Living in the Shadows, Part 2

2015-10-05 10.22.49Now where did I stop in Part 1? Hmmm..

Ah yes, my epic meltdown.

That would be the one where I irrevocably dented Ekko’s poor food bowl.

We were both different after that, in a good way.

I began to actually embrace our walks, and felt a wealth of patience and love. I knew that we’d both passed a milestone; now that we’d both found peace. It was time, he was ready.

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Shortly after Buckley came to the Rescue, we received an application from a potential adopter named Lauri from Seattle. Gordie, her aged Gordon Setter had passed over the Rainbow Bridge earlier this year. From her half-acre lot with a creek to her love of dogs and rescue experience, she was perfect!

I was optimistic, but Seattle was oh, so far away, and it was a long way to come to get a dog and then find out he didn’t fit in. We began corresponding regularly via email. I gave her detailed information and honest descriptions of our ups and downs so she would know what she was getting into. (Okay I might have glossed over the whole meltdown thing.) 😀

In turn, she confided that she wasn’t completely sure she wanted another dog. Her long-time boyfriend, also named Lori – his family is Scandinavian, where that is a man’s name – has Alzheimer’s. She thought Buckley might be a bright spot for both of them as the disease progressed, something they could simply enjoy with no remembering needed.

She surprised me with a ‘care package’ of coffee for the 5 a.m. walks and dental chews to help with his teeth, which needed cleaning.

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We seemed to have a lot in common as the weeks and emails, which now included video and pictures, passed. My reaction when, focused on shooting video, I ran into a stick dangling from a tree and gouged my forehead was just a bonus. 😉

Around the end of August, about 5 weeks after we began fostering Buckley, I received an email from Lauri:

“I wonder if I found the reason that you didn’t give up on Buckley.  Without you providing updates and info on exactly what Buckley is like I might not have continued to have interest in him, because of the distance.  As it was the stories kept me thinking.. hmm,maybe.  Well last night I showed my boyfriend the photo of Buckley looking at the printer and the photo of him standing on a leash looking at the camera with his head cocked.  I’d shown them to him before but he didn’t remember.  Anyway, this time he looked at the first photo, and looked and looked.  I reached to take the phone to bring up the 2nd one but he held on to it a bit longer.  Wanted to look some more.  When I showed him the second one he did the same… lonnng look…  with a dreamy-eyed smile.  It made me think, whether *I* need Buckley or not, I think my boyfriend needs me to have him so he can enjoy him.  It was a look I hadn’t seen for a very, very long time.  

The photos came up in conversation because I’d sent them to a trusted friend.  I told her I was considering adopting and asked if she wanted to ‘talk me down’.  Her reply;

Lauri, you can’t say no now, this one needs you and you need this one, just look at this face,  he needs your love!!!!!!!!!!!  (Not much help, am I?)”

I was too moved by Lauri’s email to respond right away. It brought tears to my eyes.

Lauri and Lori must be incredibly special people for God to weave his handiwork to bring Buckley into their lives.

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If we had never lost Harley, who was a boisterous handful, we would have never been able to take in Buckley. And if I had refused to listen to my inner voice and given up on him, this adoption would not be happening.

From that point forward, things began moving quickly. I began things to prepare him for his new people: we stepped up the car rides and increased our leash training.

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Labor Day weekend Lauri surprised Lori with a drive to the airport; she told him they were flying to Minneapolis, renting a car and coming here to pick up Buckley. He was overjoyed.

My friend Jenny suggested wisely that we get him an Adaptile collar, which emits ‘happy’ pheromones to calm him for the transition to a new home and a cross country car trip. I placed the collar on him as they pulled in the drive, hoping that he would associate the ‘happy’ feelings with seeing them.

It worked like a charm! See? 🙂

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Lauri and Lori were as nice as I knew they would be. They had planned to stay for an hour or so to get to know him, but thanks to the ‘happy collar’ he took to them so quickly that it seemed they were here only a few minutes.

Off they went on an epic road trip back to Seattle, venturing through the Black Hills and Mount Rushmore, visiting the Corn Palace in Mitchell and the famous Wall Drug among other highlights. 2, 552 miles later, they were home safe and sound.

Buckley is now Bo, and is settling nicely into his new life.

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He has some challenges: he still needs work socializing with other dogs,  and he still hates being crated and left alone. But he’s learning to play, and he’s getting love and patience from people who have plenty of it to give.

“And Lori.. well he’s totally enjoying Bo.  Loves to watch him run in the yard, the way he hunkers down and walks low when he hunts, the way he sits so tall and watches for squirrels and birds in the trees, the speed Bo has when he takes off on a dead run (after who knows what), his playfulness when we throw toys for him in the house and he fetches and prances around.  (another video I need to get).  He calls him Gordie 90% of the time and it makes me think that not always, but sometimes, Lori thinks this is Gordie.  Has this allowed him to go back to when Gordie was still with us?  Wouldn’t that be wonderful for anyone.. to be able to go back in time, before a loss, as if it never occurred?   What a gift that would be.  Sometimes I’ve thought it might be too confusing to have gotten a dog that’s the same breed as the one we recently lost, but maybe for Lori it was exactly the right thing to do.” 🙂

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As for us, Bo gave us a new appreciation for our sweet little girls we have. Sometimes it’s easy to ‘want’ instead of appreciate what you have. It reminded me how precious time really is and how you shouldn’t squander it on things that don’t matter. And, thanks to him, I have a new friend.

It’s an amazing demonstration of God’s work that a sweet little boy who spent the first years of his life living in the shadows should accompany a man as his life’s journey takes him deeper into the shadows of Alzheimer’s.

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Thank you for helping all of us grow into better people, Bo. Have a wonderful life. You deserve it. 🙂

Living in the Shadows

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I really wouldn’t have believed this had I not lived it myself. It just goes to show how God’s plan for us is so much bigger than we can ever conceive.

I almost gave up on him.

He was a mess.

Dogs tell you a lot about their former lives through their behaviors. Buckley was a timid and sweet but nervous, un-socialized ball of fur who’d lived on scraps supplemented by dog food. He didn’t know how to play with toys and had never had treats. He’d never had a collar much less walked on a leash and most likely his only bath had been right before he came into the Rescue.

It’s not like people tell you “Basically I had this dog in my backyard, I fed it and occasionally he got to play and that’s it.”

Buckley was the product of an accidental litter between a Gordon Setter and an Irish Setter. His parents were breeding stock, and the only time in his 5-year life he’d been out of the backyard was to go to the vet. He saw the same people, the same dogs, and did the same thing every day.

It’s like he lived the first part of his life unseen: he lived in the shadows.

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His previous owners were not bad people. They were very nice, former breeders who had simply had grown older and out of the business with several dogs they had never placed. Life is busy, and time had simply slipped by.

One quality I’ve observed about breeders is that most of them think of their breeding animals more as livestock. It’s not a mindset I understand nor share, but that doesn’t make them wrong and me right; it just IS. And that’s why we live in America. 🙂

There’s obviously a need and a place for breeders in the world. I have friends who are good, responsible breeders and are huge advocates of rescue. Not all breeders are bad. (Some are, but that isn’t what this post is about.)

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The reality was that we had so little information about him when he came in that we didn’t realize Buckley had all these issues. It’s very likely his owners didn’t either. After all, he had lived in their backyard all his life where everything was comfortable and familiar, and since they didn’t spend any time with him, how would they know?

“What was I thinking, fostering a BIRD dog without a fenced yard?”I ask myself now.  😀

And yet, he taught me more about life in the 6 weeks I’d had him than anyone else ever had.

He was full of nervous energy, unmotivated by treats or toys, hated being crated with a passion. My friend Jenny, very knowledgeable and wise about these matters, offered wisdom and crate toys to prevent boredom. Unfortunately, he wasn’t treat or toy motivated.

For the first week or two he was here, he would wail constantly when I left the house, no matter who was home. My poor husband, who is notorious for being impatient, was wonderfully patient. He was much more gracious than I would have been after listening to him wail for 45 minutes.

After several battles, Buckley and I finally came to a mutual understanding: I would agree to stop crating him, and he would agree to stop wailing every time I left.

Everything was new to him. Sounds, mirrors, dog beds, television.

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He hadn’t yet learned healthy outlets for his nervous energy, such as chewing on a bone or toys. So, we walked. And walked and walked and walked.

I walked my yard more in the 6 weeks I had him more than I had in the last 15 years. When I look back upon that period, I feel like it was spent walking Buckley, with short stints of productive activity in between.

And we walked.

In the rain. In the heat. In the dark.

I prayed daily that he would be adopted, and yet in my heart I knew he wasn’t ready.

I had grown to care about this sweet little boy who deserved a life and a loving family. And certainly no one would be willing to take him on at this point; I could barely do it myself.

Something inside me just kept telling me to hold on. “Don’t give up on him! Don’t give up!” the tiny little voice said.

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And so I kept plodding along. Get up, walk Buckley. Work out, walk Buckley. Shower, walk Buckley. And so it went.

One hot, miserable summer day my increasing frustration bubbled over. I couldn’t take it.

I had an epic meltdown.

Fortunately, only the dogs were here to see it. It involved yelling, screaming, and repeatedly banging poor Ekko’s food dish on the kitchen counter top. It has a nice little dent in it to remind me of that day.

And then, it was over. I was exhausted, and but relieved. I felt lighter.

Sitting at my desk a while later, I realized something that was so profound, I wrote it down in my notebook so I would be sure to remember.

“I’m focusing on the wrong things for the direction I want to go.

Spend time working on the activities that get you where you need to be.”

Time is a precious commodity, and life will always be busy. I needed to spend my precious hours between Buckley walks working on the things that are really important. The big things. The things that matter. And my family, the parts of my work that really matter, those are the things I needed to be focusing on, not the busy work of scratching things off a list.


And just like that, I let the “To Do” list go.

I still make notes  and write down things I’m afraid I’ll forget to do so I don’t have to carry them in my head. That list just matters less.

Most people have to get sick or suffer a loss to come to these conclusions. All I had to foster a difficult dog. I am truly blessed.


2015-09-03 19.52.31This picture is blurry, but it still makes me laugh.

“What, momma? Is there more?”

Yep, there sure is. I hope you’ll come back for the rest of the story, because it’s awfully special too. 🙂