Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Babe was an original, but Radar taking best shot

I vowed there will always be a Babe in my life – a dog named Babe, that is.

I always liked the name Babe, in honor of Babe Ruth, the greatest major league baseball player of all time, or at least the greatest who played in his own body.

Babe is just a cool name. A guy’s dog’s name.

When I lost the original Babe, I got a new dog from the shelter – a big black Lab/hound mix whose shelter-given name I can’t even remember. But it didn’t matter because he instantly became Babe II.

That was six years ago, but I can still remember the then-shelter director, a personal friend, advising me to choose someone else.

“This one’s a chewer,” she said.

But there was something in his eyes that said he really needed to get out of there. I took him home, even though I already had two big black guys.

And a chewer he was. I had a futon in my office where I let the three black guys hang out while I was at work. It was black too, and I kept it covered with a black sheet when the dogs were on it so it would be habitable for guests.

I’m guessing Babe chewed up five of those sheets, not to mention this particular stuffed squeaky bone toy I bought in quantity at the Amazing 99 Cent Store (there’s a blast of nostalgia for you longtimers).

But Babe, who was about two when I brought him home, gradually outgrew the chewing and became, as they like to say at the shelter, my new best friend.

He was the sweetest, mellowest, non-neediest dog I have ever known.

Babe’s favorite thing in the whole world was to sit in a chair on our deck just like a person. For as long as we were out there, he’d just hold his head high and proud and look off into the woods.
And unlike the other dogs, he didn’t follow us around all day long looking for affection. When he needed a little love, usually once or twice a day, he’d just come up to you and lay his head in your lap.

Babe had probably been abused before he landed in the shelter because he never got over his wariness of strangers. But the few people he got to know well he loved unconditionally.

The Consort, of course, was one. Lisa Boyle, the animal supervisor at the Humane Society of Central Arizona (HSCAZ), was another.

As you’ve probably guessed by now, this story is headed in a sad direction. One morning a couple weeks ago Babe woke up with a mass on his hip. He could barely walk.

Batteries of tests later, it was determined he probably had a very aggressive cancer. His condition quickly deteriorated to the point where the vet wasn’t sure he would make it through the night.

Fortunately, my daughter is a vet in California, and she consulted with the local vet throughout the ordeal. She recommended we let him go.

She also told me that one of the responsibilities of pet ownership is to realize and accept the reality that pets don’t live as long as people. But I have to tell you it was tough, because Babe was my favorite dog of all time. I loved the others dearly, but Babe was truly special.

We decided to wait before adopting another dog. Maybe it was time to cut back anyway (we still had two dogs and a cat).

But The Consort works at HSCAZ and she had been telling me about this special white dog named, of course, Whitey, who had taken a hankering to her down at the shelter. He is a boxer, German shorthair pointer mix who was born deaf.

We put down Babe on a Thursday. The following Saturday I suggested we go down to the shelter and take a look at Whitey. Lisa also suggested we take a look at a dog named Radar, a big, black, bounding two-year-old Lab/shepherd mix who she said reminded her of Babe.

In the process of taking them both for walks, we passed dozens of other dogs waiting in kennels for a second chance. I have to tell you, I could have taken most any of them home.

When we were done walking Whitey and Radar I knew another dog was the right thing for us. Unable to decide which one, I asked Lisa which of the two she thought was least adoptable. She said probably Radar, who had been in and out of the shelter for over a year, so the decision was made.

My original intention was to rename him Babe III, but I have changed my mind. There will never be another dog like Babe II. He deserves to have his name retired.

And Radar, so named at the shelter because one ear is erect and the other flops, is his own dog. He is already carving a very special niche in our lives.

He is full of joy and energy and wants nothing more than to suck you into a game of ball or a wrestling match. I have also started taking him to the HSCAZ Thrift Store where I volunteer on Wednesdays. It’s become a tradition at the thrift store to have a dog or two on hand to greet customers, and Radar is covering Wednesdays very well.

He loves every man, woman and beast he encounters – except one guy for some reason – and is especially gentle with kids.

I know a lot of people who can’t bring themselves to replace a pet that dies. I was reluctant, too. It seemed almost sacrilegious.

But when I asked my daughter, the vet, she said, “It’s the perfect solution. I tell people that all the time and they don’t listen.”

Whether you’ve lost a pet or not, I invite you to come down to the shelter and take a look at the vast array of animals available for adoption. So many of you have told me you have to stay away from the shelter because you’d want to take them all home.

Let me tell you from the bottom of my heart, the joy you will gain from rescuing one dog or one cat will totally overwhelm any sadness for those left behind. And if we all did it – rescue one animal, that is – there wouldn’t be any animals in the shelter to feel sad about.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What a lovely piece. We adopted one of our dogs, Lily, from the shelter, two years ago, three days after our beloved Nala passed. She had been hit by a car and the shelter thought she was worth the cost of surgery. And boy, is she ever!