Tuesday, February 3, 2009

A Bulldog in the Basement

This past Sunday, my husband came home, found me in the living room and said, "Honey, there's a dog in the street. Should we go get him?"

I grabbed a leash and headed out there to see what was going on.

What I found was an SUV stopped in the middle of the street, the couple who owned the SUV standing off the street in someone's driveway, and an American Bulldog begging for a scratch or a scrap. The woman from the SUV told us that he'd just wandered in front of their vehicle and, when they stopped, started sniffing around their tires. They had called the local dog warden already and we let them know that we would take over and let them be on their way.

I put a leash on the dog and my husband went into the house to get him a plateful of dog food. He was not a well-kept animal -- his skeleton was clearly defined, he was not neutered, he had some old scars on his legs as well as other suspicious bald spots, callouses on his hip bones from sitting on hard surfaces, a cloudy infected possibly blind eye, and a tongue that threatened to fall right out of the left side of his face. He smelled like old urine. He ate like a starving hippopotamus. But he was otherwise polite and attentive, good-natured and charming.

We waited out in the cold for a good 20 minutes without any sign of the warden, before we decided to bed him down in a kennel in the basement for the night and decide what to do with him the next day. He was a perfect houseguest, obviously familiar and comfortable with a kennel, quiet, relaxed. Obviously well-socialized at some point, he was simply a really good dog.

The danger in having a really good dog in the house is pretty obvious. At one point I said to him, as he snorted gleefully at me, "It's a good thing you're so ugly, or I'd be in trouble here." Of course, "ugly" is a relative term -- my personal ideal version of canine beauty comes in the shape of a German Shepherd Dog. Compared to that standard, the stocky, overmuscled body, the big round, rock head, the flat faced, snorting, wrinkled, alien-baby face of a bulldog is ugly indeed. For someone who really enjoys taking care of a large number of animals, picking favorite and least favorite breeds is a good way of developing personal boundaries and limitations. No bulldogs! No pugs! No labs! No goldens! No huskies! But it never really matters. The world throws a bulldog in your basement and you can't help but think of how he would fit into the household.

And then discount that option because enough is enough, the inn is full, and this dog is a good dog. And good dogs (especially with alien-baby faces) are easy to place, even with blind eyes and scars and tongues that don't stay inside. I found a nearby vet clinic with an available appointment and off we went for an exam and deworming and the other things a stray needs before they're allowed to fraternize with the rest of the household. I was thinking of options for him -- who do I know that is in the market for a new dog with an alien-baby face? As it turned out, the receptionist at the veterinary hospital was.

"He needs a home? Really?" she said. "My husband would love him!"

And so the deal was done. With a promise of good (and probably discounted) vet care and a home with animal people who think snoring, snorting, and drooling are cute, I handed him over to her. Because of my long history with structured, responsible animal rescue and adoption procedures, I have to say I felt a bit irresponsible handing him over like that. I did not conduct a proper background check. I didn't hold him for 72 hours and run an ad in the paper to give someone the chance to claim him as their lost, beloved pet. I didn't even ask if she intended to have him neutered, let alone ask her to sign a contract promising to give him even a basic level of care.

Basically, I just assumed that this veterinary receptionist, a perfect stranger to me, was agreeing, without us even discussing it, to take over all of the responsibilities that I had not taken care of. It's not like me to make those kinds of assumptions or to be so trusting! But it felt good and right and so easy to say, "He's all yours. Congratulations!" More than that, I felt like I was being let off the hook. I escaped an awful, embarrassing fate -- to tell the world that I, the one who teases, mercilessly, the flat-nose-breed fan club members about their poorly put-together, inelegant, snuffling, snarfling, silly, bossy, bug-eyed, wrinkly "not real dogs," that I had fallen in love with one.

1 comment:

  1. My pugs were horrified by this tale. They can't believe you don't adore squash faced dogs! I am horrified this post does not include a photo of the alien-baby face!
    Good job rescuing the lad.