• Carmen Marie Fabio

A dog's life

There’s a faint odour emanating from the floor of my office, one that can also be detected in my car, on my couch, and on my bed. It’s accompanied by fairly heavy, nostril-y breathing and is punctuated with a trail of shed white hairs for which a sticky lint roller is never far from hand. For some people, this all might present a problem but for me, it’s a constant reminder of one of the sweetest and most loyal pets I’ve ever had.

We’re coming up on the one-year anniversary of the day I adopted the aforementioned fat, old, and somewhat smelly Jack Russell mix, a dog who was used in a puppy mill as a breeder, popping out who knows how many puppies, and apparently kept in a trailer most of the time.

After being deemed too old to breed, she had a temporary home but when her owner fell ill, she ended up back on the adoption circuit as an 8-year-old. She wasn’t smiling on her adoption profile on the website. You can tell when a dog is smiling. She looked both scared and resigned and her foster mom Andrea later told me they did their best to photograph her to hide her weight issues, borne of – like most of us – too little exercise and a love of snacks.

She wouldn’t even make eye-contact with me when I first went to see her, adeptly turning away when I tried to engage her. But I was immediately taken by her calm, gentle nature.

“Tell me about a typical day in Rocky’s life,” I asked Andrea as the little dog sat sentry by her side.

“This is it,” she replied.

Rocky’s initial lack of eye-contact changed the following weekend when I brought her home. From her harnessed position in the passenger seat, she fixed her liquid brown eyes on me as I drove, a trait both endearing and unnerving.

I was warned she was skittish of tall men with salt and pepper hair, glasses, and beards – an exact description of my husband. The poor thing also wasn’t crazy about men in general and I have three teenaged boys. She initially tried to curl up to my Doberman/Shepherd mix but he looked down in incredulity, then back to us, as if to say, “Wut dis? Cat?” before scampering away. And maybe that’s why she and I bonded.

She wasn’t interested in eating for the first few days and was content to simply curl up next to me and sleep... and sleep... and sleep.

On her first trip to the office – where we’re lucky to be able to bring our canine friends – she slunk along the hall with what remained of her cropped tail tucked between her legs. She curled up in her little bed and barely moved for hours, shaking when anyone approached. It was sad. Like she didn’t know how to be a dog.

Fast forward to a year later. My timid little girl now walks proudly into the office, head held high. She loves running through the grass in the field, stopping occasionally to roll on her back. She’s not yappy but has a ferocious bark if she perceives a threat. And she’s fiercely protective of her pack – our family.

Puppies will always find homes but older dogs, particularly smaller breeds, still have lots of years and lots of love left to give. I wasn’t crazy about dealing with the high energy and potty training issues of a puppy. I did all that already with toddlers.

Giving an older dog a retirement home has been such a positive influence on everyone in the house, even the Doberman who now curls up with her, often using her body as a pillow.

She doesn’t mind. In fact, she smiles.

Consider the rewards of adopting an older dog. Breeds of all ages, shapes, sizes, and lineage will be showcased at the upcoming Beaconsfield Pet Fair in Centennial Park September 8 and 9.

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