Today's post is about the power of love, the importance of keeping one's word, and the magic of the internets.
On the day we returned from Australia in June, my girlfriend Kirsten's brother David was found dead in his apartment . He hadn't shown up to work, which was very unusual, so Wain went to check on him and discovered David and Mason, his gentle dog companion; they thought that they had been there about 2 days before being discovered. When Mason was let out of the room he went straight out onto the street and released all the poop and pee he had been storing up - he had not gone potty in the room all that time. Needless to say, Mason was traumatized, to say nothing of the dead brother's family (but that's another story). He spent a few days with his auntie Kirsten and cousin Cookie, and then went to live temporarily on a farm. No, not the "farm" but a REAL FARM! Everyone thought that was Mason's happy ending.
But no. About a month and a half later, on the night before David's funeral, Kirsten tripped and fell down her attic stairs, breaking her foot and bruising her ribs. Now, in addition to grieving the loss of her brother (and asshole boyfriend whom I shouldn't even be wasting space on), she had to contend with two rambunctious dogs without being able to walk well or move much without pain.
A couple weeks later, Mason was brought back to her house and told it wouldn't work out at the farm because he had nipped at one of the kids when they startled him and jumped on him. Kirsten called a co-worker of David's who had expressed interest in taking Mason. He called back and said, sure, he'd take him. He was going out and if he wasn't back when they came by she could just "drop him off in the back yard." Kirsten drove by the guy's house and found it to be one of those crappy yards with a chain link fence and junk strewn everywhere, with his dog tethered to a stake. Kirsten jokingly started calling Mason "junk yard dog." As the ward of her dead brother's dog, she wasn't about to just drop him off anywhere without more information about kind of living situation Mason would have. She called the guy back but kept getting his voice mail. He wouldn't return home or return her call until two days later.
But that first day I had stopped by when she gave up waiting for the return phone call. We decided to head up to my house for some cocktails, and why shouldn't everyone go! So the four of us - me, Kirsten, Cookie and Mason - piled into the convertible to head up 35W in rush hour. Mason is black and Cookie is blonde. They made quite a pair sitting in the back seat, heads pointed into the wind. They looked liked movie stars! Kirsten and I sang "Ebony and Ivory" and joked and and laughed and sang some more. That evening, after more discussion about Mason's situation, we decided he would stay with me and Pat until we could find him a foster home or, better yet, permanent home. He had already been bounced around a few times and was anxious and skittish.
That night nobody went to bed until after 4am, so we didn't really notice that Mason didn't sleep. The next day, though, we noticed that he was still uptight and edgy and hadn't eaten anything. The next night was Saturday, and at bedtime it was obvious he wasn't about to let us go to sleep! He stood over our bed, nervous and crying, not wanting to be left alone again!
Those first two days he followed Pat everywhere he went in the house, even if it was only a few feet away. On Monday I got online and sent out emails and calls to about a dozen no-kill rescue organizations asking if any of them could help him story. A few wrote back with concern for his plight but explained they were overflowing with abandoned animals, many left behind in the current mortgage crisis. On the Homeward Bound website it was explained that black dogs are the hardest to get adopted because there are so many of them. I tried not to get discouraged.
After contacting rescue orgs, I sent out the the all-call to locals in my email address book ; I didn't count but it had to be about 40-50 people. Here's the email I sent:
I am taking care of a dog who needs a home. His name is Mason, and about a month and half ago his owner died, with Mason in the room. We think he was in the room for about 2 days before he was rescued. He didn't even go to the bathroom at all during that time (so we know he is potty trained!). He's a sweet dog but a little traumatized right now. He has been being taken care of by various friends, none of whom can keep him, unfortunately. He is a little skittish and has attachment issues (doesn't like to be left alone!), but he calms down after a day of being with the same person. I'm worried that all this moving around from person to person is making it worse for him as we try to find him a permanent home. He is ultimately the responsibility of a girlfriend of mine -- the sister of the guy who died -- who recently broke her foot and bruised her ribs, which is why others of us have been taking turns caring for him. Mason is neutered and up-to-date with his shots. He's a black lab mix, medium sized, likes other dogs and adults -- probably a little too skittish for young children. We think he's about 4 years old, and probably was abused by the owner previous to the one who died, as he winces if you lift your hand too quickly near him or startle him. I have started contacting shelters, but haven't heard back from any yet. I'm told they are over-filled because of all the foreclosures and people having to give up their pets to move into rentals. If any of you knows of a good home, can you please call me right away and give me the contact info. I'm so sad for this dog and desperate to find him a loving home. Please also pass along this email to others.
I don't know what moved me to take responsibility for Mason, but once I did there was no turning back. Kirsten was not in any condition to care for this orphan. Not emotionally, not physically, not financially. And I took his abandonment personally.
The first person to respond to the email was standing in my chiropractor's office when she made the phone call. The office receptionist had printed out my email and taped it to the counter. Kara said he sounded like the perfect dog for them - besides being drawn to his story, their dog , who had recently died, never really been potty-trained, so that bit was of particular importance. Kara said she would need to consult with her family and get back to me.
I didn't hear from her the next day. That night was National Night Out, and Mason romped in the park with all the neighbors, kids and dogs alike, without a leash, well-behaved and dog-happy. That was day four of living with a dog. By now, even Buster, who has no patience for dogs, was warming to Mason. Even though I had to swab the entire kitchen floor each time he drank and covered my white carpet with dirty paw prints, he was easing into our little family unit. And responded immediately to commands like "Go lie down, Mason" when he trotted over to see if I was awake at 2:00 am.
The day after NNO, I got a call from another person, Eric. I figured out later that one of the friends, Anthony, who received my email forwarded it to his best friend, Shannon, who belongs to a Golden rescue group. She posted my email on that group's website, where another member read it and contacted Eric. He, too, loved Mason's story, had been looking for a brother for his dog, Oliver, and wanted to have them meet to see if they would be compatible. After talking to him just a few minutes, I got the sense that he was a great dog lover, knew a lot about dogs and what he didn't know he would research, and most importantly, would treat Mason like family. We planned to meet later that night.
On my way home Kara called to say their family was excited to meet Mason. I felt terrible having to tell her that someone else was on their way to meet him.
Oliver and Mason got along very well, and Eric passed the not-so-subtle interrogation he got from me trying to ascertain whether it would be a good fit for Mason. Mason drove off with his new dad and brother in a nice, new Volvo.
I was so proud of myself and happy for Mason that I started to draft this post. That was 3 weeks ago now (although this post is dated August 7, I didn't actually post it until August 29).
But the happy union did not last. Oliver and Mason began to be aggressive toward each other in different ways. Oliver was biting Mason when inside the house, and Mason was mounting Oliver (extended penis and all) outside in the yard. When Eric saw blood he separated them, putting Mason at the house of a friend where he was virtually alone 24 hours a day. He emailed me with this information on the following Tuesday, not even a week after he took Mason. I asked him if I could pick Mason up and said I'd find him another situation.
I immediately called Kara back and explained what had happened. She said her boys, 13 and 7, had been so disappointed when they found out they weren't going to get Mason that they had refused even going to look at any other dogs in the shelters. They came over that night, Kara and her boyfriend and her two young boys.
By now Mason was very suspicious of this new group of people and did something I hadn't seen him do yet - he put his tail between his legs and paced around with his head lowered. Soon enough, though, he warmed up and got close enough to the boys to get a sniff and a pat on the head. I talked with the family for a bit about what to expect the first few days and then made them promise to bring him back to me if there was any issue whatsoever, not to be afraid that I would be mad. Pat and I had already decided that if this didn't work that we would keep him. I was tearing up when I spoke to them about being patient with him and giving him a chance to get comfortable with them. I had the boys each shake my hand and promise not to yell at him and never hit him. I wanted them to see it from his perspective, getting taken away from his family and going to live with strangers, not knowing if they would be nice to him or if he could trust them. They nodded at me with their sincerely frightened faces and made their promises.
Mason's new family hadn't even driven away before I was sobbing uncontrollably. How could I do that again to him? Was he going to get over yet another abandonment?But when we talked at the end of the following weekend and again the next week, Kara told me Mason was sleeping with her, that she couldn't convince him to sleep anywhere else. I recently got this email response when I checked in on him:
"Mason is wonderful! We love him sooo much. We just got back from a family outing to petsmart.I will send photo's soon. Thanks for asking. Kara"