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I admit that the whole "Blah, Blah, Blah Awareness Month/Day" thing is a little out of hand. I seriously wrote a blurb last week about National Vodka Day, not to be confused with the one I wrote for National Beverage Day or National Margarita Day. (See a trend here? I missed National Burger Day, otherwise I would've marked that too.) It's tough to keep track of all the myriad ways to make any given Tuesday a holiday, never mind all the actual holidays (read: occasions that come with a choice of greeting cards to send), but I confess, I love pageantry and will participate in any 'bration' I can.
ESPECIALLY a fabulous non-holiday like National Adopt a Shelter Dog Month, otherise known as October*. Not only does it give me a chance to talk about the Greatest Dog in the World, my mutt, Oliver, it also means maybe one of the 5 to 7 million animals that will be left at a shelter this year might go home this month. (Three to 4 million of those animals are euthanized every year, according to ASPCA.)
But first, Oliver's story.
Oliver joined our family at 9 months old. He had spent a portion of his young life on the road, being shuttled up north from Arkansas, where he'd been relinquished to a kill shelter. A nice lady at a shelter in Wallingford had taken charge of him and posted a very goofy photo of Oli to Petfinder. We'd been trolling around online, and my husband found Oli's photo one night.
My husband — Former Owner of Yellow Labs, who had been jonsing for a dog — says he was struck by the novelty of the strange breed noted in Oli's description and showed me his photo as a lark. (Petfinder called him a terrier/PBGV mix, and that's what we tell people, although we're not quite sure what Oli really is. It's all we can do to explain what PBGV — Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen — stands for without sounding like insufferable dinks.)
The true version of the story is my hubs was as enchanted as I was by the Fraggle-y, grey and white, smiling little dude in the photo. The jaunty bandana around his neck was a nice touch. Well played, Shelter Lady.
Part two of the true story was that my husband suggested we make a date to meet Oliver. (Subsequent transgressions by Oli have rendered my husband's memory hazy. He says I set the wheels in motion and that it's my "fault" we now live with a funny looking, disastrously cute, personality-riddled mutt who merely takes our commands under advisement.)
In what should have been an indication of that charming willfulness, on his first visit, Oli trotted into our house, flopped down on the dog blanket we'd placed on the floor, and smiled at us. He didn't quiver, he didn't bark, he didn't piddle, he didn't chase our cats. He made himself right at home, and Shelter Lady was delighted. We couldn't believe our luck at finding such a well-adjusted, friendly little companion.
That well-adjusted, friendly little companion has since put us through our paces. He wasn't as house-trained as Shelter Lady thought, he jumped on visitors, and he barked and whined whenever we left the house or put him to bed for the night. We reminded ourselves he was a young pup and battened down for a long-haul dog-rearing.
I'm pleased to report that Oli is house-trained, and, indeed, now rings a bell we've attached to the door when he needs to go out. He's an excellent traveler; he loves to sleep late now that we've moved his bed into our bedroom; and he is a good brother to the cats. (My childhood dog was a cat eater from day 1; I'm still amazed at how gentle Oli is with his kitty friends.) We talk to him more than I care to admit and I'm convinced he's the cutest thing on four legs, even after accounting for the strangely long body, frizzle-y fur, massive allergies, black-olive nose, and stubby but strong legs. (We fondly call him an R.O.U.S., because he kinda looks like one of those tough customer critters in "The Princess Bride," which, PS, is marking its 25th anniversary this year.)
I had been reticent to take in a dog. Yeah, I had a dog growing up, but this was to be my first dog, with me as parent. Who was I to take responsibility for a furry little life?
Don't sell yourself short like I did. Remember, many dogs still land in kill shelters. I've since encountered several other adopters of Odd-Looking Southern Dogs, and I cringe to think of all the other Olis waiting for a nice shelter lady to bring them to safety. If you suspect you have the means and disposition to adopt a shelter dog, consider it.
Here's why: While I thank my husband for teaching me to open my heart just a little bit more — to him and the dog — I thank Oliver for teaching me that love sustains a person through good times and bad — from mastering a "roll over" to pooping-in-the-house phases. Oli has countered my lifelong pessimism with regular doses of "Oh my god, will you look at what he's doing now!" joy. I had no idea that kind of happiness existed. It's a special breed — kind of like Oli himself.
I now suspect Oli could set world peace in motion. Whenever we meet people on walks, people exclaim, "Look at him! What is he? He's so cute!" He reliably makes people smile. They stop to say hello and get a load of him. He is a bringer of happiness.
Not bad for a little shelter dog from Arkansas.
Your local Humane Society office is in Quaker Hill. Read tons of information about shelter dogs and National Adopt a Shelter Dog month at www.aspca.org and www.americanhumane.org. Experience massive amusement at the pix of Oliver at the top of this blog.
AND, if you also adopted the World's Greatest Shelter Dog, send in a photo. If we get enough, we'll do a photo gallery and Daybreak page of photos. Send photos to Digital Dude Alex Nunes at firstname.lastname@example.org">email@example.com.
*Listen, I know it's also Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but I'm pretty confident the PR on that is covered. (Particularly here in New London. Anyone else love the pink yarn-bomb downtown?)
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