By Amy McCollom
I have always loved animals, and animals have always loved me. I used to think I could talk to them. Maybe I can. I still seem to bond with animals easily. Dogs, in particular, have always been a big part of my life.
My family probably had more dogs than most families. All told, while growing up, I bet we had a couple dozen dogs go through our home. For one reason or another, we just never found the “perfect fit” of dog-to-family needs. That was very heart-breaking for me, for just when I was starting to love and know a dog, it was sent away, or died unexpectedly, or vanished. (So that’s what’s wrong with me…)
To be fair, we had a complex family situation; my mom ran a home daycare during my early years, so a dog would have to meet a lot of child-safety standards. Mom was also a former WAC in the Army, so she had a strict cleanliness standard as well, (and honestly, I think if my siblings and I could have been sent to the humane society for being messy, she would have done it.) A dog in a house full of children and an Army sergeant running the show had a lot that was expected of it.
Here are some of the dogs that I remember with fondness: Rufus – black and white sheepdog, died of distemper. Lady – gray poodle mix, had surprise puppies, had to go. Red – Irish Setter, kept jumping the fence and dumping the neighbors garbage cans, had to go. Ruggy – Miniature Schnauzer, died of heartworms.
There was a really fuzzy brown dog, I will call him George, who was a mixed breed of poodle and who knows what else. He looked like a muppet. Friendly little guy, and he had great potential to be a very good house dog. We only had him for three days. We took him with us on Saturday after we got him down to Walnut Point for a picnic and fishing. He was leashed, but the minute the car stopped, George started acting crazy. He growled, and pulled on his leash, wanted to run, went in circles, and just went berserk. Somehow he pulled loose from his leash, and ran directly into the forest, and that was the last we ever saw of George. We looked for hours, and never found him. Very strange.
Then, there was Benji. Benji was a poodle mix, mainly gray, but very shaggy. Benji was a pretty good dog, but as he grew, we realized he was mixed with a standard poodle, because he got really big. Then Benji developed a habit of nipping and became intolerant of children pestering him and after two years of trying to settle him down, it became a hazard and Mom decided that Benji had to go.
She placed an ad in the newspaper and a nice family from Champaign wanted to adopt him. I missed Benji, but was glad he had a good home, and was relieved that he wasn’t going to snap at me anymore.
Fast forward two years. My mom gets a phone call one night, and it’s a man in Champaign. He tells Mom that he just rescued our dog from being hit by a bus. It was raining, and the dog was lying in the middle of the street, not moving, and this man ran out in the pouring rain, and grabbed the dog up, just before a bus ran it over. My mom didn’t know what to say. She asked how he got her number, and he said because the dog was wearing it’s rabies tag, and he tracked her down that way.
It was Benji. The people we placed him with never even changed his collar. Poor Benji. My mom didn’t know quite what to say…she couldn’t say, well I gave the dog away to some people, after this man risked his life to save it. So she told him how grateful she was, and arranged to go pick up Benji. She told us when we saw the dog, “Act like you love it. This man almost died saving this dog.”
As soon as Benji saw us, he remembered us and ran to us all excited, licky face, stub tail wagging, just like old times. I really did miss that dog. I was glad to get him back, honestly.
I don’t remember how long we had Benji after we got him back, but he was one of my favorite dogs.
While John and I have been married, we have had only a few dogs. Our dogs are our children, and we don’t just throw them away if they mess up. We had a Pomeranian named Odie for six years until he was hit by a car. He was our first baby. The dog we have now, Paisley, we have had for 11 years. When she passes away, I am not sure if we will get another dog. As much as I love dogs, they require a lot of work and care, and letting them in and out. I don’t have that kind of energy any more. But aren’t dogs great! Have you ever had a really good dog? I bet you have.