Having been brought up in an unstable, abusive environment I often found comfort in animals – cows, dogs, chickens, wildlife – it didn’t seem to matter what kind of animal. When I got my first apartment at 14, I rescued a cat and found an amazing amount of comfort from the many animals that shared my home since then. Of the fur-friends who have shared my home the last 30 years since my first apartment, there are a few that stand out and I’d like to share those experiences with you.
Indika came into my life after a cycling accident left me in rehab for about 6 months. Having to spend most the first 6 weeks on the floor lying on a mattress, her kitten antics entertained me all day. She would play among my crutches, sleep with me and tease smiles out of an otherwise painful day. She and I grew to be very close until she passed on a few years ago due to old age.
Skylo was our first adopted dog and probably the smartest dog I have met. A 13-month-old Husky/Basenji cross. He was at the end of his rope – there was a time when animals were put down if un-adoptable instead of the current method of networking with other shelters. Fortunately for us, a softhearted staff member had prolonged Skylo’s life as long as he could. Skylo was incredibly restless, unstable from the lack of a secure home and didn’t know what he was supposed to do. We soon realized the beautifully-marked high-energy dog was strong willed and yet willing to please.
Skylo quickly became more than a “dog”. During his 6-year stay with us, he was also therapy for me, helping me deal with an anxiety disorder simply with his comforting and protective presence. Our boy was brave enough to tree a bear in order to protect me – yet kind and patient enough to understand the weak. Skylo also had an ample dose of intelligence and gentle playfulness that had him not only making great friends with his two indoor feline “siblings”, but also making friends with neighboring cats and dogs.
Sadly, on a tragic Sunday I left Skylo on the step to pop inside and get his leash before taking him for a stroll. I suspect Skylo was chasing one of the neighborhood cats out of the yard when one of the many speeding and preoccupied drivers on our street took the joy out of our home. Poor Skylo was hit and injured very badly – his insides were hemorrhaging, he was screaming for me and when I got there he was shaking badly – and frankly, so was I. Luckily the neighbors and some people passing by jumped to our aide helping to carry him on a blanket to a nearby truck bed and the driver took Skylo and I to the vet. One person, a total stranger, even rode in the back of the truck with us and was so wonderful with Skylo, keeping him calm while I struggled to focus.
Our vet met us at the office downtown within a minute or two of our arrival, despite their being closed and the vet having to bring her young child along. She was amazing with Skylo, and climbed into the truck bed to give him a pain reliever right away, so he only suffered for about 7 minutes in total – the time it took to get him to the vet.
Skylo’s death moved so many people – the vet staff cried with us, the people who took us to the vet cried with us, our neighbors grieved with us… we never knew that Skylo had become such a large part of so many people’s daily lives. One neighbor was so moved and angered by the continuing speeding on our street that she got a petition together “in honor of Skylo Brummet” and acquired 32 signatures in just one morning. This letter was presented to the city and resulted in the police monitoring our street for a few months after the event.
We will never know the impact this event had on the safety of our neighborhood, however we do know that people were saying that prior to this event their children and pets have had many close calls with inattentive drivers. Perhaps Skylo’s passing prevented the death of another beloved fur companion, or a child.
In honor of Skylo we adopted Onyx, a two year old Border Collie/Chocolate Lab cross that had been badly abused and chained up most of his life – he didn’t know how to be a dog, what to do inside a house and had a deep distrust of people. The rescue staff had deemed him un-adoptable due to his aggressive behavior – towards men in particular – but trusted us to rehabilitate him. It turned out he was never an ‘aggressive’ dog, instead it was worse – as ‘fear based reactive’ dog when something upset him he reacted by barking, showing teeth, lunging and fretting to the point of high pitch wailing. When we first brought Onyx home he had skin rashes, was awfully skinny and patches of fur missing. We discovered ragged scars on his chin and three shattered teeth, which were extracted as soon as possible. It was an ongoing daily effort to help him be a calm dog and it definitely came with its trials along the way. I was pulled to the ground and dragged a couple of times during our walks; he had also scared some others (and us) with his lightening fast moves. By providing reliable routines with plenty of exercise and attention he was slowly able to relax, develop trust and let us be the boss.
When we adopted our third rescue dog it was to help us with Onyx who was having trouble learing how to be a dog, how to play or chew a bone. That is when Skyla, a Malamute/Shepherd cross (rescued from a puppy mill gone bad), entered our lives. This little puppy was anemic from near starvation, had heart murmurs and a bad case of worms because she survived off eating other dog’s waste. It took some time to get her to understand what dog food was and how to eat out of a bowl but with a lot of feeding and nurturing she built strength, her heart grew strong and she put on some weight. She was a bundle of awkward knuckles, knees and skin for her first eighteen months then the filling out of muscles and flesh began intermittently with the lengthening of her bones and structure – earning her the nickname ‘Grendall’ due to her appearance and the grumbles and grunts she emits. A very intelligent, but independent, dog, she loves to learn new things every day. I swear she has the strength and energy of a small horse and with her sled dog genetics lurking deep inside she would love to have a job pulling something. As a matter of fact when Dave takes her for a bike ride on leash in a heel, she hints that she has no problem pulling him around but he resists her charming offer.
Sadly after only 6 years with us Onyx’s old injuries from the earlier abuse he received were causing him a lot of pain and his reactive behavior came back up to the surface so with heavy hearts we decided to let him go. 6 months later we brought in another dog from the local shelter: Duchess, a 3 year old Siberian Husky/Blue Heeler cross. She is the sweetest, gentlest, playful dog I’ve ever known. Skyla adores her and they play or sleep together constantly. A few weeks later we also had a stray cat join our home that we named Korma. She’s a 10 month old orange tabby and we are currently getting her vaccinations up to date and she’ll be spayed soon. She has a wonderful personality and after the adjustment period of introducing her to our ‘pack’ the dogs have accepted her and can actually be seen playing or sleeping with her.
Life with these rescue animals has brought so much joy and laughter and purpose into our lives. We get down on the ground and play with their squeeky toys and laugh in the middle of the day. They get us outside exercising when we probably wouldn’t have if they weren’t here. Rescueing and rehabilitating the troubled personalities we’ve encountered was for me a way of rescueing myself – I healed, as they healed. Their love opened my heart more to new experiences that I would have avoided before. They’ve helped me stay calm when the anxiety disorder levels rise and their nurturing tenderness brings such a comfort to us. Who was there to comfort me after the 2 separate accidents happened and the pain was unbearable, but my fuzzy faced friends? Who provided companionship when my husband was away? Who protected our home and yard from undesireable visitors? Who senses when we are miserable and teases smiles out of a grumpy face? Who provided tender comfort while my husband recovered from knee surgery? Exactly who, then, was rescued – the human or the animal? Perhaps both.
As painful as it is to say goodbye to our fur children when the bell toles for them – we will always bring another in to our home from the local rescue shelter. There are just so many of these gentle beings that only want to be loved and accepted that it breaks my heart. We feel that by bringing in a new fur-kid whenever we have space in our home, we are given a chance to honor those who have graced our life over the years.
Award-winning authors Dave and Lillian Brummet: owners of the Brummet Media Group (http://brummet.ca), offering book publishing services from formatting to cover design, graphic design and promotion material creation, books and CD’s, the Conscious Discussions Talk Radio: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/consciousdiscussions and the Brummet’s Conscious Blog: http://www.consciousdiscussions.blogspot.com