For The Long Haul

One of the most inspirational bloggers and doggie moms I know once wrote a post that so deeply resonated with me that I doubt if I could put into words how much it impacted me.  It ripped open a bandage that covered a gaping hole in my upbringing that I will spend the rest of my days trying to make up for.

Other than Samantha, who belonged to my grandparents, I didn’t really have a stable animal presence in my life.  While my dad was/is an animal lover, my mom isn’t really even an animal liker.  I remember several dogs in my early years.  They came and they were gone.  I don’t know where they went other than “to live out in the country.”  Given my parents m.o. I assume they were given away.  Rehomed.  Some may have run out in the street and perished.  I just never knew.

I don’t have the foundation of respect for our furry friends that some people have and that is just where I came from.  It doesn’t make my parents bad or necessarily wrong,  it just is how it was with them. 

I’m actually not even certain when the forever pet concept jelled in my conscious but I do remember the early days with Ray which were such a challenge. Before we adopted Ray, I wanted an elderbull.  I wanted an ambassador who could be a therapy dog if that was the path they were destined for.  My husband wasn’t convinced and was dead set on a puppy, so it seemed only natural that we adopt one of the “Sparkle pups.”

To say Ray was a challenge as a puppy would be to say that Chicago can be a bit breezy.  Ray and his litter mates were separated from Sparkles at around 5-6 weeks and really had no social skills.  While my mission was to socialize Ray as much as I could, I also found myself disinclined to do so.  My ambassabull was so prone to leaping up from his diminutive stature and ripping the fabric from my sleeves.  He “mouthed” my hands, passing feet, toys, furniture, leashes, and anything else he could find.  I was the redirect queen, with antlers, chew bones and stuffies shoved into every pocket but there were plenty mornings where I sat on the kitchen floor and cried bawled, “Oh my god!  Pit bulls live for nearly 17 years!  I have to endure 16 and a half more years of this!”


That’s right.  I was discouraged, disheartened, angry, humiliated by my failure, and still it never crossed my mind to do anything  but get through the next 16 and a half years.  My first milestone was set at 2 years.  I had read his personality would be shaped and I was hoping for a glimpse of my future ambassabull.  In the meantime, it would be work, work, work, lessons, lessons, lessons in  an effort to have the dog I knew Ray could be.  It turns out that around 18 months, he became just that dog.  A dog who I think may still one day be a CGC.  If he doesn’t, will he be a failure?  Will I?  If success is measured by certificates and awards, maybe. 

If success is measured by eternal love and devotion, which I suspect it is, then I’d say we are doing just fine.

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12 thoughts on “For The Long Haul

  1. Bless you for recognizing that adopting a pet means it's forever. So many people in your situation, with a rambunctious puppy, would turn right back around and take that puppy to a shelter. Good for you for sticking with it and giving him a true forever home 🙂

    I only now stumbled across your blog, but I'm glad I did! 🙂

  2. Cute Ray puppy pic! We did not have many forever pets when I was a child either. My mom even gave away my beloved cats, family members for over 10 years when I went away to college. Luckily we only had 1 dog who lived to old age but my mom came close to re-homing her early on. I can never imagine letting go of my 3 before the end!

  3. Love the baby Ray pic.

    I grew up around dogs and knew from a young age that our home meant forever… until we moved from the farm into the city. One of our dogs couldn't adjust and she bit my grandpa. After that incident I was told that she was going to the humane society or back to the farm. I was so angry at my family for that because I knew deep down we could work with her and that we were her family. Maybe that's why I work with dogs now, because I know that commitment requires work just like any other relationship.

    Thank you for sticking with yours, Ray is an awesome dog!

  4. I love that you knew and understood the forever committment at an early age, Emily, and have shaped your life around that committment. Boomer and Dottie definitely have themselves a good mommy.

  5. I love this (and you) so much! I love that regardless of your initial experience with animals, that 'forever' was innately part of who you were and are. And I believe that Ray was meant to bring that out in you! That you were prepared to hunker down for 16 more years, wow, that screams you were ready for eternal love and devotion before you even realized it! I also love that there are children within reach of your impact, for they will be an awesome future for animals!

    And PS, thank you for the compliment. Coming from you, it means everything!

  6. We didn't have pets growing up either. I also grew up in a rural community, so most dogs were kept outside — even up until I brought Tess home I thought that if I ever had a dog (which wasn't likely), it would be kept outside. My, how things have changed!!

  7. It's amazing how much animals can change our lives… This is such an important, thoughtful post. The way I “raise” my dogs is far different from what my parents thought was appropriate when we had dogs as kids. Hindsight is a funny thing. You're doing an incredible job, and I think your measures for success are spot on.

  8. You know I often shake my head when I read about the so called 'crazy-dog-mom' phases you, in my eyes, go through. Having said that I would happily provide you with an award if success actually was measured by these. It is not. Success is and can only be measured by yourself.

    When Ray has become that dog in 18 months I can only imagine what he will have become in a years time. Perhaps he is thinking right now he still has a little to do before feeling a success. Perhaps he needs you to challenge him to realize he can go another step.

    In both cases I would love to read about it. That's for sure. And me willing to read about a dog I would call a success.

  9. I just came across you blog and though I don’t usually comment, I wanted to comment on this post.

    I grew up around dogs, but our dogs were outside dogs. They were not allowed to come inside, they were not taken to the vet (we didn't even have a vet in small town I grew up in Mexico), and when we went away they stayed home, alone, out in the elements. I was never happy with this, but other than tell my parents “poor Chapis”, “poor Rocky”, or that this is not fair for the dogs, there was nothing I could do. Dogs were meant to be outside. In our house, dogs died ‘just like that’. My parents thought there was ‘something’ in the dirt. Now I know that ‘something’ were probably worms. They had no commitment or attachment to our pets. However, even with this upbringing I wanted my own dog. I imagined so many wonderful things with that and for that companion. It wasn’t until I met my husband that my ‘interest’ in dogs (and all animals) grew stronger. We met when we married in 1998, and at the end of 2000, we got our first puppy, our now late Sasha. I was committed to her from the day we chose her. We did not rescue her, we got her from a pet store (I was not aware of rescues, etc.) The pet store did not seem like most pet stores. We met the guy who owned Sasha’s parents and we saw how he cared for them. He was not breeding them time and time again. Anyhow, after we chose her, my husband and I visited her every single day after work and on Saturdays and Sundays. The only time we did not visit was when the store was closed (Christmas and Thanksgiving). She was with us since she was 8 weeks old, and she was with us for thirteen and a half years. The last 2 years were hard, she had bone cancer, but through it all she was enthusiastic and joyful and her journey made our bond even stronger. I could never give up any of our dogs, ever. Now would I get return a dog…if I get a new pup, it’s because I know it’s the right pup for me and my husband, and we will do everything we did for Sasha and what we have done for our other 4 pack members.

    All this to say that I don’t understand nor I will ever understand some people’s lack of commitment of some people. Sorry for the long comment, I guess I needed to write, mainly about my Sasha.

    Great post. Maybe I’ll write my own version of this. Thank you and Oh Melvin for the posts.

    ~Liliana

    PS. I wrote all about Sasha's journey at http://www.lilisnotes.com, in case you'd like to read it 🙂

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