“Dogs are like tattoos.
Ask folks about their tattoos and they can tell you exactly what was going on in their lives when they got them, how the idea came to them, why it seemed, at the time, a good thing to do… They mark their owners permanently with a visual memorial of the past. Like dogs do.
I’ve never had a tattoo, but I’ve had many dogs, and all of them have left their own indelible marks on me.”
I wish I could take credit for that passage, but those words belong to Ken Foster and are from his book The Dogs Who Found Me: What I’ve Learned From Pets Who Were Left Behind. It’s a compelling story about a man who had the misfortune to be living in downtown New York City on 9/11 and in New Orleans during Katrina, and the dogs who found him during those in-between years.
When I read the passage I had to put down the book and contemplate the three dogs that have graced my life:
- Sammie, a West Highland White Terrier, who joined my family when I was thirteen. She was a peace offering from my parents who had just announced they were splitting up. It was sort of like, “On the downside, your parents are getting divorced, but on the upside you are finally getting that dog you’ve always wanted.” (Apologies to mom and dad if that’s not the message you intended to send.)
- Gryffin, a Retriever-Chow mix I adopted from the Humane Society in Georgia, when I was living in Philadelphia but working for a company in Atlanta. My girlfriend had adopted Gryffin’s brother and was crusading to save the entire litter. In uncharacteristically spontaneous fashion – I am one of the least spontaneous people you will ever meet – I quickly got okays from my fiancé, from Delta airlines (to let the puppy fly coach with me to Philly), and from the Humane Society (which had to approve my adoption request). It was the best, if only, spontaneous decision I’ve ever made.
- Galen, a Labrador retriever-Australian shepherd mix my husband and I adopted just two months after Gryffin’s death. We had planned to wait to adopt another dog, but the emptiness in our house was too much for me to bear. So with heavy hearts and plenty of urging from our two daughters, we showed up at a local rescue group’s adoption day. That’s where Galen squirmed her cute little puppy self into Kevin’s heart. I had assumed we were looking for a male to replace Gryffin and to even out the uneven gender ratio in our home (one Kevin to three females), but Galen had him hooked. She still does.
I’ll have to ask my friend Shari about the indelible marks her dogs have left on her. When I met Shari in Atlanta, she was living with Hank and Lou and at least one cat. These days she lives in New Jersey, and while Hank and Lou past before she made the journey north, she did bring along Penny.
Penny is a princess with a mean streak who keeps her recently adopted brother, Calvin, in line.
Both Penny and Calvin are rescues.
If you own or have ever owned a dog, I hope Foster’s words inspire you to take a walk down memory lane… with your dog, of course.
If you rescued a dog (or dogs), send me a picture (or two). I’ll post the pictures on shesadork.com. And if you have a story to tell about your dog, send that along, too. –Jacki