted to take the dog, and she volunteered. Where I come from, we called that “getting a dog a new home.” It’s not exactly a “you’re-at-the-50-yard-mark-on-a-100-yard-railroad-bridge-and-a-train-appears-around-the curve-only-20-yards-away” emergency type situation. But whatev. If it makes people feel better to call giving a dog a new home a rescue and it results in more dogs getting more homes, I’m all for it. We live in dramatic times, after all.
But seriously, since then, I’ve learned about puppy mills where females are kept in cages they can’t even turn around in all their lives and are just used as breeding machines, a cruelty I can’t imagine any human justifying on any level. And I’ve seen horrendous cruelty to dogs on shows on Animal Planet, from Animal Hoarders to Animal Cops. Not to mention the dog fighters and the so-called shelters that euthanize most of the animals because they don’t have enough room for all the unwanted animals that show up on their doorstep. So, yes, I have learned that dogs really are rescued from inhumane, intolerable and fatal conditions.
I see I have drifted from the main plot line a bit, so let’s steer this rig out of the ditch and back on the highway.
I didn’t know that Ric had actually begun scanning the web for puppies when he sent me an email saying “Drifty is 1.5 years and needs a forever home.” I clicked and saw this:
I surprised even myself when I immediately threw caution to the wind and texted “Omg we have to get this dog.” So Ric started communicating with the dog rescuer and we arranged a meeting. Poppi was all for the idea and kept reminding us!
He was a Bichon/Maltese mix, rescued from a shelter in southern California that has way more animals than people who want them, so an awful lot of the dogs are killed. A woman down there picks out dogs she thinks are adoptable and drives as many as she can carry to Portland, where there are more people looking to adopt, especially given the “End Petlessness” campaign that’s been underway here. Lori Cory of LoCo Rescue here in Portland works with her, finding families and making matches, ensuring that from this day forward, these dogs have the life they deserve.
Well, of course we loved him and wanted him. Our only hesitation was how he would do with Poppi. She’s a senior dog now and has arthritis and related spine issues. They didn’t interact much during the initial visit, and we wanted to make sure Poppi didn’t have to live under another petty dictator for the rest of her days. So we agreed to foster him to make sure they were good together.
We took him home and he was wide eyed and curious, just watching and watching. He was skin and bones, smelly and dirty. The most telling thing for me, and most heartbreaking, was seeing what a tiny little ball he curled into when he slept… as if he was trying to hold in every molecule of heat he could muster. Or be as invisible as possible. It seemed he had never experienced stairs before and didn’t quite know what to make of them. He was a little shy, but very affectionate and interested in everything as we walked through the house. Bichons can be somewhat notorious for peeing in the house, and our floors and rugs had taken quite a hit during the last several months of Pippi’s illness, to the point that we had the floors refinished and rugs professionally cleaned after she passed. We were pretty worried about housebreaking Drifty, especially since it wasn’t clear he knew what a house was, and planned to be ultra diligent about training him.
He slept in a crate next to Ric the first night and when Ric took him outside first thing in the morning, he immediately peed and pooped right where he was supposed to. Interesting. Neither Pippi nor Poppi had been so cooperative. After Ric took him in for a bath and grooming, we could see what a handsome little fella he is.
He seemed kinda traumatized at first. Maybe he couldn’t really grasp what was happening. Or that it really was possible to be safe and carefree. When he was snuggled up with me in the covers the first morning, I could hear his eyes say, “Am I really here? In a warm bed? Do dogs really get to live like this the rest of their lives?” And I whispered back in his ear, “Yes, Drifty. Yes they do.”
Blaine is so happy to have a dog that will jump onto his lap and stay there again. Blaine is back in canine heaven. As you can see.
Drifty and Poppi started sleeping together on the couch, moving closer, and closer, then finally spooning. They are surely bonding. Although Poppi can’t quite keep up with Drifty’s pace of playing, Drifty keeps trying to get her to buzz about with him. We play “throw the toy and try to get it away from him when he returns it because he doesn’t yet get that he has to let go for us to throw it again” game. I put aside my quilting for a time, although as he gets more comfortable, he’s happy to sit in the chair as I sew and pose with the quilt in progress.
He’s discovered looking out windows and while I was sick in bed with the nastiest cold in years, he sat on a stack of quilts and watched out for me, looking at a world he had never seen from inside a warm home he had never known. It’s so much fun seeing him explore and learn and become himself.
And Ric already taught him to talk. Seriously. See for yourself!
Yes, he is home at last now. Where he belongs. Look at this picture. You get my drift?