Bill Jones

February 24, 2009

Post #2477 – 20090224

I wanted to let you know that you helped me out with a new dog I picked up at the shelter 8 years ago.

She was a Chocolate Lab who was on death row, on day 20 of a stay that was 21 days maximum.

I was looking for a dog to replace my first real dog, a runt Rotweiller mix I adopted as a pup who lived 12 years. I watched him waste away from cancer, and on the rebound I decided another dog was necessary.

This year old girl was absolutely the most beautiful and spirited creature I had ever seen. The staff at the shelter were pretty much afraid of her, and were amazed that she behaved with me. I did have to go back three times to finalize the adoption, they wanted to make sure I was ready to commit to what she needed.

When I got her home, I found out that she was impossible. She would stand in front of me barking and snarling and clicking her teeth at me. It seemed that her previous masters had never talked to her. When she would be bellowing at me for no reason, looking into her eyes reminded me of looking into the eyes of a lizard.

I despaired for weeks, feeling totally out of control of Koko.

There were some interesting facets of this dog. I wasn’t able to walk her for the first couple of weeks because she was recovering from kennel cough. The first time I took her out for a fast one mile walk, she heeled perfectly. I thought, whoever had this girl had her professionally trained. That was a guess. What I can know for certain based on reality is that after that first walk, she has never healed again.

All my friends who loved my old dog were either afraid of Koko, or concerned about my judgement

in keeping her. I despaired of ever having her under control, I ruined my knees trying to outmaneuver her on our walks, she was a terror.

About this time I heard you on Morning Edition telling the story of your husky girl. I figured that there was hope for my dog. I waited 3 months to get into classes a good school, and with their help, learned how to live with my girl. The most encouraging turn of the deadlock came when one of the teachers pointed out that Koko always looked to me for direction whenever we went through an excersize. Even though she has never been ideally behaved, and runs for hours through the streets of my semi suburban neighborhood with her adopted sister if the gate is left open, I love her more than any animal I’ve ever had. It helped that just when I was the most miserable with this idiotic choice I had made, I heard a voice of reason. She is the most fearless, energetic, and alive animal I’ve ever seen, and she is just now starting to slow down. It is such an ironic beauty that the arc of time that man’s best friend walks with us is so short. It would be cowardly not to invest a few years with such fine spirits, even though moments of heartbreak is the end. All our dogs live in our hearts forever, no matter how much time has passed since they lived.

Thanks for sharing your story with me.

Daniel replies:

I have owned a few dogs by now, and known maybe a couple hundred. Looking back, the ones that meant the most to me have been in one way or another impossible. Partly this is because Jill and I tend not to give up on an animal, and we try to respect them for what they are--which is not to say that we don't demand that they do their best to meet our expectations. This exchange, the dog with issues of its own, and us trying to communicate what we require, makes for a real bond and deeper understanding. My relationship with Lulu, who at 13 may be the oldest Inuit dog on the planet, is amazingly complex--my idea is that if we could give one like her to each of the principal leaders in the middle east they would find out what negotiation is all about. I fantasize about Lulu's successor, when that time comes, and imagine an easy dog who presents no challenge at all--but I have always had that fantasy. I salute you and Koko, and the dogs to come.