Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Otter's Story

Two months before Scott and I got married, we decided we wanted a dog after much discussion. I had owned dogs on and off all my life so I was fully aware of the commitment. We adopted River. He was a rescue at a shelter a few miles from our home. The gentleman at the kennel acted as though he was almost sad to see him leave.  We learned he had been tied outside in a barn most of his life and that his sister had already been adopted. On the way home he got car sick, but there was so much excitement, we were not alarmed.

He had a few accidents in the house when we got him home but again, we were not concerned. He had taken a liking to the big blue reading chair and loved being curled up in it to sleep. He was learning how to walk on a leash with good manners when the pivotal moment occurred...  someone set off fireworks and River took off like a missile, Scott in tow. From there, the downward spiral was rapid. His fear aggression was so bad that my daughter could not leave her bedroom unless River was crated. A friend who has large dogs and is a huge animal lover came over to visit and he tried to go through the window after her when she was leaving. Never did he show any signs of aggression toward Scott or I. 

We called the shelter for help and the response was devastating. The lady I spoke with on the phone was very nice but she didn't want the staff at the shelter to see River come back there. I sensed she left out the word "again". The only recommendation she had was to take him to the local vet the following morning. They would have someone meet us there. I had to work so my husband took him. I knew ...  I knew how this story was going to end and I still cry about it... two and a half  years later. The shelter staff never met us there but the vet was expecting River. River was euthanized. A few weeks later we received a refund of our adoption fee. We never asked for it... in fact - we signed a paper saying we wouldn't be given a refund as part of the adoption contract. 

We went to the local SPCA and filled out an application for a dog we saw online but the staff were a bit discouraging, almost seeming like they wanted to talk us out of this dog. It turned out someone else also had an application for "Cookie" so the SPCA would call us the following day to let us know how that had worked out. Before they called us, I called them and said, that perhaps they were right, "Cookie" might not be the dog for us. She didn't travel well in the car and we wanted to take our dog with us as much as possible. She also required frequent grooming and our schedules were packed tight. Daily grooming was going to be a burden. But -- at this point, the SPCA staff tried to talk me into changing my mind and reconsidering this dog. It turned out the first family did indeed adopt her and I have no idea how that turned out. During this process we also had a less than friendly interaction with a staff member at the local SPCA who was angry that another staff member  had allowed us access to the dog area while the dog runs were being cleaned. At this point our adoption process was more than a little discouraging.

The wedding was just a few weeks away so we were busy and extremely excited about our two week honeymoon where we would be camping, hiking, kayaking and biking through New Hampshire and Maine. Conversation about getting another dog was common and often one of us would think of a name that would be cool for a dog. While we tramped around the White Mountains we would see trail and town names that caught our eyes. We were fortunate to meet many hikers with dogs on the trails in New England and would always strike up a conversation with them. One of our favorite days in Maine was spent at Otter Cliffs. I thought "Otter" would be a great dog name and my husband laughed and said, "that's kinda yuppie"...  Everywhere we went there were fun dog names...

I have a few friends who volunteer for the local SPCA and one of them came to work in mid-July and said there was a dog there we just had to see. Scott agreed, albeit we were both a bit reluctant. But ... at 3:30 in the afternoon we went to look at this dog. 

Oh boy... she was one hyper little canine and not a challenge we were sure we were up to since we were a bit gun shy about this process anyhow. However -- there were a few other dogs we really wanted to get to know. We went back to the front desk and the line was long -- very, very long. My husband had to be at work at 5:00 so we couldn't stay but decided we would come back the following morning when they opened.

At 10:00 the next morning we were there to meet the dogs we were interested in. Our first choice had already found a home. So they recommended we go back and look again. We saw three we wanted to take out to the play yard and, as the process goes, headed out to get back in line for another turn. 

There were people picking up and dropping off dogs and cats at the spay/neuter clinic. Adoptions going out the door and surrenders coming in the door. To say it was very busy with lots of commotion would be an understatement. We were in line behind a pleasant lady with a friendly dog. The lines move slow so I chatted with and petted the dog to pass the time while my husband and I decided which dog we wanted the most from the adoption area. 

The lady in front of us was finally at the desk and I heard her say, "I am here to surrender my dog. I am going back to work full-time and don't have the time to take care of him." The clerk was getting the paperwork out and she asked for the dog's name. Here is where it still gets me choked up...  the lady responded.  "His name is Otter." 

The next clerk addressed me...  "Can I help you?"

I said, "This is awkward, but we would like to adopt this lady's dog." 

And from there it is a blur of activity...  it got very quiet in our little space for just a second and they said it had never really been done like that before but it would be fine. The kennels were overcrowded and this lucky guy would never have to spend the night there. The vet happened to be there that day so she could check him out. We could have him in an hour or two. The lady paid the surrender fee. We paid the adoption fee and the deal was sealed. 

His previous owner was kind and explained that he loved to play ball and loved kids and came from a home with other dogs. She handed us the leash and drove away. 

She asked the SPCA to please have us call her so she knew he was okay. I was hesitant to do that because she had made the choice to surrender him. She never shed a tear when she said goodbye. She didn't even say goodbye - just walked away. But -- I did call her to let her know he was fine and she touched on the possibility of her children visiting him. At that point I decided to end all further contact. No - they could not visit. I did make Otter a Facebook page and they can follow his adventures that way and they do.

Otter does have separation anxiety -- not destructive, but he cries and howls like his toenails are being ripped out so we added another dog and it seems to help... Clara Dory Birddog and Otter Waterdog are the dynamic duo known throughout town and beyond because of Otter's Facebook page. My husband has people yelling out their car windows at him in town, "Hey Otter! I'm your friend on Facebook!" It is all good. 

That is Otter's story. Did we choose him? I don't really think so. He was given to us. I have never had a bond with a dog like I do Otter. My husband teases that he is a momma's dog... yeah... I guess he is...  and I wouldn't want it any other way.

1 comment:

  1. Wendy, I feel as if I have walked through your journey with you, lovely story. I look forward to following your thoughts.