Carolyn White: Living the Good Life 2-6-12
Darby, the Rottweiler/Catahoula Leopard hound (both breeds are known for having exceptionally strong jaws) mix that we adopted one year ago, was reunited with her two littermates last month in a Basalt, Colo., dog park. They definitely made the most of their time together by nipping at, wrestling with, racing against and occasionally rolling each other (along with some unsuspecting bystanders, who got crumpled at the knees). “We need to do this more often,” the other owners and I agreed, and it makes sense … especially when you consider that to date, none of us have met any other breeds that can keep up!
Now 80 pounds, Darby (“Darbonator”), as well as Haddie (“Had Enough”) and Maggie (“Magzilla”) has over time developed truly astonishing strength, endurance, focus, and most impressively, jaw size. Tug-o-War, as we joked, is their favorite game and once they’ve braced themselves you’re lucky to stay upright under the series of short, sharp, and highly powerful jerks that get delivered.
“They have such a funny-like tugging thing,” Maggie’s mom, Frances Addie, mused to me last week over the phone. Immediately after the object has been wrenched out of your hands, however, they’ll step forward and somewhat mischievously offer it back. The majority of their play things, however, end up shredded into oblivion within moments so we’ve had to keep a very close eye … which was particularly challenging during their puppy stages.
Ours, for example, mangled several kitchen towels; two leashes; the tail feathers off a hen; and my favorite pair of reading glasses before we were finally able to convince her that only beef bones, tennis balls, tree branches, and certain, ultra-durable squeaky toys were acceptable. It helped that I work part-time at home (and am still capable of lunging), but the other families had more challenges. Anne Gurchick, the director of Friends of the Aspen (Colo.) Animal Shelter – and the woman who originally fostered the trio back when they were still small and cute – told me that her Haddie “completely chewed up a new Turkish Kilm rug and all my throw pillows along with whatever she could reach in my drawers.” But Fran, along with husband, Steve, and children Angie, Christian, and Sammy had even better stories.
“I left Maggie on the bed one morning while getting ready for work because she looked so contented,” Fran explained. “When Steve got home, there were torn maps, CDs, and shreds of paperwork all over the place.” As for the family’s heavy, hide-a-bed couch, last October it not only got pulled completely away from the wall but Maggie – who was then barely 10-months-old – also left a huge, gaping hole in one side clear down to the wooden frame! “Steve sent me a cell phone picture that day,” Fran concluded dryly. “He texted, Ur Daughter has been busy.” Later, she forwarded a copy to both Anne and I. All one could do was gasp, and then laugh.
Our dogs are uncannily similar in other ways, too. All of them have weak stomachs, for example, and Maggie even threw up after sucking down some snow … right as we were posing for pictures. (Eeaauugh. We each moved quickly to one side.) On the one hand, they are faster than Thoroughbreds but on the other they’re capable of sleeping, complete with hilariously loud snores, for 12 hours at a stretch. Their tails curl, although Maggie’s isn’t as prominent. And delightfully, they are the perfect mix of playful, good-natured and easy-going as well as highly protective. No one comes close to the house – or in Darby’s case, the camper or the cab of the truck – where a sister is on duty! We wouldn’t trade them for the world, yet what’s truly sobering is how close we came to never even meeting our new pets in the first place.
Left abandoned in a laundry basket somewhere in Kansas, they were set to be euthanized until Seth Sachson, Director of the Aspen Animal shelter (a colorful, bright, and well-designed ‘no-kill’ facility), signed the papers that gave permission for them to be transported to Colorado. Yet even though Fran admits that she sometimes threatens to put Maggie back in the basket and return her, for all of the sheer joy, hilarity and special challenges that we’ve received from our puppies we wouldn’t trade them for the world. It’s discouraging that there are so many other, assorted, homeless pets out there right now … and I wish I could afford to adopt a dozen more … but at the moment, there are three fewer dogs that are starving on the streets. Eating us out of house and home, perhaps, but definitely not starving. And yes, very, very deeply loved.