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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.


(c) 2000 Trina Lambert

At least that’s what Charlie Brown said. Makes a lot of sense to me, especially now.

Sherman and I are doing OK, despite our losses, but I’ve got to tell you we’ve been through a long season of loss. What we think we need is a distraction that will last for years—something that is a sign of growth, of life in full expansion, not decline. Thank goodness it is spring, but we’d like a more specific sign and that’s why we feel we’re ready for a puppy in our home.

OK, you can never be ready for a puppy, but we think our lives are open again to all the activity associated with puppyhood.

After losing Mom and our dog Fordham, we want to live with some tangible proof that life goes on. As others lose parents and we hold our collective breaths as Sherman’s parents change, we just want to be mixed up in the joy of youth.

The thing is this time we’d rather not start out batting clean-up after someone else has broken a pup’s heart. We’ve helped work through the damage in our last two dogs, as well as in our foster dog that appears to be our forever dog, but we got them when we hadn’t spent so much energy taking care of our own emotional damage.

Now maybe it’s our own hearts that need bandages.

Though Fordham hasn’t been gone long and he can’t be replaced, I can tell it’s going to take another English Springer Spaniel to move us forward.

Abel, no matter how sweet he is, is the breed Christiana wanted. Without Fordham here, it’s so easy to figure out why Springers and not dachshunds are my breed—even with the neater home I now enjoy. You see, Abel gets and gives his love, then walks away.

Just last week this concept really hit me when a waterbed leak forced us to spend three nights sleeping on the office futon. Although we moved Abel’s bedding, he couldn’t be cajoled into spending the night in the room with us—he’s attached to his space more than he is to us. I am convinced that none of our Springers would have cared more for the specific room. Heck, Fordham pretty much went to sleep at 8:00 p.m. for years, but he wasn’t about to go to bed until the last person did—whether that bed was in our room or downstairs with Christiana.

How many times did I mutter about having dogs under my feet over the years? These days we still have a dog, but he’s rarely under our feet unless someone is in the kitchen with food—then he can’t follow us enough.

Even Chelsea, who was our most food-oriented Springer, would follow us around outside of the kitchen. In fact, one of her favorite routines (she was the kind of dog that had to circle three times before entering a door or lying down—her routines bordered on compulsions) was coming out to the living room and curling up on the rug for story time with our young twins.

Just last week I thought we’d found a way to resolve both our desire to start out as a pup’s forever family and our consciences. I wasn’t expecting it, but discovered there were available rescue pups almost ready to leave their mother. However, we are not the only people who made that discovery, it seems, and, alas, although we have gone through the phone interview and veterinarian recommendation, we still await the home inspection.

The impatient child in me wants to stamp my feet and say, “It’s not fair!” I didn’t request a puppy now because I knew there were puppies—I requested a puppy only after making it through the last three years and then losing my dog just as I had more time to give him again. If we were the kind of people who would abandon a dog, specifically an energetic English Springer Spaniel, we would have done so already because both Chelsea and Fordham were not for Springer-lite people. Trust me, we also had to learn (and erect!) a few tricks in order to keep them safely in the yard.

The adult in me reminds that child we just need to take our turn and be patient with the process—the right pup is or will be out there. The dog we get will be the one that is meant to join our family.

So for now, we continue making the property pup-friendly again and figuring out how to puppy-proof our possessions. We have to look beyond our mostly easy current set-up with the elderly dachshund (however, even “nervous” spaniel bladder habits are no match for many a dachshund’s attitude bladder habits—that clean-up could be a lot easier, even with a puppy!) and prepare for the future.

In the midst of winter, I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer (Albert Camus), but I’m sure that summer would feel warmer with a puppy playing beside my feet.

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