Part of adopting a rescue dog is being uncertain of the past. Miss Maxine, as you may recall, started as a mill dog who had a litter or two very young. Then she was a farm dog, fed only scraps of people food and (probably) given no real love. Then she was adopted by a couple who brought her back within a month because she wasn't the right fit for them. While we know the general outline, we don't know any of the specifics. With Pepper, it's even less clear. All we know is that his owner died, he was transported from Kentucky to Wisconsin (in the dead of winter), and now he's our little man. Who knows what happened during his 10-12 years of life before us?
Part of adopting an older/senior dog is being uncertain of the future. Maxi was probably about 2 when we adopted her almost 5 years ago, so she's about 7 now (maybe as young as 6 or as old as 8). She still thinks she's a puppy sometimes, and she's always full of energy and excitement. We figure she's got a decent amount of time left with us, and we'll do whatever we can to make sure that's the case. When you adopt an older dog, every day going forward is more precious, but less certain. Pepper is our old man. The people who first rescued him thought he was about 7 years old. Then the vet in WI took a look and decided he was more like 10-12, but probably closer to 10 since he's still pretty spunky. This past week, we were told he was more likely on the upper end (more precisely, we were told he was "older than [we] thought"). We've had him for almost 6 months now, but we have no idea how much longer he'll be in our lives. He's in heart failure, has thyroid issues, urinates ALL the time, and is a crotchety old man. And even though we don't know everything that the future holds, we do know that we're in it with him all the way.
Part of adopting ANY dog (really, any animal at all) is love. Unconditional, intense, instant, everlasting love. If you don't love your dog, it's not the dog's fault... Our dogs can drive us absolutely insane. They steal our food, make messes in our house, demand attention at inopportune moments, bark their fool heads off for no real reason, need to be taken out in all kinds of weather, and frequently act like our desire to cuddle them is an annoyance at best. But we wouldn't change a thing. We chastise them for stealing our steak, but still share our bacon. We clean up their messes and blame ourselves for being inattentive. We shirk our responsibilities to make sure our pups know they're loved. We let them bark, take them out in a foot of snow or the dead of night, and we force them into cuddling even if they squirm the whole time. And we do it all because we freakin' love those little furballs more than we can even explain.
And it's that love that means we'll do anything if we think it will help them stay in our lives even for one more afternoon, one more walk, one more cuddle. We know they won't live forever. We might hope and pray that they will, but somewhere inside we know that they will leave us eventually. And as heartbreaking as it is to lose a family member - furry or otherwise - we know that we're better off for having had them in our lives at all. And if we've done things right, we know that they were better off for having been part of our family, no matter how briefly.
This may all seem obvious (especially if you have a pet that you love with all of your heart), but I felt it necessary that I explain all of this before diving into the events coming in the next few posts.
To be continued...