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March 15, 2011

Stray Love

By Sarah

As a parent of teenagers - especially a kid in college hundreds of miles away - it is the 3 a.m. phone call I've learned to dread. But recently I discovered that the 3 p.m. knock on the door can be just as life altering.

It happened last week as I was holed up in our library/TV room, the one with the red walls and IMG_0250 sloped ceiling, concentrating on the revisions to my YA novel. It was snowy and rainy and not the day to be out and about rescuing dogs, but that's what my neighbor was doing when she knocked on the door to my garage with a stray basset in the back of her Subaru.

Fred, my own basset, was barking his head off when I answered.

"I thought maybe he was yours," she began. Then, seeing Fred, she frowned and said, "Well, I guess no."

This poor basset, a red and white, long-eared, sad eyed (then again, don't they all?), middle-aged fellow had been found about a mile from my house on a dirt road without a collar.  e was shaking so hard his teeth were clattering, though you have to watch it with this breed. Bassets are expert con men.

Not everyone is psychologically equipped to own a basset. A basset will pretend to step outside for a breath of fresh air and...show up in Detroit. He will feign deep sleep and, when you leave the room, leap onto the counter, steal a cookie, hide it in his mouth and snore when you return. They complain constantly in sounds akin to a real language. They smell. They drool. They covet pepperoni and will kick you off your own couch. 

Which was why I told her I'd take this guy until the owner was found. It was the least I could do, seeing as how her only experience was with retrievers.

IMG_0244 There was no doubt in my mind that the owner would call within days, if not hours. It was an older dog, obviously a pet, who got along well with the cats. (Though they, I'm sure, would beg to differ.) His coat was smooth. He was accustomed to lying on furniture. No mongrel he.

And, yet, no one came. My neighbor and I called everyone - the local vets, the town clerks, the constables, the humane societies. I even left messages at Agway. I drove him around town and showed him off, put a couple of notices in our on-line community newsletter. Nothing. No one had ever seen this dog before which, in Vermont, is really saying something.

Which means, of course, that "Walter" - as in the hit children's book series, Walter the Farting Dog - is ours.

The name is not by coincidence.

Charlie was the one who applied the full-court press, not Anna or Sam. When we woke  to Walter's accidents in the basement, Charlie cleaned up the mess even though dog defecation is one thing he cannot stomach. When Walter whined and howled all night in the basement next to Fred who slept peacefully, Charlie built a mega crate so Walter would feel more secure. And when I, fed up, on deadline, demanded Walter be taken to the shelter, it was Charlie who came to his defense.

Just a few more days, Charlie said. If Walter continues to whine or poop in the house, we will take him to the humane society. Walter continued to whine, though his bathroom habits have greatly improved.

Still, he is far from perfect. He begs with big black eyes. He howls at night. But we've passed the tipping point and the idea of him being led away, once more, to a strange place, to cages and other dogs with behavioral issues especially after poor Walter had been abandoned by his own masters, was too much to bear.

We're stuck.

So, I've got an appointment at the vet and a new collar and leash. I'll have him licensed up by the deadline of April 1 (Fred's birthday) and then we'll really be committed.

Is this a mistake? Have I been hoodwinked? Have you ever taken in a stray and regretted it and, if so, what happens then?

All I know is that on Sunday night, as a light snow fell outside, Fred and Walter were asleep by the fire and snoring softly, their full bellies rising and falling in unison. Charlie and I were watching All IMG_0082 Creatures Great and Small and I was knitting. 

It might, just possibly, have been the fulfillment of a lifelong fantasy. Even if it was rather smelly.





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Walter scored, big time!

Went through similar issues with Emma, the Papi-Poo who invaded... I mean, came home, back in June. Her habits have improved considerably, but she can still get just about anything she wants with those Big Brown Eyes.

Boo is patient, long suffering, and tolerant. He keeps looking at me as if to say, "I was good, why did you DO this?" Still, she's fit into the house like she belongs here (which she does!), so it's a good thing....:)

I need to come live with you, Sarah. I can't resist bassets. I love All Creatures Great And Small (books and PBS). I'm becoming addicted to knitting. I think you described my own fantasy.

I so relate to your basset description. We had a basset/beagle mix, Bozworth (Bozzy), who was the best dog ever. His nose was always either up in the air, sniffing, or down on the ground, sniffing. When we would warn people to keep an eye on him outside, they would ask, "Why, does he run off?" "No," we'd say, "he doesn't run off; he moseys." We spent an hour looking for him one day - calling, looking around the neighborhood, getting in the car and driving around. We finally spotted him, across the street in the neighbor's backyard, totally within earshot, sniffing. And completely ignoring us.

We still mss him, and he's been gone 3 years. Just the other day, when we got a new Roomba to torture our other dogs with, one of our kids said, "Bozzy would have been terrified."

Lucky Walter. I wish someone would drop a basset off at my house. :)

Laura ---- MY dog is a Basset-Beagle cross! RIDICULOUSLY long and BIG like a Basset (50-60 pounds!) but with a beagle face and slightly longer legs...slightly. The kids named him --- Bagel. HEH.

Sarah, I am a sucker for hounds, Bassets in particular. Our Dog before Bagel was a full on Basset named Tobeydog. OH but our muttley Bagel is a charmer who talkstalkstalks in that Bassetty way, and yes...fartsfartsfarts.

They DO talk. What's bothering me is that, lately, I've begun to answer. Seriously.

I've also discovered how passionate people are about the whole humane society issue. One local vet - who, granted, is a bit on the hippy dippy side what with his raw chicken diet and raw vegetable slurry - apparently threw a fit when someone in our neighborhood took a stray to be euthanized.

Not sure that Walter would have been killed. But he is old and needy, though he gets better day by day.

And Fred, our other basset (see above: fire dog), does love having a friend. SO much so that he can't resist humping him, despite missing a pair of testicles.

Dogs. What can you do?

BTW, Joshilyn, the photo of your dog on your blog and the caption, "This is what goodness looks like - if goodness had an IQ of 7," is now our family mantra.

Sarah, this line had me laughing: "It was the least I could do, seeing as how her only experience was with retrievers."

Never had a basset, but I had retired greyhounds, including one who could open jars with her teeth. Any food not nailed down or locked up was fair game. Once, I got up to open the door, turned around, and saw her standing on the middle of the dining room table calmly eating our dinner. She howled, had separation anxiety, peed a little whenever she barked, and chewed woodwork. She was also, ahem, not exactly the brightest dog. We called her an idiot savant dog. (The savant part came in when food was involved.)

Now I have retrievers and can't believe how easy it is to have these dogs. You are a kind woman; your neighbor would have had no idea what she was in for!

Who are we to judge one who humps anything, despite the absence of testicles? I mean, there is one on TV every minute.

Sarah - you guys are good people. I have a friend here in Pittsburgh who fosters beagles and she usually ends up with 4 or 5 of them at a time until they find good homes.

My sister has a Golden and that dog is more high maintenance than her kids and husband combined.

Farting dog: Blackjack, the oversized doberman who thought he was a lapdog. I had a sleepover and we "got" to sleep on the pull out sofa. We climbed in and called Blackjack to hop up on the bed between us. He turned and turned and laid down facing the foot of the bed. Just as he got settled, pfffft! He turned to stare in horror at his backside, then hopped off and slunk away.We bailed out of the bed screaming.

Not so bright dog: German short-haired pointer named Dingbat. Enough said.

Stray who stayed: Amalthea, the most beautiful cat in the world, who showed up at our farm one afternoon. I opened the front door and she walked in, took a quiet trip around the edges of the room, found the back landing and used the litter box. She stayed with us for 18 years.

They sure do take your heart, don't they?

If you live in the country, people think you won't noice if they dump unwanted cats and dogs. That's how we got Bitsy Mott, an adorable Maine Coon cat. A kitten, really, with a sunny disposition and the loudest purr I'd ever heard. Barely weaned, she came toddling out of the underbrush and straight into our hearts even though we had no intention of having cats around. Bitsy led to our taking in a couple of Manx cats that got dumped a few weeks later. "She needs company," said my husband, who didn't want a house cat but was happy to fix a safe place in the barn for them, even cutting a hole in the wall so they could come and go safely. Before we knew it, we had 17 cats. . . mostly because one of the Manxes was a slut who kept pumping out kittens for two years before we could catch her not pregnant and take care of that production line. Fortunately, there were always takers for those little tailess balls of fur.

And then there was that stray pig . . .

Walter is a beauty and you are a sweetie! And this is a wonderful story, thank you.

Oh, Sarah, I smell a children's book in your future! I love this story. I love you. Walter and Fred are lucky dogs.

OH, Harley, you are right! I bet Sarah is at the computer right now..

And I had a dear kitty,named Leon, because I found him while I was jogging on Ponce de Leon Avenue in Atlanta. Three punk kids were--I dunno, playing softball with him as the ball. SO I grabbed the kitten, yelled at the kids, and took little Leon home.

I was going to give him to the SPCA, because I already had Lola, and if I had TWO cats, then I would be an old maid with two cats. (This is what I told myself, It was 1980 or so.)

But Leon, essentially, did magic tricks, juggled, acted cuter than any animal ever born. Lola, enraged, hid in my closet in a shoe box. For two weeks.

Leon died at age 14, Lola at age 20. They never spoke.

Happy dog! Lucky dog!

Margaret - You are exactly right. Charlie has pegged Walter to be a "city slicker" who seems mystified by the fresh air and expansive back yard. Took him sugaring - along with the other two dogs who gamely plunged through the snow and up and down hills. Walter went one round and, having decided it was not to his liking, trundled home to the warmth of the couch.

His city life would also explain the longish nails.

Well, not strays that have come to stay but rescues we have gladly taken in over the last 30 some years. Bouviers. Dogs who can outstubborn a dead mule and peel wallpaper with their farts.

The farts are the easiest to fix. A tablespoon of cottage cheese, yogurt or buttermilk 2 or 3 times a week does wonders for reducing the toxic emissions. Eliminating them completely for some. (But our Odile is more commonly known as Odiferous even with the cottage cheese...but you couldn't live with her otherwise)

Oh, and Beano works for dogs, too.

Walter has hit the jackpot!

I am recently becoming more aware of beloved pets getting dumped when their elderly owners have changes in their living arrangements. Children and caretakers just turn the pets loose! It's a heartbreak that more nursing homes and assisted living places don't have the wherewithal to accomodate animals.

Nancy - that crossed our mind, too. There's something about Walter that indicates life with an old person.

Nancy, that's exactly what happened to a stray Dear Hubby & I found about 10 years ago. We were having a family picnic when this little blondish Yorkie walked up to us. He was shivering (it was 80 degrees outside), filthy, and excruciatingly thin. We fed him bits of hot dog, hamburgers, anything really. He inhaled each bit and promptly threw up. He had tags, but the address was from 250 miles away. Dear Hubby & I took him home, gave him a bath and fed him some rice with bits of carrot & hamburger (that works well for dogs with diarrhea). He perked up and was really a sweetheart. We called the vet listed on his tags and found out that his owner had died and her son took both dogs. BOTH DOGS??? The owner had two Yorkies. He didn't have a phone number but said if anyone called he would let us know. No one ever called. Little Bit was his name and he loved to sleep at my hip at night. And I enjoyed it, too, until he lost control of his bladder. Did I mention he was 14 years old? We had him 3 months, probably the best three months of his life after his owner died. But we had to have him put down not just because of the incontinence, but everything started shutting down at once. I cried for two days.

Judith, that's so funny. Our daughter's older dog is named Otis, and no matter what they do for him he is Odiferous to us, for the same farty ways. He lived with us for eight months while they lived in Europe, and all I can say is that I perfected the art of waving while he lived with us.

Margaret, it's not just the country. We had a mysterious stray cat adopt us, half-mile from the city limits. She was a white and orange spotted cat, just lovely, who kept hanging around outside our back door in the midst of one of those only-in-the-Midwest deep-freeze winters. I'm deathly allergic, so a friend brought over a padded cat house to keep on the porch for her, and took her to the vet for me. After she was under the car, screaming, for an hour. My littlest, about five at the time, came running, "Mommy! Peaches is under the car with another cat, and he's HURTING her." Off to the vet she went, for an abortion, a snip, and some shots. Free animals are never free, are they?

Peaches left as mysteriously as she arrived, on the same day as my husband left for a year living on a ranch in the middle of nowhere in California. We never did see her again. It was the strangest thing.

We did, however, see Steve again. Frequently.

Last year we were trying to find our way in rural Kentucky a few miles from our farm. We ended up at the end of what we thought was a road, but was really someone's very private driveway, with several residents standing there, regarding us with deep suspicion. Fortunately, there were puppies. Beagle and Bassett cross, to be specific, which were hands down the cutest puppies I've ever seen. I got out of the car (slowly), and told them so, then asked where the heck we got turned around. Our cooing over the puppies helped ease the way.

The next time we were at the farm, our next-door neighbors had one of those same adorable puppies. Small world, eh?

PS Walter is adorable. More to love.

Oh, Walter, you make a girl's heart go pitty-pat, you handsome dog, you.

Once upon a time I said to the universe, "Please get me a little gray kitty."

Shortly thereafter, two boys came to my door with a gray kitten in their hands. "We found him," they said. "I'll take him," I said, and thanked the universe for arranging things so nicely. That cat was my darling boy, Andy.

Two years later, in another house, two other boys came to the door with a second gray kitten in their hands. "We found him," they said. "We'll take him," I said, and told the universe, "Enough, already." That cat was a poor neurotic mess.

Ever since, I've been very suspicious of boys traveling in pairs, and I'm careful what I wish for.

I walked out of the grocery store and there were two girls with what looked like a chihuahua only a little bigger shivering in their arms obviously scared to death.
They said they found him on the bike path next to the canal and I asked them what they were going to do. Their confused look compelled me to take over. I mean, when you have one dog what's one more for a while?
I took Polaroids and called the appropriate places to report him found. Nothing. So Peppy (my son named him because he really was peppy)came to live with us and Isaac Dog.
He was actually a Mini Pince which has Dobe markings and since he was a puppy, big pointy ears and a curly tail. I called him a cat in a dog suit as he would curl up and snuggle in your lap like a cat where as Isaac Dog was as affectionate and snuggly as a toaster oven.
Then he turned...mean. I mean junk yard mean. He could keep the vet and two assistants at arms length trying to muzzle him for shots.
So that is where he went. The car dealer in Hialeah used them as guard dogs and bred Mini Pinces. Don't laugh. They are ferocious. Peppy fit right in. Some people say all dogs look the same but whenever I drive by there I can always spot him.
I wish more people had the room in their hearts to help stray children like they do animals. What are we afraid of? That they'll steal our affection and we'll end up keeping them?
Sorry. I got carried away there. I think everyone has had a Walter in their life Sarah. Lovely story with a happy ending. I like happy endings. I think we all do.

All of my pets have been rescues or strays. Even the horse was a rescue as her owner didn't want her anymore.

Bonnie, my incontinent geriatric cairn terrier mix, is 16 now...and each day I worry that today may be the day that we go for that last car ride to the vet. She was an abuse case that I adopted when she was five (I have had her for 11 years now).

Bella is my stray cat, who became a mama to four in my garage. Upon my getting them adopted out as twin-sets, she was taken immediately to the vet for fixing. Most expensive stray ever ($386) to ensure never again. During last years blizzards upon blizzards, I tossed her in the house so we could open the garage for the snow blower. Found her curled up on my bed. Now, she only goes outside if I am with her...and then she is ready to run back inside.

I just tried to rescue a scrawny little kitty last month. She was so very scared. By the time I caught her, she was skin and bones. Got her vetted and rehydrated, but a few days later she gave up. She was safe and warm, with a dog and sister-cat watching over her at the end. :(

Walter is very lucky, and it is a very sad situation. I am a supporter of Pet Guardians, not a rescue, but they try to work with senior owners in advance, to try to find homes for the fur-babies. That is how my mom and stepdad got Pepper....and they take him to visit his former owner about once a month. Just received an email from them today about Molly, who is currently in one of those prison programs...she graduates in two weeks and needs a home. And then there is Rocky, the little poodle, whose owner is going into nursing care...

First off, sarah, you were indeed conned. Basset Hound? Con Job? DUH! They are grifters of the highest level.

But you did the right thing, for sure. Before you know it, Fred and Walter will be forcing you and Charlie to buy a new couch or two, then planning the best way to get that Sunday dinner of the counter and on the floor where it belongs.

Oh, I almost forgot: Our sweet little Basset, Winker, who we came VERY close to losing a few weeks age to congestive heart failure and fluid in her lungs, is now doing WAY better. She will never again be as rowdy and vocal as she used to be, but she is pretty active and happy and eating on her own.

Sarah, wonderful blog!! I especially love the title. All my fur faced family strayed into my life I have never needed to go looking for love. Love finds me! But even though I'm blessed to have these four legged heart fillers in my life I wish I were able to find the people responsible for putting them out to fend for themselves. I would love to take them for a nice long drive in the mountains open the door and kick them out of the vehicle and let them forage for food while trying to find their way to help. It's a life lesson they should experience!!

Judith, thank you so much for the fart fix advice. I'll be trying it out right away!

Sarah, this is a very loving and heartwarming story.

The little girls in the neighborhood rescued kittens in the alley of a movie theatre and passed them around. I took one in and it was sad to see how wary and frightened the cat was. It didn't trust anyone to pet it
As a new bride I whined about wanting a baby and my husband brought home a kitten in a box from the pet store. Not a baby but a welcome addition. As he grew he went outside in the front yard and took a liking to a little girl down the street. One day he just kept right on walking home with her.

My daughter has two retrievers and a cat. She will be bringing home her new baby to her other babies. The dogs have pretty much been their children.
As my daughter was trying out her new glider in the nursery the dogs came up to investigate. The cat, however peered, stuck his nose up in the air and walked away in a huff.
It will be very interesting to see the dynamics within this family group.

Yes, that's an aspect I should have mentioned: the cats. Though themselves saved from the fate of a humane society, there is no sympatica in their souls. They view this new, well, intruder, as nothing more than just another dumb canine to conquer and destroy.

For the record, Walter is very good with cats. Doesn't bark or chase. Just ignores them. But you know what they say, kindness is weakness.

I've caught the two cats exchanging knowing glances over his pointed (and daft) little head. I've watched then sharpen their claws on the exposed wood downstairs. They're leaps and bounds beyond these dogs, intellectually and instinctively.

I fear he and Fred do not stand a chance.

Doc - yes, on the floor where it belongs. We humans don't really know the value of food. Only bassets.

We have a 16 year old Golden Retriever whom I spoil so badly that I don't think he'd tolerate other pets.

We do take in stray children, though. Three so far.

We have ten cats. Each one was a rescue. It warms my heart to hear there are others who have that big "S" on their foreheads as well. (You know the "S" that stands for SUCKER!) *g*

We've never took in any stray animals, but all our dogs have been "free". Sammi, whom we've now had for almost 10 years is a black lab/golden retriever mix with long flowing black hair. We have many "dust doggies" in our house. She has been very expensive as she has the Golden's tendency to skin allergies and a very sensitive stomach. The stomach upsets cause her to want to eat grass. If she's alone in the house vaguely grass like items will have to do. Carpets have been eaten along with fabric scraps, knee-highs, etc. The looped carpet was the worst episode with strands as long as two feet being thrown up or passed through her digestive tract after a treatment with hairball medicine. If left untreated they can shred intestines.

Two basset stories to relate:
A friend adopted "Leroy Brown" as a puppy two months prior to her husbands death. Her life now revolves around Leroy who is very "Bad Bad" dog, but adorable.

In the late '70's a family in town had a basset who of course liked to wander. We were one stop on his daily round, for he liked to root around in the garden where we composted the organic waste. Sometimes he got a little over zealous and would start to root about in the parts of the garden with plants and my brothers and myself would be sent out to shoo him onward in his travels.

One day my mother was standing at the kitchen window and saw him coming down the alley, across the footbridge and up through our yard. The only problem was she couldn't remember what breed of dog he was or his name (Ralph).

After a few moments hesitation she hollered, "Here comes that low-built beagle again. You'd better go chase him home." This name lives on and today whenever anyone in the family sees a basset it's always a "low-built beagle".

Sarah, oh, how I can relate. I came home from a trip in mid-September to discover mama kitty and two tiny kittens on my patio. Of course I immediately opened a can of cat food. I caught the kittens the first weekend in October. Or they caught me. The boy kitten walked right in like he owned the place, the girl kitten took a more persuading but tuna did the trick. I caught mama kitty on Thanksgiving morning. She's still not happy about it but she likes tuna as well and she's getting it on a regular basis. All my cats are rescues. I think there's a sign on my door that says: cat lover, good home here!

Congrats on your new family member.
There is going to be a bulldog beauty contest at Allentown's America on Wheels museum in April. It is of course a fundraiser.
Bulldogs because it is the Mack Truck mascot.
Perhaps Sara you need to start a Basset Beauty contest as a fundraiser for some local charity.
Ann Marie

Years ago a stray cat came into our apartment building in Minneapolis, and I somehow was persuaded to keep "him" until his owners could be found . . . the vet spayed "Maxi" when he delivered her kitten by caesarian (oh, Ides of March today, speaking of Caesaar). I eventually had to admit that I was still allergic to cats, but I did find the two of them a good home.
That was the last of furry roommates, but I did let Prince the Frog stay until spring when he showed up one December -- and photographed and recorded him for the "Frog & Friends" CD (made him earn those "free" crickets, I did ;-)
Thank goodness for kind people for all those kitties and puppies.

Lucky dog! There oughtta be a law about folks being able to take beloved pets with them into assisted living or similar care facilities . . . so much love. When Mom was in hospice care, one of her favorite days was a visit from a friend's dog, and there was always a stuffed dog near at hand, because she had never lived without a cat or dog, since early childhood.

Six years ago my 85 year old dad died and his siamese cat Lucy died of a broken heart shortly thereafter. My mom wanted a new cat so we went to Pet Refuge and she adopted two kittens about six months old, from different litters. After about a month, she insisted we take the male kitten because he was "mean" to the tiny female. Two months ago my 90 year old mom died and, now the cats are reunited at my house. The tiny female is still tiny, the male is now 18 pounds and a big softie. She is the boss, and he protects her. I have to admit the con in this move was my mom. She cried alligator tears until my husband agreed to take the little black one. Last week he went on a busines trip and when he got back I teasingly asked him if he missed me and he replied ,"Yeah, but I really missed the cats."

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