This column is in the nature of therapy for me. It’s about my dog.
While I still love my dog, earlier this year I made the decision to give him up to his other parent, the man with whom I adopted Chip from the Niagara Falls Humane Society. I guess you could say Chip comes from a broken home.
I tried to convince myself that being dog-free would be easier for my daughter and I, since we weren’t able to give Chip the kind of attention he deserves. I now believe this line of thinking was in the nature of defence, so our parting would not hurt so much.
Once a dog is in your family, he is there to stay – muddy paws, wet fur, special diet, responsibilities and all.
Why is this? I could name many things: Unconditional love; silent companionship; patience; unbridled joy; exercise; laughter; security; friendliness; safety; communication; intelligence … there are innumerable reasons why we think of a dog as a human’s best friend.
Once ensconced in family life, a dog makes all things better, makes memories brighter and lessens the burden of heartache. Today, while my heartache has faded and my memories dull with each passing day, I know there are some things about my dog I will never forget.
A border collie, Chip has some quirks that took some time to show themselves when we adopted him, in 2009. His history was a bit murky; all we knew was that he had been someone’s pet, and they couldn’t take him to the place they were moving.
At first, he behaved extremely well, hardly barking even, except for the herding of the cat. I guess herding really is in their blood!
I eventually realized he would never hurt the cat, and in fact was afraid of her, so the herding became funny to watch. The cat didn’t think so, although she learned to tolerate Chip, and to live “up high.”
The next quirk he revealed when visitors dropped in. Chip would empty his water dish over the floor and carry it around in his mouth, tossing it up and down like a toy.
I bought him a ceramic water dish and that put an end to that. I did, however, indulgent dog parent that I am, try to find him some stainless steel bowls to have as toys in the yard.
That made for hours of fun – watching him nose over the bowl, run with it, toss it in the air and repeat the process endlessly, until teeth marks showed through the rim of the bowl and it became dented and battered, like some silvery relic from ages past.
When he started putting his teeth right through the steel and making his gums bleed, we would take the bowl away and start fresh, hoping each bowl would be strong enough to last another month or so.
Eventually, Chip had the dog in the yard directly behind us tossing his own bowl, too. How funny it was to watch them both play! I could only apologize to my neighbours for their dog’s new trick.
Chip is a border collie, but at times while with me he acted more like a tracking breed.
Every time I walked Chip in a park close to my home, he would dive under a hedge and come up with a baseball or a tennis ball. He did this unfailingly, as though he could scent the toys from afar.
After finding one, he would almost dance on the spot until I threw the ball – but please, not too far – and would happily chase after it. On catching it, he would lie down and chew the ball until I caught up to him. He never did grasp the concept of “fetch!”
I still have grocery bags full of found baseballs and tennis balls in my basement. You never know when there might be a shortage; better hang onto them!
The good news is that Chip isn’t out of my life forever. I’m sure the day will come when it won’t be too painful to have him visit, or just get updates on his new family life.
If you, like me, are thinking it might be time to responsibly seek out a canine family member, there are many places in Niagara to search. Just remember, owning a dog will mean a lifetime commitment to care, so make sure you are ready! Please note, most adoptions at the following agencies also require the purchase of a municipal licence:
* Niagara Falls Humane Society
Located at 6025 Chippawa Parkway, this no-kill shelter is open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. Website www.nfhs.ca. Phone 905-356-4404. Cost of dog adoption: $280 unless otherwise noted.
* Welland and District Humane Society
In Welland, located at 60 Provincial St. Shelter is open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday, noon to 3 p.m. In Port Colborne, located at 1080 Elm St. Hours of operation are Tuesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Website, www.wellandhumanesociety.org. Phone 905-735-1551. Cost of dog adoption: $270.
* Fort Erie SPCA
Located at 410 Jarvis St., Fort Erie. Hours of operation are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and closed Sunday. Website, www.forteriespca.org. Phone 905-871-2461. Cost of dog adoption: Up to $270.
* Lincoln County Humane Society
Located at 160 Fourth Ave., St. Catharines. Hours are Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Website, www.lchs.ca. Phone, 905-682-0767. Cost of dog adoption: Dogs, $290. Puppies, $340 for four months or younger. Small dogs 25 lbs or fewer, $325.
* Breed rescue agencies
For a list of adoption and rescue agencies in Ontario, visit the website of Dogs Dogs Dogs, Ontario’s newspaper for dog lovers at www.dogsdogsdogs.ca.
For a list of recognized Ontario breeders, visit www.canadogs.com/Prov_ON.htm.
You see, there are countless places in Niagara to seek out that newest family member.
For my own family, we will always take a rescue pet over one from a breeder – because we aren’t seeking a show dog, but one with character that just needs a home.
The reason so many dogs are given up for adoption could be as simple as a change in a family’s circumstances, or as harsh as the discovery of a puppy mill. No matter the reasons, all dogs from shelters need a community’s attention: Because that’s where volunteers come from, and because volunteers are the people who care for and train the dogs to enable their adoptions.
You never forget your first rescue – mine was a Samoyed, rescued from the Fort Erie SPCA in 2001. His name was Polar Bear and he passed away in 2008. Best memory: Every time fire trucks left the station on Morrison Street, he howled with their sirens!
Chip was not the dog I dreamed of owning, however with his stubborn doggy ways, he soon owned my heart.
Just like him, out there, somewhere, is the hairy creature that will nudge its way into my life once more.
This time, it will be forever.
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