Why We Walk . . .4th installment in our Rescue stories
Why We Walk is a series of essays highlighting rescue. How some dogs change people lives and how some people change a dog’s life. These essays are meant to emphasis the need and mission of rescue, specific to welsh terriers. This 4th installment is written by Baron Giles Norton IV and features the rescue of the incomparable Mr. Jones. In my mind I am singing the 1972 classic by Billy Paul … Me & Mr. Jones.
The thing that was hardest about the death of our Welsh Terrier, Mr. Bryn, was the silence that filled our house after he had gone. It’s hard to imagine how painful that quiet is if you have never experienced it.
Mr. Bryn had come into our lives as a ten-week old puppy that we got for our daughter when she was in middle school. We had reasoned that a constant source of unquestioning and unconditional love in her life would help her through the tough times when her “friends” in school let her down. We were not wrong. She trained Mr. Bryn. She taught him tricks. She walked him even when she didn’t want to go out in the rain or snow.
Fast forward a decade. Our daughter was away at college. Mr. Bryn had become my constant companion. The intervening ten years had seen Mr. Bryn swimming at the ocean. Walking off the leash everywhere I went – many times strolling side by side with the cat and me down the street. Greeting me in the morning when I got up, and in the evening when I came home from work. He was ten, and I expected that he would have a few more years as a senior dog, and I would have time to adjust to him aging gracefully. It was not to be.
Mr. Bryn started showing symptoms of what we slowly learned were kidney problems: excessive thirst, frequent frothy urination, depression, loss of appetite and fatigue. We had some tests done and desperately tried to encourage him to eat, to play, and to recover his enthusiasm for life. This went on for about two months – two expensive months of visits to the vets as we tried to find a way back. It was not to be. The protein levels in his blood and markers of kidney failure continued to rise. There were good days: we took him to a doggy swim, and he was his old self; he met Leopold a young Welsh Terrier puppy and they played together; he liked to sit on my lap as I had a glass of wine in the evening… But then the hammer fell.
On a Tuesday night he collapsed on his walk and I had to carry him home. We were back at the vets. We tried new and delicious foods that he would eat for a day or two, and then he completely lost his appetite for anything. The following week was a nightmare. He was not eating much or drinking. Finally, on Friday, something amazing happened. I came down in the morning and he was waiting at the back door for a walk. We headed out together to the local corner store, and I got him one of his favorite dog biscuits. He ate it and we walked home. I had a glimpse of hope. Then, that night he could not be tempted out for a walk or to pee. I carried him outside for his bathroom break and then sat up all night with him holding ice-cubes that he would lick. I cuddled him in my arms all day Saturday, and my wife sat up all that night with him. On Sunday morning I carried him out into the garden and we sat together on a bench. After about two hours he fell asleep on my lap, and I held him as his breathing got shallower and shallower with tears running down my face. My wife was sitting next to us as he simply faded away. We buried him wrapped in his blanket, with a ball and a biscuit.
I was broken. Really broken.
That was the beginning of the silence. The absence of the jingle of his rabies tags was deafening. Coming in through the back door did not immediately result in the patter of feet. A neighbor walking a dog did not generate a fearsome tirade of barking.
I grieved, but I was comforted by dozens of messages from people I had never met who had followed Mr. Bryn’s slide on Welsh Terrier Fan Club. The take-away from them was to consider giving a forever home to an adult dog, and they suggested WTCARES. My wife and I both worked, and we knew that we did not have the time to devote to a puppy as our daughter had done.
After about a month of sadness, I contacted WTCARES and registered as a potential home. They vetted us and told us that they had a five-year old male in Atlanta who had been in several homes through no fault of his own. A friend of ours who knew Mr. Bryn and who lived in Atlanta went to meet him. They thought he was wonderful and sent us a video. A week later I flew from Boston to Atlanta, and was taken by Carolyn and Lynda from WTCARES to meet him. The moment I saw him, I knew that “Bear,” as he was called, and I could rescue each other. I flew home, and the following day, he flew up to Boston to begin his life in his forever home with us.
Don’t be tempted to think that bringing a rescue dog into your home is easy. It isn’t. You can’t help but compare – even though you know it is unfair. And this process of learning to love each other is undeniably a two way street: Mr. Jones, as we renamed him, didn’t trust us at first. Yes, he was loving and affectionate when you stroked him, but he was reserved; he refused to make eye contact; he slept in a tightly curled self-protective ball; he sat on his own a lot rather than with us on the couch. I kept reminding myself that life with Mr. Bryn was not all roses: he chewed all the glazing bars off the office windows; he wouldn’t let you near him when he was eating; before he was fully house-trained he pooped and peed on rugs that had to be thrown away.
Mr. Jones and our family had to *learn* that this addition to our family was forever, and it was going to be good.
I won’t detail the bumps in the road, but, in brief, the main things that gave us pause are these: Mr. Jones is an escape artist: given half a chance he will bolt to hunt squirrels. He didn’t know how to play with a ball, or that rough-and-tumble didn’t mean we were going to physically hurt him.
What I will say is that seven months later he looks me in the eyes, he will sleep on his back next to me on the couch, and he has learned to chase a ball. He will accompany us on four mile runs, and greet us at the door when we come home. He has never growled, or nipped, or even barked in anger. He still wants to take off and chase all the squirrels in the world, even imaginary ones, but he is a delight and we cannot imagine life without him.
So, why support WTCARES? Here’s a short list of reasons: they rescued Mr. Jones and gave him a temporary home when he needed it; they identified his willfulness and placed him with a trainer who worked with him to solve the issue – which they financed; they paid for his fostering; they vetted us – to make sure that his forever home was really forever; and they helped me arrange Mr. Jone’s safe transport to Boston.
Those are the nuts and bolts of what they did, but what they REALLY did was bring Welsh Terrier love – and the sounds of that love – back into our family.
Finally, Mr. Jones wants me to say that even if you can’t make the walk, think about sending a donation – it’s tax deductible, which means the government is contributing too!