Anyone who knows me would quickly categorize me as an animal lover. And not just any animal lover. I’m the type to look along the side of the road for injured animals, volunteer at shelters, and offer my services as dog sitter to any of our friends. When I first met Jonathan, who is now my husband, I wasn’t so sure how this would work. Sure, he had a mother and sisters that were almost as animal
crazy loving as I. However, he quickly made it clear that he was a ‘No Pets in the House’ kind of guy.
Don’t worry. I quickly reformed him 😉
Fast forward to a year or so later. We had both graduated from Penn State, and were living in a suburb of Pittsburgh. Our property had lots of acreage, and my dog Tonka (who was not only allowed in the house, but even occasionally onto the sofa or bed) needed a friend. Jonathan and I had been talking for a few weeks about getting another dog. A puppy, to be precise. We had a few qualifications;
1) We would get the dog in the fall, once things in our lives had slowed down a bit.
2) It would be a male, as we both thought females were more difficult to train.
3) Jonathan’s stipulation was that the dog be a large pure-bred, as he thought mutts & rescues were too unpredictable. (More on that later, I promise!)
4) The dog would be a young puppy, so that we were able to start from scratch with the training.
I was on my way to work, one early Saturday morning in the summer. Rushing down the highway, I was anxious to get my day started, when I saw a little black tail wiggling above the high weeds beside the busy road. Of course, I immediately pulled over, no doubt angering the driver behind me. As I got out of my car, another vehicle stopped to see if they could help. As I stood, still holding on to the open door of my SUV, a little flash of black launched itself into my car, and promptly made itself comfortable on the passenger seat. The other driver chuckled and said, “Well, looks like you have this under control!” I got in my car and began down the road with my new co-pilot, wondering what I would do with this pup during the work day. Of course, I immediately called Jonathan. Our conversation went something like this…
Jonathan: “Hello?” Stephanie: “You’re going to kill me.”
J: “Why, what did you do?”
S: “No, you’re really going to kill me. I found a puppy.”
J (ever-practical, problem-solver that he is!): “Ok, well what does it look like? I will start calling the shelters to find its home.”
We hung up, with the agreement that we would not, under any circumstances, be keeping this dog. I looked ‘it’ over, and quickly came to the determination that this dog was everything we had decided against. She was, in fact, a she. She was also on the smaller side, obviously not pure-bred, and had some influence of pit bull. She was young enough to be a hand-full, but of age where she was not still dependant upon her mother. She was stinky, skinny, and obviously neglected, due to a skin infection and fleas. What did this all add up to? She needed me. Still off the clock, I gave her a quick bath, to which she offered much protest, a bowl of water, and some makeshift ‘toys’ to keep her busy (plastic bottles, etc). I placed her in an empty stall at the equine veterinary hospital where I worked, and set about my morning chores.
As I worked, I heard some strange noise coming from the back of the barn. These sounds could not possibly be made by a dog… something must be attacking her! I ran to the stall, and found the puppy stalking her prey… a piece of baling twine. The ferocious noises she made seemed incompatible with her size, and I couldn’t help but laugh at her. She would definitely be a challenge for whomever welcomed her into their home…
Throughout the day, this puppy gave me my fair share of trouble. Nothing was easy with her around! I touched base with Jonathan before I left for the morning, and he told me he had spoken with a number of shelters that were willing to take her. He had also looked on craigslist, but found nothing relating to a missing black puppy. I was expecting that to be the case, as unfortunately, she didn’t look as though anyone who might have had her, had cared enough about her to miss her. My guess was that she had been dumped along the side of the road.
I made the trip home, which normally takes 45 minutes, with the little puppy beside me. Or, should I say, rarely beside me. The commute ended up taking over an hour, as the dog would. not. sit. still. If she wasn’t trying to crawl under my feet, she was launching over the back seat into the trunk, climbing into my lap to lick my face, or digging through my designer purse to find something to play with. Shortly after we departed, I made the smart decision to pull over, and carefully harnessed her safely, so that she could not hurt herself. This lasted all of about 10 minutes, until she had wriggled out of the leash and plopped herself down… right here…
When we finally got home, I was exhausted from the trip. I opened the door to my car, planning to walk around to the other side and make the puppy wait to get out of the car. She launched herself over me, leapt out the door and….
Ran. Right into Jonathan’s arms.
He picked her up, looked down at me, and said…
“We’re keeping her.”
routine vet care…
A quick and easy spay, for a pathetic patient…
Play-time with her big brother and best friend, Tonka…
And some good, old-fashioned cuddle time…
Gaige has since become the bright spot in our lives. For every bit of mischief she causes (and believe me, there is a lot!) she is right there to lick you in apology for her transgressions. She has taught us so much about raising not just a puppy, but a pit bull puppy. Like, when you buy brand new, $400 insulated steel-toe work boots, do not leave them in the basement to dry, Dad. Puppy will chew them to an unwearable state, the same day they were purchased.
On a serious note, we quickly realized that dogs like Gaige are commonplace in shelters across the U.S. We strongly believe that had Gaige not ended up in our loving home, she would have found her way into a bad place, either of neglectful or frustrated owners, life in a shelter, or even worse, euthanasia. She was a handful to raise, and easily misunderstood. We know that by giving her a chance and raising her with strict but positive guidance, she has repaid the favor to us ten fold. We want to spread that knowledge to others, and maybe make a difference in the lives of a few shelter dogs just like Gaige. We love our pit bull for so many reasons, and we know you would, too… at least now that she’s trained!