Tuesday, 7 June 2016

There's a New Man in My Life. . .

May 25, 2016

I need to share something with you that so far, only family and a very few friends have been privy to.  

Eric and Me, 1981
For those of you who know me, you will know that Eric and I have been together for almost twice as long as we've been apart.  We met at the tender ages of 19 and 22 respectively, and have been together ever since. For those of you who know me, you will also know that Eric and I made a conscious choice to lead our lives as DINKS (Double Income, No Kids).   We have always been content to be cat people; we loved their warm furry comfort but we also appreciated their independence.  Because we both understand that we are nothing without family, we have tried to position ourselves as a fabulous aunt and uncle and poured what latent parenting skills we have into our four-legged furbabies.  I think it's fair to say, we felt complete. . . until very recently.

Hoskin nieces and nephews
If one would have asked either one of us, six months ago, or even two, if we knew what was coming down the pike, I'm confident the response would have been a resounding "NO".  True, nothing in life is perfect; every relationship is a continuous work in progress, just as we ourselves are.  But it has been many years since either one of us have had the thought that perhaps something in our lives was missing. Yes, we have had our ups and downs but, still, we have been happy. 

To be completely blindsided by a whirlwind romance at this stage of my life not only leaves me dazed and confused, but gloriously giddy.   If I feel that way, I can only imagine that others in our lives will feel much the same way.   I feel the need to explain, in the best way I can, what exactly happened, and to ask you not to judge me until you know my story.   I believe this love to be genuine; I believe it's not going to go away any time soon.  I believe it's fair to ask my friends for understanding and perhaps a bit of leeway while I explore this new relationship to its very depths.  I want to share this new-found love with the world, but particularly with those of my world, who also love me.   I want you to see my new love through my eyes and love Him as I do.

A little about Him.  Just as in any fairy tale romance, he's tall, dark and handsome.  My heart flutters, simply by gazing into his beautiful brown eyes.  Admittedly, he's a bit of a flirt; a ladies man, some would call him but, at the end of the day, it's my voice that turns his head, my side that he prefers to stay by as we sit quietly together in the evenings before bed.  And when an unkindness slips between us, as it can, He cares enough for me to let it go, and love me despite my human flaws.

Being a strong, independent woman, I have never wanted protection, and yet, I love that He would defend me if he judged I needed defending.  Ever the gentleman, He has not lost his inner child, his playfulness.  I love how He stretches and challenges me to learn new skills and be the best person I can be.  I love that He keeps me active and busy, both in mind and body.  

I know this love is the real thing; I know it with every fiber of my being because, not only do I love all that makes Him wonderful, I am learning to even love the not so grand habits and idiosyncrasies that set us apart, one from the other.   Like the fact that His breath is less than pleasant more often than not.  Or His unbecoming habit of chewing with his mouth open with bits of food falling from open jaws. Or the fact that, while fastidious in His bathroom habits, I've not smelled anything quite so foul!

Over time, I hope ever single one of you have the opportunity to meet Him.  Starting with my family, I pray that each of you find it in your hearts to embrace Him in the same manner that I do.   He truly is a special one. And, so you can get accustomed to the idea that He is now a significant fixture in my life, I'm sharing a photo to give you a chance to consider what I've said, get to know his features, and perhaps see some of the same beauty of his soul that I do.    
Bruce, age 3.5
Let this be our formal announcement that Eric and I have delved into the world of dogdom, something neither one of us ever thought we would do.  Through a series of incidents, starting with the loss of three smaller 4-legged family members over the past year, and compounded by the number of thefts and break-ins in the community, we chose to expand our family and invite a member that we hope discourages predators of both the two and four-legged variety and brings us the joy that only a dog can provide. 

A rescue dog, He is also a victim of Alberta's oil patch woes. His man could no longer afford to keep him.  While we are still learning how to work together, he has some pretty good basic manners (perhaps even better than ours).  We shall see how it goes but right now, I think it's safe to say that we are quietly building a relationship on a solid foundation of love and mutual respect.  Wish us well. 

June 7, 2016
I agonized what to do with this story; sadly, it doesn't have the ending we aspired to.  Sadly, not everything in life turns out as we hope.  Our first venture into dogdom did not end happily for us or for Bruce.

As I mentioned, Bruce was also a victim of the oil patch and, as such, came with his own baggage.  In a short week, I came to understand that he lived a rather unstructured, rambunctious bachelor life with his previous person.  It's the only way that I can justify his extreme excitement at the sound of a diesel truck; his immediate response of jumping up on you (I'm told it's called 'hugging') or trying to sit in your lap.  He was unaware that standing on a coffee table to look out a window may not be considered fitting behaviour of any dog, let alone a large dog.  When tied, he displayed a keen awareness of how to remain untangled and yet he never sat down, but simply paced. He was also inappropriately protective.  When asked why we might return a dog to the rescue, we told them death (ours, not his) or any type of undesirable aggression. While we were prepared to put in the time for all his other dog traits, biting was not one we were prepared to contend with.  

As much as we loved this boy, after much soul searching, we finally came to the conclusion to return him to the rescue.  While we were willing to expend the resources in behavior modification training, as first-time dog owners, we were concerned that we would not have the skills necessary.  Because we have visitors, including small children, we weren't confident we would be able to fully trust Bruce around anyone other than ourselves.  And, because of his high energy and need to work, we couldn't stand the thought that he would find himself living in a dog run unless out on a leash. It's simply not who he is meant to be.

I share our story in hopes that others do not follow in our footsteps. I have analyzed this to death and I believe I know where we went wrong.  Before we arrived at the rescue, Eric made me promise that I would make decisions with my head, rather than my heart.  We did not arrive at the rescue intent on bringing a dog home.  In fact, we arrived to view a completely different dog, to try to get a feel for what having a dog might mean and what we might need to do to prepare.  We had no run; we had no kennel; we had nothing.  We would have time to address these things because we weren't coming home with a dog.

Not only did I break that promise; Eric, who is very much a 'head over heart' kind of guy, fell into the same trap. We were both instantly in love with Bruce. When we raised concerns about not being adequately equipped to handle a dog, the rescue was quick to offer suggestions:  We didn't have the money on hand; there were bank machines in town.  We didn't have a kennel; the local pet store is open.  We had no food; they could send us home with a bag.  We had no equipment, we could buy a leash from them, as well as a dog blanket.  A few laps around the parking lot with Bruce and we were good to go. . . and so we did.

In hindsight, considering the chaotic viewing area, a small front office with a staffed desk, other dogs in the area, clients coming and going to drop their dog off for boarding and daycare or as a prospective adoption. . . in hindsight, the situation is less than ideal. . . but we were in love.  The fact that Bruce nipped someone as they entered the office, should have been enough to send us running. Because the trainers blew it off, insisting it was a first time event and not his fault because he was startled; because we were in love; we accepted what we wanted to believe in our hearts.  In hindsight, we have no reason to believe Bruce thought he did anything wrong.  It was over as fast as it had begun.

Another clue was when I contacted a second trainer who had worked with Bruce, indicating that he was a 'nipper'.  While we may not have had a dog for many years, we were both well aware of any number of nippers and, to our knowledge, once a nipper, always a nipper.  This was not good news at all.

The second bite only a few short days later, was also unprovoked and we just couldn't rationalize the potential to put our family and friends at risk by keeping him.  And now we sit with broken hearts, wondering what fate Bruce has met with because in so many ways, he is an awesome dog and we know we inadvertently did him a huge disservice.   Whether the rescue agrees or not, we believe Bruce belongs in the hands of an experienced handler.  It has also give us pause for thought regarding for profit rescue agencies. While I believe the original intent is pure, I can see how financial obligations can get in the way of doing what's best for the dog and the client.  I'm not saying this is what happened, but I'm now very much aware of that potential.

I am not without blame either.  Generally speaking, Bruce had impeccable manners.  He knew all his basic commands and had darn good recall.  While it was suggested he should remain on a lead for at least the first month, I had Bruce running free.  Because he was such a bundle of energy, and we had yet to purchase a run, we were playing fetch.  When the vehicle pulled into the yard, Bruce completely ignored me, bouncing all around it.  And while we had warned the occupant not to get out, she did and, when she turned her back, he went for her butt. . . and not in a good way.  

While somewhat worse the wear, we have decided, rather than give up on having a dog, we would learn from our mistakes.  While we had Bruce for one week only, we absolutely LOVED having him! He's smart and funny and so full of life and love!  Even still, we know him to be special and aren't fully even sure that we can find another that we will so openly and willingly fall in love with.

We have contacted a local trainer who not only comes highly recommended but specializes in our breed of choice. We have asked her to help us choose a dog that is right for us, after which we will immediately be going into a training program.  We are in no particular hurry. We will wait as long as we need to because our first priority is to ensure that we do no harm to another dog, ourselves or someone else.  We'll keep you posted.

Wish us luck.