animal shelters, chow chow, dalmation, dingo, dog, dogs, family, family life, German Shepherd, GSD, home, keeshond, life, Maryland Animal Sanctuary and Rescue, MAS Rescue, mutt, mutts, pointer, rescue dogs
I was born into a very dog family. My family got their first dog, a Keeshond they named Tocoro, when my mother was pregnant with me. For the first ten years of my life, he was a big, fluffy poof I could cry into. He loved me and my three siblings, and he was excellent at protecting our yard from drunk drivers and mailmen. Then in 2001, Tocoro got a blood clot and died in the middle of the night. I remember my parents calling him, going out into the yard to look for him that night, but he was a black dog, and they didn’t find him until the next morning, dead at the base of our slide. My dad buried him before we woke, and my parents broke the news to use over breakfast. I still remember the pain of that heart-rending devastation.
We got our next dog later that year. His name was Bodoso, and we rescued him from a flea-infested family home. He had scars from those fleas the rest of his life, but he was a sweet Dingo/Chow Chow mutt. His first night in our home, my siblings and I all camped out on the floor to sleep with him, and he roamed from sleeping bag to sleeping bag to snuggle with us. Since I was older when we adopted him, I remember more about his quirks. I remember he had a strong tail that would swish back and forth whenever he was happy (which was all the time), and it wasn’t uncommon for him to clear the coffee table with the strength of his tail alone. He was also very slobbery and loving, coating your face and arms with drool whenever he licked you. He would play soccer with ice cubes and empty detergent bottles, and he would attack the swings on our playset whenever they moved. He was a good dog, and sadly died a few years ago.
Two years after we adopted Bodoso (or “Bodie” as we called him), we rescued a second dog, this time from the county animal shelter. This dog was eight weeks old, black and white, assumed to be a Dalmatian/Pointer mix. We named her Chocolate Chip. She was a beautiful and sweet dog, and she and I bonded. During the day, she would curl up in her cage and nap, snuggling up next to the heating vent at the back of her cage, but at night, she would cuddle up in my bed next to me. If I shifted in my sleep, she would automatically adjust her position so that she was right next to me again. Then, one Sunday morning while my family was at church, she was attacked and hospitalized by an escaped pit bull. She survived with help from Bodie, but she was never the same after that. She remained devoutly loyal to my family, but any strangers would be in danger. My sophomore year of college I got the call that my family was being sued for a dog bite, and we were forced to put Chocolate Chip down. It broke my heart, and I cried for days.
The next semester, my mother adopted a new dog, a pure-bred Jack Russell Terrier, just as she’d always wanted. When I came home for the summer, the new dog, Divet, didn’t particularly care for me. He was never aggressive toward me, but neither was he particularly friendly. I felt Chocolate Chip’s absence with all my heart.
Bodie died, I graduated from college, and my parents adopted another rescue, a snow-white Husky/American Shepherd mutt we named “Stardust” for her habit of shedding all over the place. She had been abused by previous owners, and it took a while for her to warm up to us and to stop flinching whenever we raised a hand to pet her. My parents hoped that she would eventually bond with me, and while she showed me more affection than Divet, I still missed Chocolate Chip.
Once Stardust understood that we wouldn’t hurt her, and that we loved her, she became quite energetic. My mom couldn’t keep up with her, and Divet wouldn’t play with her, so my mom and dad decided to let me to get a dog of my very own. I was still living at home, despite having a full-time job as a teaching aide, and I was lonely. When they told me the news, I was ecstatic and began to hunt for my dog.
There were several things I knew: I loved German Shepherds, I didn’t want a pure-breed, I wanted a boy, and I wanted to adopt from a rescue. My parents’ only stipulation was that I couldn’t adopt a Pit Bull. Considering our family’s history with Pit Bulls, I was fine with that condition. I started scouring the websites of local shelters, searching for a dog with a breeding mix I liked. I originally found a beautiful mutt named “Rocky” at Howard County Animal Shelter, and I applied for adoption, trying (and failing) not to get my hopes up. I went up to the shelter to play with him twice, and my mom took Divet and Stardust to play with him, to make sure they would all get along–these were all requirements for adoption from the shelter. Unfortunately, it was not to be. There was a waiting list for Rocky, and I was number four on the list. Numbers one and two fell through, and I felt my hopes rising–then number three fulfilled all adoption requirements and took Rocky home. I was dejected.
A week later, I found a listing for a puppy at MAS Rescue. They believed he was a German Shepherd/Boxer mix, 10-11 weeks old. He had been found on the streets of North Carolina with his ten brothers and sisters, and had been shipped up to Maryland under the name “Mars.” MAS Rescue renamed him “Clooney,” and placed him and his sister “Sasha” with a foster mother. When I saw his picture, I fell in love. He had HUGE fluffy ears, and his head was cocked as if he was contemplating some mischief. I worked on an application of adoption for a few hours, stressing over its perfection, and begging for a recommendation from my sister’s boyfriend. Again, I tried not to get my hopes up, but I couldn’t help it! I had already picked a name of my own for him: Pippin.
Five days later, I was contacted by MAS and asked to schedule a meet and greet with all the members of the household, people and dogs. I scheduled the meet and greet for the earliest time available, and I waited impatiently for the appointed time to arrive. The foster mother had to push the appointment back an hour because of traffic, but then it was finally time to load everyone into the cars and drive out to Ellicott City. I was nervous. Stardust was still a little shy around strangers, and Divet was just generally grumpy. What if one of them snapped at the little puppy, and I wouldn’t get to take the puppy home? My parents controlled our dogs as the foster mom took us into the fenced area where Pippin was playing with Sasha. Despite my fantasy being the puppy taking an instant liking to me, Pippin was more interested in the large Stardust and the older Divet. Divet was just as indifferent to the little puppy as he was to me, but Stardust and Pippin got along pretty quickly. After a few confirmation questions about our yard and home life, my family was approved. I signed their contract, swearing to return him to their care should anything happen and to get him neutered as soon as he was old enough, and I scooped up my new puppy, Pippin. He joined my family June 9th, 2016.
Pippin was only ten pounds when I adopted him. He ate well, and I wasn’t shy about giving him scraps from my plate, but it took him a few months to get to a healthy weight. I got him to the vet and on a healthcare plan, and he was declared healthy–other than his weight. I took him on walks, I worked on training him, and I even took him to a few church events to help socialize him. He was thankfully easy to house-train, and he picked up on his training commands fairly quickly. Since I had named him “Pippin” after my favorite hobbit in The Lord of the Rings, I decided to use some alternative commands: “noro lim” for “run,” “Say something nice” for “speak,” and “avada kedrava” for “play dead.” He and Stardust’s bond grew stronger, and they were rarely apart from each other. We noticed that when they played, Stardust would grab Pippin’s collar to tackle him, while Pippin used his tiny form to “attack” her ankles. This behavior transferred over to us. Whenever we would play, he would grab the hem of our pants and skirts. That was how he earned the nickname “ankle-biter” and “Nippin’ Pippin.” It was cute . . . until he grew up.
Pippin is the perfect dog for me. He doesn’t get annoyed with my abundant snuggling, his fur has remained soft into adulthood, and he’s pretty chill. Whenever he’s not playing, he’s napping. He doesn’t bother you when you’re working, and he doesn’t have any problems stealing food or destroying things. He’s sweet and affectionate, even though he frequently has nightmares. I don’t know what makes him cry in his sleep, but whenever I go to him, he wakes up and gives me a few sleepy kisses before settling back down into a peaceful sleep. He’s quite attached to me, and he’ll come barreling out the door whenever I come home from a long day of teaching. If I take too long getting out of my car, he’ll run around the yard, barking at all the squirrels and making sure it’s “safe” for me. I never get tired of his big grin and sloppy kisses, or the way he leans against my legs for cuddles, and I will be forever blessed to have such a dog in my life.