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(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

Lately I’ve been seeing stickers on cars that read “Who rescued who?” Of course, first I have to correct the grammar—“whom” I shout—but I still know what the sticker means, thanks to every dog I’ve ever had in my adult years besides Furgus, the puppy.

Just Monday our foster dachshund crossed over that Rainbow Bridge. We don’t know how old he was, but when the rescue group found him emaciated and wandering the streets three years ago, they thought he was twelve. Despite his sketchy background and his pronounced health problems, he lived a full lifespan.

We weren’t being totally altruistic when we let him come to our house—in fact, Christiana was convinced having a small dog, specifically a dachshund, was an anecdote to the sadness she felt late at night when Fordham, our love sponge of an English Springer Spaniel, had retired to his cushion for a long night’s sleep. And though Sherman and I weren’t looking for another dog—especially a small dog—we were in favor of anything positive that would help her through the night.

Besides, he wasn’t supposed to be our forever dog. According to the rescue group, we were just supposed to have him for a week or two. But the economy hit dogs and rescue groups hard—our contacts with the group became fewer and fewer, until we knew we must be his forever family—how could we break a heart again that had already been so broken?.

(c) 2010

Although he never won over the jealous Fordham, he did worm his way into the rest of our hearts, even if he could only give so much love before he seemed to need to retreat. Christiana was disappointed in that, but she understood brokenness enough to love him still.

I would not have chosen to bring home a dog with a small dog bladder or an enlarged heart. I had dealt with hypothyroidism in dogs before, but not in this era of constant expensive blood tests and not with a dog with such a resistant thyroid function—he ended up taking almost as much thyroid medication as I do even though his weight was about 90% lower than mine. And, I had never even heard of the dog lice that apparently arrived with him and required expensive treatments for both him and Fordham.

And, yet, there was something about how jaunty his short-legged run was every time we returned home. He liked us; he really did, just in a very different manner than a spaniel does.

(c) 2010

When Christiana left for college, he became our responsibility—a responsibility we had never pursued. But both dogs—not just “our” dog—were our comfort in those days when we learned to live and thrive in our empty nest.

Though Fordham’s possessive behavior and big dog klutzy ways made Abel nervous, he never stopped wanting to share his company. When Fordham’s final illness became evident, even Abel seemed stressed.

For about six weeks after Fordham was gone, when Abel’s thyroid level was ideal, he seemed just a little younger and a little more relaxed. If Christiana had not brought him into our home a couple years earlier, we would have really felt the emptiness of our arms after losing my mother and Fordham one after the other. Abel settled into the stillness that was that time and took care of us.

We are essentially people who crave the chaos and over-the-top love that comes from English Springer Spaniels, but we will always be grateful to Abel for helping us through our dark spring.

When I returned from my puppy fever road trip, I saw how much Abel had aged and just how late it was for him. I prayed he would not be too stressed by the newest family members and that we still had a few more months with him.

(c) 2011

In the end, Abel was a guy who rolled with life, accepting Furgus and Sam into what was now his home—and even acting a little envious of their young limbs and ability to play together. I’m so glad that Furgus calmed down enough in Abel’s last few weeks to begin napping and sleeping with Abel, giving him a closeness he had craved with Fordham but never experienced.

(c) 2011 Sherman Lambert

Abel required a lot of care in these past four months or so, but what I want to remember is his joy on car rides as he got to sit on my lap while the big dogs were confined, the excitement he showed on our mountain camping trip, or how happy he looked when he accompanied the boys on their walks—from the seat of a converted baby umbrella stroller. He longed to be part of a pack and to the end, he was.

Crossing over was hard work for him, but he did it here—in his forever home—with us all under the same roof.

In a year of so much loss, I know who rescued whom, even though loving him also added to my losses.

This past Christmas my kids were hired by the next door neighbors to care for their dachshunds, Peaches and Ralph. We’ve always been a big dog family—we are on our third English Springer Spaniel. Fordham is the biggest—and messiest—one we’ve had. Although I grew up with Pekingese, I understood Sherman’s fascination with bigger dogs.

Of course, maybe falling in love with Duncan, his first “baby,” was what changed my mind. Duncan could run and hike with us. He could sleep outside. He only needed to eat once a day and his bladder lasted all night (well, I won’t get into his Springer bladder from his younger years!) He didn’t spend time on the furniture (not if Sherman knew about it anyway!) Soon after we got married, I convinced him Duncan needed a friend. That’s when we got Chelsea, a dog that put the hyper in the Springer image.

Duncan and Chelsea were part of our family until the ends of their lives. When we wanted to adopt another dog, we didn’t even consider another breed. Springers are friendly, happy dogs that love their families—but not the mail carrier, it seems. OK, they are also fond of mud and weeds, can have too much energy at the wrong time, and don’t possess the daintiest eating or drinking habit, but they suit us.

However, Christiana fell for Peaches and Ralph for all their small dog traits. They love to cuddle, no matter the time of the day or night. Fordham, on the other hand, considers 8:00 p.m. his bedtime and is pretty much off duty on the love sponge scene until at least dawn. Christiana considers after 8:00 prime love sponge time, so she was wishing she could steal Peaches and Ralph—but that would not go over too well with Jen and Don!

She was all set to adopt her own dog, until we reminded her that college is a short 18 months away and I don’t think they’re going to take kindly to dachshunds in the dorms! So, we compromised and let her volunteer to foster an older dog.

We picked up Abel Saturday from the Plum Creek Dog Show. He is a very happy guy, especially for someone who is in his elder years and is basically homeless. Fordham, however, is not accessing any feelings of charity—Christian or otherwise—for this usurper of his attention. Abel is also not afraid to check out Fordham’s chew flips (rawhides)—which may matter even more to Fordham than our love does!

If you want to adopt Abel or check out other dachshunds, go to the Colorado Dachshund Rescue site for more information. Unless, you’re still a big dog person, then check out the English Springer Spaniel Rescue of the Rockies.

So now while Christiana is at school, I spend my time keeping the two old boys apart as well as I can.

And, shh, don’t tell Fordham, but Abel is on my lap right now while I write this. That’s just not something you can do with a 65-pound dog. The big dogs may get the porch, but they don’t get the lap!

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