Mary Jo, my wonderful wife of (mumblemumble) years, has always been a dog person. Obviously, if she were a cat person, she wouldn’t be getting talked up here. If she were a cat person, we’d have never made it to mumblemumble years.
Her first dog, if I’m not mistaken, was Inky (a picture of him, with Mary Jo, her brothers and her sister all holding onto him, hangs in the house on Pleasure Drive). When I met her, she had a friendly brown-and-white mixed breed named Cody that she’d bring into the office once in a while. A few years after we were married, there was Crash, of course, the Greatest Dog Who Ever Lived. And now there’s Brodie, who is busy shedding around here somewhere right now. Probably underneath Mary Jo’s feet as she works at her desk. Or spread out on the hearth in the living room.
Or — this is a fave hangout — on the damn couch again.
(This happens a couple times every week: I’m on the couch. I get up to snag a drink. I return 11 seconds later. Bro-ro is curled up in my spot, looking at me like, ‘What?’
(I look pleadingly at Mary Jo. She shrugs her shoulders. I have to move all the crap off the other side of the couch — can’t disturb the dog, nooooo — and sit there. Man of the House. Yeah.)
Mary Jo has had horses, too, and loved them (the sainted Rowdy, Crystal and Lightning before him, a pony at one point). She had a bird, I think. And a duck, which is a story for another time. Probably a cat or two. (I guess I won’t hold that against her.)
But dogs, to her eternal credit, have been at the center of her animal-loving life for a long time. Becoming a foster to wayward pups was the natural next step.
Mary Jo’s newest vocation, when you break it down, is nothing short of noble. Saving a dog’s life. (Many foster dogs are rescued from “kill” shelters, which are exactly what they sound like.) Welcoming it into our house. Searching for a permanent home. Finding a place, and improving the lives of everybody involved, human and canine.
Makes me feel noble just being associated with it. And it makes those sideways looks I get from these visitors, the growling under the doggy breath, the constant shedding and occasional accidents and the dog food in the pantry (right next to my Cheerios?) all worth it.
Good God. I’m noble, too.
Anyway … back to Mary Jo.
A few months ago, Mary Jo brought in her first foster, Fitz, a mixed-breed herding dog. Fitz had his issues — these guys almost always do — and one of them was that he didn’t like me a bit. He never snapped at me, but he’d do this guttural kind of half-growl in my direction for absolutely zero reason. Kind of unnerving, considering it is my house and all.
We finally reached a détente of sorts, and he’d let me slowly, carefully, scratch him under his chin. Though, under no circumstances, could I actually make eye contact.
I know. Wasn’t allowed to look a strange dog in the eye in my own living room. King of the Castle. Yeah.
After a few weeks, Fitz was adopted by a wonderful retired couple in Charleston, where the three of them are enjoying their days playing catch in the back yard, lying around on the furniture and staring lovingly into each other’s eyes.
Now, we have Pax. He’s a good-looking but still-too-skinny BC (that’s shorthand in the canine community for border collie). He was rescued from Memphis, where a 90-year-old man had something like 30 dogs in his back yard. You can read all about Pax in Mary Jo’s posts, linked above, or if you’re really lazy, linked here again.
Pax instantly attached himself to Mary Jo. He was, like Fitz, growly at first and totally unsure of me. (My deodorant, maybe?) Even now, when I surprise him walking into the room or tip-toeing down the hallway, he’ll let out a ferocious few barks. I, of course, have to apologize.
But Pax is learning. He’ll walk up to me now and let me scratch him on top of the head. He doesn’t freak out around me much anymore, as long as he sees me coming. He’ll sit for some Cheerios and a bit of banana in the morning. He’ll even let me rub his belly.
Pax will stick around here for several more weeks while he goes through heartworm treatment — you see, Mary Jo doesn’t just rescue dogs, she rescues sick dogs — and then he’ll go up for adoption. Mary Jo and some people who she works with at the BC rescue group will find a perfect match for him. He’s a good dog. He’ll find a good home.
Some friends predict that we’ll end up keeping Pax — in the rescue world, that’s called a “foster fail” — but we don’t think so. The point of this is not only to save dogs but to pair them up with needy people. We don’t need a new dog. We have Brodie.
Still, we know it’ll be hard to ship Pax off to his new family. These fellas grow on you, no question. Those hundreds of toys in the living room, the growling, the stink-eyes and the occasional accident? The dog food in the pantry and on the kitchen countertop? The water, too, slobbered from drinking dishes all over the house? No big deal.
I really am noble. Second-noblest person in the house.
One thought on “The patron saint of canines”
I love the way you write, John. Made me miss you. (And, you know, mumblemumble.) Come see us!