Ruth; Charleston, SC
Old books and old buildings draw me in. Within old books I've found
treasures of history. Within old houses I've found spectacular architecture,
fascinating life styles and wonderful people with wonderful stories. I like
old books, I like old houses; so, it was no surprise when I decided my next
dog would be an old dog.
After a lifetime collection of adopted pound dogs, picking
the sad eyed waif huddling in the corner, or taking in a family member's
"found" dog, it was time for me to launch into modern technology. I was
off to the search on the Internet, specifically www.PetFinder.com. For those
of you who don't know, this is the search site for animal lovers! It is
especially the search sight for animal lovers who know exactly who or what
they want to rescue. It is a rescue only site and there are categories from
"barnyard" to "small and furry." I jumped right onto "dog."
Most important, I wanted an old dog. None of that chewing
and piddling. None of that house training and leash training. After three
children and ample animals, I was searching for a dog settled in their ways,
lovable and obedient. In short, I wanted to know what I was getting.
Here's another insight for those who don't know. Mutts are
wonderful and I've had my share, but this time I knew the breed I wanted.
Don't feed a puppy mill with your greenbacks, for among the mixed-up mutts,
there is every breed imaginable available from Affenpinscher to Yorkshire
Terrier, all rescued, on PetFinder.com. Once upon a time I lived with a
"found" purebred dog, whose breed I will not disclose here. Morgan was stubborn,
untrainable, intractable, and too low to the ground for me to move. In short,
living with that breed once, for me, was enough. To each his own! This time
I was picking the breed and I knew what I wanted. I typed in English Setter.
I wanted an old dog and I wanted an English Setter, the affectionate
personality with none of the puppy or teenager stuff of youth. For those
of you who don't know the breed, no, they are not longhaired Dalmatians.
Here in Retriever country, I am asked that often when folks see my chosen
old "puppy." English Setters are the beautiful "bird dogs" of field and
stream, pheasant and quail hunter/ retrievers. Bred as companion dogs, they
are the sweetest dogs, gentle temperament, aiming to please and wonderful
family dogs. The only thing English setters have in common with Dalmatians
are their multitudinous spots.
I set off on my mission. After about two months of checking
PetFinder, I saw Annie. Her photo caught my attention first; she was so
sweet looking. I called her rescuer; Annie's story grabbed my heart, permanently.
Annie was a puppy mill mom. The beautiful blue belton setter was bred year
upon year, producing litter after litter. Finished with her, the breeder
handed her off to a hunter. Annie, the bird dog who spent her life in a
kennel producing puppies for profit, was turned into the pound with a note
"Will not hunt the way I want." Annie was eight years old. A Good Samaritan
redeemed her the day before she was scheduled for execution. "I couldn't
leave her there," were the rescuer's words.
Annie was in Virginia, Wise to be exact. I was in Charleston,
South Carolina to be specific. None of that mattered. I wanted that dog!
I told Annie's angel, the lady who saved her, it would be a month before
I could drive up to adopt her, maybe someone else would ask for her first.
"No", I was told, "few people want old dogs. Annie is yours, she goes off
One month later I fetched my "ancient" Annie, eight-years-old,
to her "furever" home. She had never, ever, lived inside, yet she was housebroken
from the first day. She knew the commands "Come", "Sit," and "Stay." Say
"No" and Annie freezes until you release her. She is that easy to train.
I will say that gentle temperament and wanting to please you was a reason
for wanting the setter. Another reason for adopting an old dog - you know
just who is moving in with you.
For the first week, having a large fenced in yard, my new
"baby" ran and trotted an elongated figure 8 at the back door. I realized
immediately that Annie had learned this exercise pattern in a kennel. She
would trot that figure 8 for what seemed an eternity. Here was my big back
yard, now hers, complete with birds, grass and a back section of overgrown
"wild-life habitat", yet Annie ran her figure 8 at the back door. She resembled
an Olympian training for the ice skating compulsories, follow the line,
over and over. A week or so later she realized that she owned the yard,
totally. No more figure 8's. Now Annie enjoys being mistress of the "back
40" and prances wherever and whenever she chooses. Joy for her and joy for
me to see.
There is such joy in seeing an old dog, especially one with
Annie's history, happy! Say the word "Walk" or "Ride" and she dances, I
mean really dances! She is so full of happiness and spirit, one can't help
but celebrate with her. Once the leash is on, old Annie heels perfectly.
Lily, a four-year-old who lives up our street, cannot walk the family dog
who tugs and pulls, but Lily takes a leashed Annie on walks. The setter,
as you might guess, weighs more than the little girl. Not only can you teach
old dogs new tricks, they want to learn, and love is the reward!
On the other hand, Annie has never understood that she no
longer needs many of her previously learned survival techniques. My now
eleven-year-old puppy is in some ways obsessive compulsive. She must
turn a circle, counterclockwise, before coming inside. Some days require
two or three circles, turning as a slow motion hurricane does on the radar
screen. She must never, ever, step on an iron grate or into a puddle of
water; I have no idea what drives her fears. She is terrified of narrow
passages, yet will always come when called, racing "the gauntlet" in terror.
Her quirks, you must admit, are kind of cute, a part of her
personality and my neighborhood has embraced Annie. Just last week, as I
crossed the street to speak with Janet, while another neighbor strolled
by walking her dog. I called out "Don't worry. Annie won't leave her yard."
The answer came back, "I know, she is the perfect dog."
Annie, adopted at age eight, is now eleven. My Annie is a
non-speaking spokesdog for the world of old dogs. Rescue one, adopt one
and/or support those who do! Every tale should have such a happy ending.
Annie and I offer a heartfelt thank you to all who rescue
the dogs, the animals, the young and the old, the innocents of this world.
God bless all.