Saturday, January 3, 2009
WILLY BOY'S HOLIDAY RESCUE
How can you abandon such a dog? When my daughter the Child Psychologist and her husband the Budding Real Estate Tycoon drove from their home near Dayton to the town of Wilmington a week or so before Christmas, intending to look at a bank-foreclosed property the son-in-law was listing, they had no plans to add to their family. So far as they were concerned, the two of them plus their two cats seemed an entirely adequate household—at least for the time being. “No grandbabies for you yet, Pops,” is the answer I regularly receive when I badger my only offspring for someone I can spoil by turning them into a fly fisherman (or fisherwoman, makes no difference to me), piano gypsy, book collector, and inveterate outdoor rambler. Fate, of course, had a surprise for everyone. The house, a nice residential home in a nice neighborhood had been empty for weeks…well, almost empty. When the CP and BRET got there they found a note from the power company saying they’d been unable to shut off gas or electric (not sure which) to the house because there was a dog locked inside the residence. Whether this was a case of individual good will or company policy, I have no idea. Whatever the reason, it undoubtedly saved the above fellow’s life. November hereabouts had been unseasonably cold. Temperatures were often brutal, falling into the single digits only a few days before. The first few weeks of December were only marginally better. Many days and nights dipped into or remained below freezing. Think of locking a little dog in the refrigerator for six weeks and expecting it to survive. How thoughtlessly cruel can people be? Inside, the dog, a ragged-looking, smelly mess, was shivering and shaking—grateful as any castaway on the brink of doom and without a glimmer of hope would feel when salvation suddenly appears. The house was spackled with droppings and urine spots. The dog’s former owners, in an attempt, perhaps, to salve their merciless consciences, had left a bag of kibbles open on the floor, plus a water bowl now filthy and empty; apparently the tiny pooch had survived by drinking from the toilet. “There was no question about not taking him home,” my daughter said. And so they did—by way of the vet’s for an examination, shots, and a bath, and then to their condo where the cats, both bigger than the little guy, greeted their new family member with that aloof reserve cats always exhibit to creatures not lucky enough to have been born feline. According to the vet’s best guess, the dog is a poodle/Maltese mix, about four or five years old. The daughter and son-in-law named him William, in part for the town where he was found. I think he’s more of a Willy. As it happened, the CP and BRET had made plans for a New Year’s getaway to the Hocking Hills, located in the rugged, unglaciated southeastern corner of the state—Ohio’s hidden and generally unsuspected miniature portion of the Appalachians. At literally the last minute, they learned the lodge where they’d booked their rooms did not allow dogs. Naturally, old Pops got the next call; naturally, old Pop agreed to dog-sit for the next four days. “He is your new granddog,” my daughter pointed out. “A little hairier than expected,” I said, “but I do see a resemblance to the Budding Real Estate Tycoon.” Normally, I’m not a fan of foo-foo dogs. I don’t dislike them, but I just think dogs the size of fox squirrels are somehow genetically wrong. Usually, teensy-tiny dogs yap…and yap…and yap. Not with authority, not so a burglar or mugger would think twice—but in a voice and pitch reminiscent of Truman Capote; annoying, penetrating. I don’t mean to imply I prefer a vicious dog; but when a dog does decide to savage your ankle, it ought to be able to do more than prick holes in your socks. Willy Boy is nothing like this. He seldom barks—and when he does, which has been about three times during his stayover—it’s a sort of single-note honk, like a small goose with a tenor voice. Not frightening, of course, but also not annoying. He’s a busy, high-energy pooch, prancing about on mile-a-minute legs, tiny toenails clicking on the floor. Not all the time…only when you’re doing something and he wants to check it out and keep you company. Otherwise, he curls up on the couch and sleeps, half-hidden under a pillow. I don’t know anything about his history, but he seems perfectly happy here on the riverbank. My own dog, Moon (also a foundling) is a bit curious, but willing to accept Willy as a welcome visitor, even sharing her food. Willy Boy is polite and gentle, loves to hop up in your lap, and always waits to be invited in or out of the house. He comes when called, does his business outside every time you ask, and frankly, is no trouble whatsoever while being as fine an example of dogdom as anyone could ask. When he gets picked up this afternoon, I’ll miss him. I still don’t understand how anyone could abandon such a creature. So far as I’m concerned, when you take on a dog, you’ve simply adopted another family member, no different than if it were a child. With dog or child comes responsibility. You don’t abandon either. There’s just no excuse. Willy now has a loving home and a future; we have a new family member. A Christmas miracle with a cold nose and warm heart.