A few months before Marge would make her way up to New York from Georgia and ultimately wind up coming home with me, there was another dog who had won my heart like no other had done before.
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
I volunteered at our local no-kill shelter since the summer of 2007 up until its unfortunate close at the end of 2008. After my previous life filled with horses suddenly became merely a memory, a figment of my past (something that STILL causes me grief, but that's for another posts), I needed a new way to fill my life with animals.
Dogs came and went at the shelter quickly, most to good homes and happy endings. I fell in love with many of them, wondered what they had been through in their lives, why they had wound up here. Though I formed attachments to them, I never got too close, since most of them left rather quickly, anyway. It wasn't a bad setup - after my massive losses in the equine world, I was in no hurry to get myself emotionally wrapped in any animal of any species (except for my wonderful boyfriend, Louie, who came into the picture around that time).
All of this became null and void when I found myself making great friends with a Shepherd mix from less-than-desirable beginnings in his life. Nicholas, or Nicky, as I often called him, came into the shelter right before Christmas of 2007. Though I was not there when he was brought in, I was told that his previous owner had kept Nick outside in the yard for the entire first two years of his life, and that it would be impossible to get too near him. And, for three days, or so the story goes, no one could get near him. He barked and lunged and spun in his cage when ever someone got to close - he did not know how to trust.
A little while later, I'm not exactly sure when, Nicky had calmed down enough to be able to walk with the volunteers. He became an absolute model citizen - well, except for his fear of men, which was probably explained by his bad situation earlier in life. I remember taking him on endless walks, and I remember how he'd get the zoomies any time I'd try to jog with him. I used to sit beside him, locked into his cage with him, with absolutely no fear in the world - there was not a mean bone in this dog's body. He just wanted love.
I remember the time he got loose from the leash and ran up to an innocent bystander barking like a lunatic - a story I kept to myself out of fear that I wouldn't be allowed to walk him anymore. On the other hand, I remember seeing people out on the street and having Nick pass them with ease - if only I knew then what I know now about reactivity and fearfulness, I could have helped him so much more. But, he grew on his own and really was a lovely dog.
Yet, no one wanted him. His stint at the shelter was about 8 months long - he soon became the dog who had been there the longest. He saw the least number of potential adopters. Why? Probably because he was a big old black and tan Shepherd mix, two or three years of age, and simply wasn't as eye-catching as the young wiggly puppies or purebred dogs who filled the nearby kennels.
One day, my sister and I got it into our heads that we could convince my parents to bring him home. Looking back, I feel like we schemed like two 5-year-olds who wanted something they couldn't have - and, as you probably have figured out by now, it didn't work. My dad was more open to the suggestion, but my mom was afraid of Nicholas, despite the fact that he adored her. his dislike for cats complicated the issue even further - how was I going to bring a boisterous, barking dog into a 10-year-old cat's quiet home? It was not meant to be, and, for a little while, I was VERY upset.
I came to terms with the fact that he wouldn't be coming home with me, and, as if by luck, that's when Marge came into the shelter. In fact, I think he left for his own home within one week of Marge coming home with me.
I could not bring myself to say goodbye to him when I heard the news he was going to his new home. I didn't want to be there when he left. I would not go into the play pen with him to play, because I knew I would break down into a thousand tears. So, I silently wished him luck in his new home, gazed down at his beautiful, smiling face for one last time, and knew that it would be farewell.
Before the shelter closed, I heard that he was doing very well in his new home - that his reactivity problems had virtually disappeared, he was able to attend family barbecues and events mingle with dogs and people that would have scared him during his stay at the shelter. Some of the employees even got to see him again, too. I sure wish I could have seen him.
Though I am obviously happy with how things worked out, as I got to bring home a wonderful little black dog named Marge who pours her heart into everything she does with me, I do admit to fantasizing about what could have been. What would Nicky have been like in my home? What if I could have adopted both him and Marge? I suppose the only answer to that is that everything happens for a reason, and those scenarios will never play out anyway except in the confines of my nostalgic mind.
I hope that Nicky is out there, still enjoying what ever home he wound up in. I hold out hope that one day I will see him again. He won't remember me, I'm sure, but it would be so nice to see the smiling Shepherd who was probably the first dog I ever really felt close to. Thank you, Nicky, for being such a good friend through all of that time we were together.
MargeBlog started in early 2009 as a training journal for my newly adopted, skittish Lab mix, Marge. Marge's world was small back then; her fears really limited the things I could do with her. Aside from trips to the park and attending beginner training classes, Marge was mostly a stay at home gal - not because either of us wanted her to be, just because the demons from her unsuitable upbringing continued to haunt her.
Slowly, the fear diminished, her world grew. Now, Marge is a fun-loving, squirrel-chasing, winning Agility and Rally dog who accompanies me to a wide variety of places. Here, you will frequently find detailed training updates, snippets from Marge's every day life at home, and photo-filled posts detailing our many outdoor adventures.
This is more than just a dog blog - it is an actual look in to what one shelter dog's life ultimately became when she found her first and forever home and began to blossom.
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A rescue from Georgia bounced around from shelter to shelter and state to state with her siblings, Marge did not have the luxury of living in a home - my home - until just past her first birthday. A life behind bars had taken its toll on Marge, whose obvious fear of people, noise, and city life in general left a lot for her to learn about how to get by in New York.
Marge is a different dog now than she was back then. It took years of new, positive life experiences, but her fears, which used to consume everything we did, are now only one theme in a great big book of adventures.
These days, Marge enjoys going to training classes, taking trips to agility trials, having play dates with friends, and eating anything that's even remotely edible - not bad for a dog who spent her puppy days in cages.
My time with Marge has been a learning experience for which I am ever grateful. As my first dog, she has taught me and continues to teach me so much more than I ever imagined about dogs, training, and behavioral/fear issues. She's a fun dog with a sense of humor who loves life and learning.
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