Monday, February 6, 2012

Why I Own a Dog

[Note – this was first penned back in 2001 when the world was different.  Until 9/11,  I had only kept company with cats.  Soon after the towers fell, a dog showed up on my porch and, as the newscasters promised, my life would never be the same.]

Anybody who has known me for any length of time knows I have never liked dogs.  I don't like dogs for exactly the same reasons that people who do like dogs like them: They greet you the minute you come home, follow you everywhere, beg for attention, and give you lots of love in the form of doggie tongue slurps.  Attributes I once thought belonged to pets that required owners in need of instant gratification.

I mean come on...anyone who has ever been around a cat knows they don't come bugging you the minute you walk in the door.  They are way too cool for that.  The only way to call a cat is with the sound of expensive kitty food being opened!

But, I digress

Upon hearing that I had taken up with a dog, my friend Janie started laughing, (and continued for some time), and finally exclaimed, “I can't wait to get up there to see the dog that finally won you over!”

I must admit he was a very special “one of a kind” dog.  He was so starved and dehydrated that he wouldn't even  drink and we had to force fluids down him with a syringe.  Most of his hair had fallen out due to malnutrition and mange and he had massive ear and bladder infections, (which meant he was oozing stuff from both ends). He smelled so bad that you couldn't get within 10 feet of him without holding your nose. You could tell he had been beaten by the way he cowered whenever you approached him. One doozie of a special dog, all right!

I kept trying to get dog-loving guests to take him home with no luck (big surprise there). He put on some weight and just lounged around on the porch.  Finally, this one woman walked up, went to her knees, took that pitiful, (stinky, mangy), doggie head in her hands, and started kissing on and cooing to him.  Something in my brain/heart said, “If someone can kiss on that dog, there must be something there worth loving.”

And the dog, (then unnamed), was extremely fortunate that the house was full of dog lovers.  They all went on about how the inn needed a dog and this one was perfect (????). A somewhat informal contest was held for a name and Roufus won out, mainly because that is the sound he makes when he does his doggie noise thing…. “Rooouuuuf, rrooouuuff.”

The woman kissing on him got shampoo, dip, ear medicine, vitamins, food...and spent the whole weekend trying to get him in shape.  She did manage to get the stink to subside for a few days.  Some other guests gave money for the vet bill and a third couple offered to go with me as how they were dog people and could adequately inform him of all the doggie's needs.

We get to the vets and, after a quick look and some blood work, the sentence was pronounced:  Roufus P. Dawg, (his official name of record), in addition to all the visible skin, bladder, ear problems had worn down his teeth trying to chew out of a cage AND had heartworms.  Well the vet and the two doggie people all get teary-eyed at this.  Somehow, they are all in love with this half-dead dog and know what the test results mean.

I look at the pitiful dog.  Then I look at the vet, (a cute Kenny Rodgers kind of guy).  Then I look at the guests, (the man is crying.)

I ask the vet, “Can the dog be saved?”

Well, yes…with lots of patience, luck, love...and money.

I look at all the teary eyed expectant faces again.  I then turn to the vet and utter words that came from some other place in the universe, “Well, there is a $600 tax refund check sitting on my desk at home.  If it will help the dog, he can have it.”

The vet goes nuts.  He is so excited.  He says if I am willing to give this dog a home and put up that kind of money, he and his staff will cover all the other costs! I am trying to figure out what I am going to tell Mike. After all, it was, until a minute ago, his refund check.

I do the only thing I can think of which is to walk straight in the door, go up to Mike, and say, “How much do you love me?” which is a code to him that I have done something really stupid but and he should count to 10 while he thinks real hard to determine if there are any good reasons NOT to push me down a well this week.

Roufus stayed at the vets for two weeks.  He survived the heartworm cure, his ears and bladder are better and he now has shiny black and tan hair that has only the slightest doggie aroma. When I went to pay the bill, I found that the other couple went back in after I left and paid $100 against the bill.

His first few weeks at home were touch and go, as he had to be kept somewhat inactive.  The heartworms die and then slough off through the lungs.  He slowly revived but that dog can be bone-lazy when he doesn't want to do something. This tendency had gone unnoticed by Mom, who came creeping into my room one morning and woke me up with the pronouncement, “Honey, Roufus is dying.”

I came flying out of bed and out the back door to stop short when I saw him sleeping at the bottom of the stairs.  I turned to Mom and said, “He's fine. That's just Roufus.”

“Oh, no,” she countered, “He hasn't moved for 45 minutes and I even went down and tried to get him to lift his head.”

I told her to stand back and watch as I retrieved a piece of ham from the kitchen.  You talk about life after death! That dog was up in a flash and gobbled it down it one bite.

He is so happy to be alive and living with us that it makes you happy just to look at him.  Everyone that comes to the inn loves him.  He greets people or sleeps by them at the hammock or takes them for walks through the woods. He doesn't jump on you or lick you and rarely barks.  A guest that was here this week told me, “You know, I used to think this what this inn needed all along.”

I think he is right.  I was at the campfire a few nights ago and one of the cats came out and went to the head of the trail like she was inviting me to go for a walk.  She has never come out that far before.  When Roufus followed me over she calmly surveyed the situation and then headed on down the trail. So, as we three walked the trail under the dappled light of a full moon, I stopped to look back at the campfire.  You could hear laughter and see the flames flickering in the distance.  The inn further on glowed softly with the white twinkling lights outlining the porch and fence and the warm yellow light emanating from all of the windows. The air was crisp and smelled of wood smoke.  And I had the distinct feeling that the inn was now complete and my life is about as happy as it has ever been.

All because of a stupid dog.

Old Roufus has been gone many years now and we miss him dearly.  We have four more dogs that have wandered up the hill (about one every three years or so) looking for shelter.  They all have Roufus to thank for opening my eyes to the Joy of Dogs!


I found an old letter today from Jim & Elsie Warnock mailed to Roufus April 29, 2002:

Dear Roufus,  How pleased we were to recieve your latest communication about your success in training the humans in your circle. They often can be the most difficult to get trained to a canines's fine standards, but it appears that you have succeeded beyond expectations, especially considering the short time that you have been working on the project.

You will be pleased to learn that the Human Training Subcommittee of the Canine Association is considering appointing you to the Trainer's Board so that you can pass along your superior skill to others in need of such expertise.


  1. What a great picture of Roufus! I loved Roufus......he was a sweetie! Glad You came to love dogs. Now my favorite is Penny! Great blog Rhonda!

  2. Not many old hound dogs have their own buckwheat pillow. And he was a great companion. Thanks.

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  4. Awesome story. I read it to my girl and Moe Joe our 3 year old American Bulldog and we all had a great laugh.

    1. Glad to hear it. I always love telling this story!