Meet Gibson. (And, while you’re marveling at his cuteness, please ignore my complete lack of being done–long weekend and this pic was snapped during a backyard bonfire).
Gibson came to our home in February in a roundabout, weird way through an extraordinarily random set of circumstances. Our family went through a loss around Christmas time this past year that knocked us for a complete loop. Too painful and personal to document here, but sufficed to say, it had nothing to do with furry kids and everything to do with human ones. However, as is sometimes the case, a loss of a deep kind can sometimes best be filled by puppy kisses.
Before we tell you all about Gibson, though, you’ll need to be introduced to our other dogs, Annie and Henry.
Because our two family dogs, Annie and Henry, are growing older, I began to obsess about losing either or both of them in the near future and what a loss like that would mean to my kids and to our family. Annie, our golden retriever, came to us as a puppy from an accidental litter and turned 10 this month. She’s a nervous girl and has had some wonky blood work in the past few years that suggest there is something afoot, but we aren’t certain what it is. She is so nervous that when my beloved shelter shepherd mix, Oscar, died in 2007 at the age of 13, she lost nearly 16 pounds. We thought she had cancer or another type of wasting disease. On the contrary, her worry had reset her metabolism and she was burning her food faster than she could eat it.
When we visited the vet to discuss our options to help her regain her balance, our vet told us we could try medication. However, his best recommendation was for us to have a second dog again. “You mean I need to get a dog for my dog?!” I had asked incredulously. He said, “Yes.” And I began the search for a new friend for Annie.
We went through a bizarre experience with a local labrador retriever rescue where we met a dog, liked her and went home to discuss it. We decided that weekend that we would like to pursue adopting her and the rescuer told a farfetched tale of how she had taken the dog on a quick errand with her and how she had either been stolen from the rescuer’s vehicle or she had become spooked and broken a window to escape the vehicle. Given that this rescuer lives in a completely rural and entirely safe area, I found it odd. She told us about all the flyers she’d put up and where–being the suspicious type, I went to look–no flyers. She then sent an elaborate e-mail explaining how the dog had been found, dead in a ditch, and had been lovingly buried by her on her father’s farm by a pond. Never mind that in our very first e-mail she’d mentioned another family had also expressed an interest in that particular dog. It didn’t take me long to put two and two together to figure out that the dog had been given to the other family while we were still thinking about her. A friend of mine volunteered to call and ask about the dog (who remained posted on Petfinder) and the rescue lady said she’d been adopted by a nice family over the weekend. Needless to say, the e-mail that “lady” received melted the screen on my computer. I became the most upset over the fact that my children had just said goodbye to Oscar five months earlier and she knew that and yet wanted me to tell them that nice dog we met had been splattered on the road and left alone to die by some oblivious driver.
Undaunted, we continued our search for a lab. We were blessed to find a second rescue, staffed by normal people, who told us they had the perfect boy for us to meet.
Henry had been found as a stray. He had been sent to a family for a weekend and had to come back–the wife had not wanted a dog. The husband insisted on it. The children were running around screaming and jumping from couch to couch in the house. Their mother had them petrified of the dog who, in seeing the kids “playing”, tried to join in only to be accused of “attacking” the kids.
The foster mom who had kept Henry for several weeks drove through the night to retrieve him–the husband, sheepishly told her what had happened, and Henry cowered in the lap of the rescuer’s daughter all the way to her home.
How you could look into those big brown eyes and see anything but gentleness is completely beyond me. Some people aren’t “dog people” and although I wonder about them, I respect a person’s boundaries on that point. But that lady really took the cake. However, I am pleased beyond belief that she was a nut job and returned our chocolate prince to his foster mom so we could meet him.
We took Annie to the foster mom’s house to meet Henry. Little did we know she had OTHER labs (I should have realized) and Annie was more than a little distracted at first. We weren’t sure if it would be a friend connection or not, but they didn’t disagree with each other and he seemed to like us okay, so he came home with us that night and we never looked back.
For a little more than two years, the dynamic duo functioned as a pack and all was well. But again, at the end of last year, I started to worry–Annie pushing 10, Henry somewhere around 8 and dogs don’t live forever, unfortunately.
I started poking around on Petfinder again. My husband thought I was ridiculous. That didn’t dissuade me (Lord knows if that was enough to dissuade me, half the cool stuff I do would never happen) and after several near misses at local shelters (he would hem and haw and the dog I’d loved online would be taken home by someone else–one time right as we arrived at the shelter!), I dragged him to a nearby county to take a look at a dog the pound had dubbed “Toby.” He behaved beautifully as we walked the rows of kennels and during our first visit with him in a private room, we renamed him Remington and decided to take him home. He had only been at the shelter for about a week and needed to be neutered.
The day after his surgery, we took him home. The girls were ecstatic. Annie and Henry? Um. Not quite.
The day we took him home, he rode in the backseat with my youngest and the look on his face (and hers) said it all. But, all was not well with Remington. To make an extremely difficult story short, he was found to have a serious metabolic disorder that he was born with and would be a special needs dog for the rest of his life.
Our vet loves labs. She and her husband share a vet practice and offered for us to surrender our Remington to them for a work-up, etc. and, if it were possible to return him to us without it being disruptive to our home and kids and other dogs, they would do it. It was not to be and Remington is now living (and steadily evening out weight wise, etc) with a family member of our vet. I still ask about him whenever we go there because this dog just found a spot in my heart that will forever be his.
Remington came and went in a couple weeks. And even though he’d only been with us for a bit, he left a huge hole. A hole which I just was not quite interested in allowing to remain open. On Facebook, I learned of an event called My Furry Valentine.
My husband couldn’t go because he was on his active duty weekend with his Guard unit. My oldest was at her dad’s. So, it was just M2 and Mom headed to walk through the rows and rows of adoptable pets. We wandered around, seeing tons of adorable puppies (who were too young for our household’s schedule) and older, bigger dogs who may have been too much for our senior set at home. We had decided to leave the venue when my youngest pulled me over to a rescue’s area that had a fenced in area of puppies–all had been adopted, but she just wanted to look.
The sea of people parted and there was a little kennel we hadn’t seen on our first pass. Inside was a small little white dog that seemed pretty docile. M2 asked, after a bit, if she could pretty please have the dog taken into the play area so she could pet him, etc.
It didn’t take much convincing for the little dude named Gibson to claim M2 as his prime resting spot. In this photo, you can really see the dachshund in Gib. He’s part dachshund and part shitzu–a Schweenie, if you will.
We texted back and forth with Daddy, took video for him to see and, of course, the whole “we don’t do little dogs” mantra resounded. But, finally, as Daddy sometimes does, he texted “Do whatever you want.” I don’t think it takes much guessing to determine what that was.
We learned Gibson had been rescued from a hoarding situation. He was around 2 years old, had been super scared when he came into rescue (they had to leave a leash on him so when he hid under the bed, they could coax him out), and was crate trained. [He has since demonstrated himself to be a dog’s dog, preferring the dogs’ company to ours sometimes & feeling the need to mark his territory–joy).
We filled out the forms, collected our swag bag and hit the road. This was one of THE coldest days with winds whipping, etc. We arrived home, went into the warm house and about 2.5 seconds later, Gibson started itching as if there were no tomorrow. I immediately picked him up only to see his entire lower end was covered in FLEAS.
Holy. Cats. We do not, by any stretch of the imagination, do fleas. It’s against my religion.
I quickly put him outside and ran to the corner pet store (thank you for the corner pet store) and bought shampoo that promised to kill pretty much everything but the pet, all while moisturizing with oatmeal. Good to know. Once home, I stated the warm water running, swaddled Gib in a towel, dashed him to the upstairs bathroom and began the scrubbing. He was 100% relieved and completely overcome in his bath. He loved it. And, consequently, he seemed to have decided that by making his itching stop, I had somehow recreated the wheel.
This is how I spent hours and hours of our first early days. Gibson just wanted me to sit somewhere so he could curl up and snuggle in and sleep. He honestly loves the girls, but there is something about us that reminds me of a toddler relationship. I’m his touchstone, his home base. He checks in, maybe naps some, and then feels brave enough to go try new things. Daddy getting a little loud watching sports? Find Mom. TV a little loud for you, Gib? Find Mom. The girls giggling and acting like sillies? Find Mom. It’s his MO and I’m totally okay with it. Little by little by little by little, he is learning to trust.
Our vet was right–we do know how to welcome good dogs into our family.