Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Canine Fiasco

Last Wednesday, I got a phone call from my wife Tara shortly after I arrived at work. I really didn't expect what she was about to tell me. Turns out she was doing some work while sitting on our front porch when our dog Bailey started going nuts about something to the right of our house (we live on the end of our block next to an empty grass lot). When Tara peeked over the ledge, there was a stray dog standing in the lot, who then slowly made his way to the front of our house and just stood there. Bailey, a hyper, playful dog who just wants to socialize with dogs and humans at all times of day (or night) greeted this new quadruped with barks, growls, and an assortment of other canine language. Wisely, Tara took Bailey inside before -- perhaps unwisely? -- inviting this homeless young rottweiler/husky mix into our front yard and offering him water and dog food. She checked his neck and found no collar, no tags, and he appeared to not be neutered either.

At this point, Tara called me and filled me in.

"I really like him," she said.
"Are you freaking kidding me?! And where's Bailey?" I responded.
"Inside the house. Can we keep him?"
(She then proceded to take four pictures of him and immediately email them to me)

The truth of the matter is, Tara and I are two of the biggest suckers for dogs you've ever seen. If we didn't have job responsibilities, owned a mansion, and somehow had tons of cash to spare, we'd probably have a dozen or so dogs at this point. Unfortunately, with reality serving as that all too familiar buzz kill, we both knew that it was just not feasible for us to take on a second dog, especially since we're planning to become parents soon. But since the dog was now in our front yard and had been fed, we were too involved. There was no way Tara could or would just open the gate and let him loose again. At the same time, with Bailey inside, we didn't want to risk putting them together. This stray was much bigger than Bailey and if he attacked her, there's no way Tara would've been able to pull him off her, especially since he didn't have a collar on. But since Tara and dog were growing more and more attached to each other by the minute, she ended up having to pretty much cancel much of her day's work plans in order to sit out on the porch with him and make phone calls to local shelters to report a found dog, while I posted online ads, hoping against hope that an owner was out there and would contact me.

When I got home around 5:30, I was quite surprised to see that the dog was a lot bigger than his pictures made him out to be. Isn't the camera supposed to ADD weight? Tara had been busy teaching him how to sit and was proving successful...(not good). I went into the house and locked Bailey into one of the rooms upstairs and we decided to bring the stray inside. He looked huge as he playfully thumped from the living room all the way back to the kitchen. Bailey was freaking out upstairs and didn't sound pleased that we were keeping her isolated from our new guest. Without much discussion, however, we knew we couldn't prolong this any further. We put a leash on him and loaded him into the car...praying he wouldn't have any bodily episodes along the way.

Thankfully we arrived at the animal care and control center without any incident. In fact, it seemed as though the dog really enjoyed the ride, as most of them do. As I filled out the paperwork, Tara was starting to lose it. She had spent less than a day with this dog, but that had been more than enough time to forge a bond. It didn't help that the dog decided to roll over and let us scratch his belly right then and there -- something he hadn't done all day. For the purpose of the shelter's records, we told the woman behind the desk about how friendly the dog was, that he was great with three young kids who stopped by earlier in the day, and that he was well-behaved in the car. The last thing the woman asked us for was a name to put in their system. Tara and I had decided some time ago that when we get a second dog -- whenever that is -- we will name him Utley (after Phillies' second baseman, Chase Utley of course). But hey, why not now? So we told the woman our name choice and she gave a sort of weird half-smile as she entered it in. (When I reviewed the paperwork later that evening, I understood why she made that face -- it turns out she thought we said "Ugly"...oops!). One of the people in charge told us about the care the dog would be receiving, the medical checks, the screenings, and most unfortunately, the risk of euthanasia if the shelter becomes too crowded. However, the good news is that the first dogs to be euthanized in those situations are ones with the worst behavior and/or health problems, so the fact that "Utley" is friendly and healthy bodes well for his chances.

When the shelter worker took the dog from us and headed back through the large double doors, Tara completely lost it. In the almost-decade I've known her, I've never seen her cry that hard. While I didn't actually cry, I felt exactly the same way. Even though we know there are so many stray animals in so many shelters, something just happens when one of them becomes a personal companion to you, even if it's just for a matter of hours. If two grown people that upset over an animal seems weird to you, then I'm sorry, but you just can't understand that kind of painful sentiment. I don't mean that in a disparaging way, but you have to be a true dog lover to get it. At the end of the day, we both agreed that we did what needed to be done, and thankfully many of our friends encouraged us in the same way. To the best of our knowledge, the dog is still at the shelter and available for adoption. Let me or Tara know if you're interested and we'd be happy to help you out.


  1. I totally laughed out loud when I got to the "Ugly" part. Oh gosh Alan, did you change them change the name?? And yeah, maybe you should name the dog Chase, not Utley, since people might think you're calling your dog Ugly! hahahaha.

  2. And p.s. I feel for Tara. I mean, if my cat ever died... Well, once I dreamed that she had and that was bad enough. I hope somebody nice adopts poor Ugly.