13 August 2021

It's a dog's life - unless you live with me

| Sally Hopman
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Black dog sitting on chair

Brian staged a sit-down on his favourite chair. Photo: Sally Hopman.

When it comes to rescue dogs, you have to wonder who rescues whom?

Brian was my first. A tiny black almost-Labrador who somehow found his way from the RSPCA cage at Weston into the front of my car, immediately depositing a poo about twice his size on the floor.

It was then I knew he had a great sense of humour.

Once the dump had left his building, he wagged his body until the aroma spread throughout the car. He was to master this skill over the 15 years I had him. Particularly in winter when all the windows and doors were closed.

He came into his own when I thoughtlessly started growing vegetables – even more stupidly not realising how prolifically zucchini can grow and how few things you can do with them after you’ve supplied most of the western world.

I’ll hide a few in Brian’s dinner, I thought cleverly. No one told me what effect zucchinis have on dog’s insides – and subsequent outsides. His farts could make you cry. Literally.

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I loved Brian as if he were a child. He tolerated me but loved his brown velour chair better.

One day when we were taking a load to the Gundaroo tip, I thought it was a good time for the chair to go too. It had belonged to my father who had pretty much carpeted it in cigar ash and spilled scotch before he gave it to me. But Brian loved it. He mostly sat up in it (mainly because he got so fat and couldn’t fit in it).

I distracted him with that night’s human dinner while we moved the chair out into the yard for loading into the ute. But he was way too smart for us – must be the tiny portion of Labrador he had in him. He downed the food and took off outside, plonking himself onto the chair. Seems both were staying put.

Then it started – as if the rescue animal world all got a text at the same time, giving my name, Google map location and contents of my fridge.

I’d get calls from people saying the dog’s owner was going to be put down, could I give it a temporary home? (the dog, not the owner.) Or calls from friends of friends who knew someone who had a dog that was certain to die if it didn’t find a home the next day. Or dogs would just appear at my place. Blind ones, some with almost all their limbs, others missing vital pieces of anatomy that were supposed to cut their lives short – but never did once they came to my place.

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I took most of them in. After Brian, Lassie was probably the most special. She had had a life no living thing should ever have had. She had no sight but the biggest heart – unfortunately that heart went straight to Brian. I came a poor second. She followed him everywhere, mainly because he made so much noise he was easy to follow. He would walk over to his favourite hole – apparently he’d heard the food was better in China so was digging to get there – and Lass would trot along behind him. She’d stand there, taking in all the dirt he was sending in her direction. She only moved when he did – mostly when she looked like a different coloured dog – dirt-brown. Literally.

But she loved him. He tolerated her, preferring the rescue pony we also had in the yard for too long. The pony’s feet hadn’t been touched forever so we needed the farrier out every month or so to grind them back. The calcium leftovers became Brian’s new happy meal.

(Handy hint: If you must foster ageing, ailing animals, stick to dogs. Disposing of 500kg of deceased pony is really heavy.)

Fluffy dog asleep.

When they weren’t eating, the rescue dogs like Charlotte led an active life – mostly dreaming about sleeping. Photo: Sally Hopman.

Over the years, there was a neat, yet hairy succession of more dogs. Charlotte, a cocker spaniel, stood out. Mainly because she had all her limbs and was, according to my friends and family, “just like a normal dog”. She also, like all the other animals, chose to sleep. Rather a lot.

Then there was Spotted (yes, she was a dalmatian) with a brain tumour. Mabel was a tiny little girl who could neither see/hear/have any teeth. Lizzie, a sweet yet not too smart border collie who looked like she’d spent her life eating rocks. To name a few.

You’re not supposed to have favourites but if I had it would be Gypsy, the golden retriever who didn’t have a mean bone in her vast body – they were all hidden in my bed – and Phyllis, a bowling ball on legs who only put up with me because she couldn’t reach the fridge.

Each of these animals, and so many more, gave me and mine, some of the best of times. Most of these times involved really bad smells (Brian) and heartache when they told you they’d had enough of life (and dogs do do that – ponies not so much).

Two small dogs on the bed.

You wouldn’t be wrong if you thought rescue dogs did little more than sleep. Mickey and Minnie certainly didn’t – except when Minnie was biting people and Mickey was trying to escape her clutches. Photo: Sally Hopman.

The most recent were Mickey and Minnie, a cute little black and white combo who had had not a good life and needed a human to remedy that. Mickey, was, and is, a joy. He was scared of himself when he arrived, being bossed about by Minnie who was the size of a pickle. She would also constantly try to mount him, but I don’t think either of them knew why.

Minnie hated everyone. Particularly men – short, tall, fat, thin she didn’t care. She’d bite them regardless. Hard. She made me cry when she bit my best friend. A man who moved his mattress off the bed base when his dog got so old it couldn’t get on the bed any more.

One day Minnie, who was sitting beside me on the lounge, let out a small groan, and died. I sat with her for a while, watching for any movement or bared teeth. No, she had really gone. She even looked a little peaceful. Finally.

When you end up keeping a dog you’re just supposed to foster till you find its right home, they call it foster fail. I can live with that.

Original Article published by Sally Hopman on The RiotACT.

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Janette Brennan10:58 am 22 Oct 21

Beautiful. Thank you for such funny stories. Rescue pets are so worth it. I have a one-eyed cat I ‘adopted’ just after his required surgery at seven months of age. Actually he chose me! I wouldn’t swap him for the world. He is an individual in his own right – as they all are. Thank you to all those caring people you adopt these beautiful animals. They are so worth it.

Carlene Franzen9:46 pm 19 Aug 21

A wonderful article. You are such a special person.

Carlene Franzen9:45 pm 19 Aug 21

Such a wonderful article. You are such a special person.

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