I know this is a blog about wildlife. And this is a story about a dog. But dogs descended from wolves. So I figure I can take a bit of artistic license and include the story of how Maddy came to be a member of our family.
Although Brent and I both grew up with dogs, our relationship together started out as cat lovers. He got me a rescued brown, black and white 10 week old tabby kitten, Jasmine, when I was in college. Shortly after, we added Hobbes, a half-grown orange tabby. While Jasmine never fully let go of the fact that she was born in the wild, Hobbes was a Labrador Retriever trapped in a 17 pound cat’s body.
Sadly, Hobbes died in 2003 at 12 years old from a large cancerous mass in his tummy, and Jasmine died of kidney failure in 2005 at the age of 13. They both lived full, happy lives, and gave us a lot of joy while they were with us.
At that time, we just weren’t emotionally ready to have another pet yet. Besides, we were busy renovating our new house and raising our four year old son and six year old daughter. Although Becca asked weekly, “Can we PLEEEEEASE get a puppy?” we knew we just weren’t at a good point in our lives to take on the responsibility of dog ownership. Brent and I both firmly believe that owning a pet is a lifelong commitment, not something you can just drop off at a shelter when they cramp your lifestyle.
By early 2008, the kids were getting old enough that we knew they could share in the care of a new dog. So I began my search. We knew we wanted a medium sized, young adult rescue dog. I spent hours on petfinder.com looking at all the dogs up for adoption. Early on, I saw a photo of a dog rescued from a pound in Radford, Virginia. The listing said she was a one year old, 40 lb lab mix (I think if they don’t know a dog’s background they always label it a “lab mix”). She was tan with floppy ears, a curly-cue tail, and one brown eye and one ice blue eye. Her name was Maddy.
Though I looked at literally hundreds of dog listings on petfinder, I kept coming back to Maddy again and again. Something about those eyes made me love her just from her photo. So after a lot of discussion, we contacted Pound Pals of Radford, the group that rescued her from the pound, and got the ball rolling. The process was almost as involved as if we were adopting a child. We had a lengthy questionnaire to complete, phone interviews, then a home visit. Yes – someone came to our house to determine if we would be fit parents for this dog.
During the process, Pound Pals placed Maddy in a “foster home” in Virginia. They knew nothing about her background, other than her first owner was moving and couldn’t keep her. No clue as to her breed mix. In hindsight, after seeing photos of Maddy when they first rescued her, she was obviously underweight and not quite full grown. By the time we saw her, she had gotten bigger, I’d say the size of a lab, though leaner. She had also put on some needed weight and topped the scale at 60 lbs. So much for a medium sized dog.
In the end, we were approved. In an amazing coordination of volunteer drivers, Maddy and at least half a dozen other dogs were transported from Radford, in the southwestern corner of Virginia, to our meeting point at the Park ‘n’ Ride in Catonsville. There were others there as well – some to pick up their adopted dogs, others were volunteers who took over the caravan transporting dogs to their final destinations.
So here we are, three years later. Maddy is now about four years old and 67 pounds. She has limitless energy. To watch her run is pure beauty – she flies across the grass like a greyhound and her feet don’t even seem to touch the ground. She inhales her meals in record time. (Which probably explains the inordinate amount of gas she emits.) If she gets too bored she will chew anything – legos, rocks, sticks, quarters, pencils, you name it. When she’s calm or unhappy her tail hangs almost flat behind her; the more excited she gets the more her tail curls, sometimes so much so that the tip touches her back.
She loves us all, but adores my husband the most. Whereas the kids and I get a gentle tail wag from her, Brent elicits a full-on circular helicopter motion from her tail. She smiles when she’s happy. Literally – she pulls up her lips and smiles. She doesn’t care much for fetch, though she will sometimes run for a tennis ball if she feels like chewing on it.
Maddy is obsessed with animals outside. Whenever she sees something, she runs and slams her paws up on the window sill or front door. Then she proceeds to tear around the house from window to window, trying to get the best view. I have physical proof of her antics – plenty of scratches and a few gouges in our hardwood floors, constant slobber and nose juice on my window panes, even a cracked window at the back of the house.
Depending on the type of animal, seeing one outside evokes various responses. Cats drive her crazy, and she won’t stop barking until it’s out of sight. Other dogs passing by get a bark or two, unless they’re little – then she goes crazy with constant barking. I think she believes they’re cats and she wants to eat them. The craziest sound is when she sees a fox. It’s not a bark. It’s more of a high-decibel screechy scream.
So that’s how Maddy came to be a part of our family. Though she’s not what I originally envisioned (small, calm, snuggly), I wouldn’t trade her for anything. She keeps me on my toes, forces me to exercise in the form of fast-paced walking, alerts me to UPS deliveries, and fills our house and lives with excitement and love.