It’s been nearly two years since a member of your department did something that I’m sure he had no idea would change lives forever.
A very large and timid (sometimes mistaken for aggressive) German shepherd had been walking your streets with no leash, no collar, no way to contact an owner but clearly well-fed and healthy. He was house trained and didn’t chew on furniture but he was scared of people. He liked to play only with balls but if they weren’t available he would settle for a rock. (You probably remember him now because that was a strange trait of his.) When he barked, which was rare, he sounded more like a bear than a dog. He never over ate and never tried to run away; but if you accidentally backed him into a corner, he growled in such a ferocious way he was quite terrifying.
When I first saw this very large GSD, I was pretty hesitant to take him home. He was stronger than I and I wasn’t sure if his fear of me would equal into him attacking. But there was something very special about this puppy (read: dog of six years old or older who was quite cuddly and thought he could climb on my lap even though he weighed more than I). He had not been fixed and likely had never been vaccinated. But his eyes were the most loving and tender of any animal I had ever seen. I could not resist him, even though I thought his habit of using his front legs to push rocks behind him so he could chase them was odd.
I brought him home and we named him Ruger.
I am writing this to tell you that by saving this older dog and letting him be adopted, you gave him a wonderful and loving two years of life and you gave my family memories we will cherish forever.
It took some training, but it wasn’t long before I tricked Ruger into thinking I was tougher than he and to teach him the humans were in charge. He never stole food from the kids, he never tried to bite or attack anyone but he would tear through the dog door into the backyard and give his ferocious bark anytime someone came too close to his family and property. He was protective without being dangerous.
He was loving and playful, and learned how to be a service dog to a child diagnosed with anxiety among other things. He didn’t like certain people and let me know it without being aggressive. He loved other people and let them know with kisses. He played with the kids and wore them out constantly. He taught our family more than I would have expected and while some warned me that I shouldn’t adopt an older puppy because they don’t live long, I couldn’t have picked a better dog for our family.
While I wish Ruger could have given us five or six years, the two years he was with us were filled with great memories. And I’m so grateful Ruger had a family that loved him and took care of him during his final days.
One month ago, as all moms do, I noticed when Ruger began acting differently. It was that same gut feeling I had when my son had his car accident. His appetite was decreasing and he was trying to sleep on the kids’ beds at night even though he knew he wasn’t allowed on the furniture. After a month of vet visits and careful watching, an x-ray showed us Ruger had a tumor and advanced liver cancer. There wasn’t much we could do but love him and keep him comfortable until it was time to give him peace.
Today, we said a tearful goodbye to Ruger. And while my heart is breaking, I had to take a moment to say thank you for giving us the last two years. And thank you to everyone who chooses to adopt senior puppies and let them live their remaining years with a family to love them.