I worried about how Guinness would be after Margot died in November. After all, they’d been together since January of 2001, the best sisters in the world. They’d been great playmates and settled into their senior years with a little less playtime but always happy to sleep side by side and generally never more than a few feet apart in any room.
As Guinness aged, and as she began experiencing health issues, some of her habits changed. She stopped having separation anxiety. She stopped being happy inside a crate. She seemed to want more distance between her and other dogs. Although her pain is managed with medications, she isn’t as likely to sleep close to anyone–human or canine–nor does she seek touch in the form of cuddling or petting.
Margot was still willing to sleep aside another dog, including our fosters, and though she wouldn’t play with her new sister after we adopted Anime, she also didn’t mind if Anime curled up next to her.
Guinness watched the day Margot died on the green dog bed. She walked with us to the door as the vet and vet assistant left with her big sister. Later, she lay next to that bed.
They say dogs don’t cry from emotion or grief, but I watched Guinness stare at that bed, her head bowed, for a long time. Finally I lifted her face, and her eyes were wet. So I don’t know if “they” are right. I was really worried about her, but I think in this case, having a touch of dementia worked in her favor. Within a couple of days, she was just the same old Guinness. No decrease in appetite, no evidence that she was looking for Margot. She did scrutinize each new foster dog who came into the house, as if thinking, No, not Margot. Then she ignored them pretty much the way she has for the last couple of years.
Anime, on the other hand, is a great ambassador for our foster dogs. She can be a little reserved, so if they want space in their new environment, she doesn’t push herself on them. But if they want to make immediate friends, or when they decide they are ready to play and snuggle, she’s the perfect companion. I think she, more than Guinness, really noticed Margot’s absence and missed their naps.
I felt bad that she kept making foster friends for a few days or a week, then they’d be gone. When she would try to lie down close to Guinness, it would surprise Guinness awake and she’d move away. She doesn’t dislike Anime–I don’t think Guinness has ever disliked any dog (unlike Margot, who definitely had strong opinions about dogs who just would not do). I think because Guinness can’t hear or see as well as she once did, she startles easily.
I was working one day, and I came across this kennel card in an email. This was not a dog RPM was tagging at that moment, but I knew if they found rescue for her, they’d pull her from BARC as adoptable even though low heartworm positive. The name on the kennel card was Heather, and my first thoughts were, I always love a dachshund mix and Heather is not the right name for her. Then I closed the email and went to the next one.
Except…I couldn’t forget her. I see literally hundreds of kennel cards or dog photos a day as I’m working on records. I note the ones who appeal to me, the ones who I know will be adopted in a heartbeat, the ones who look like they’ve had a tough time and will be so grateful for a new home. When I’m considering dogs to foster, I think about whether they might be a good fit for Anime or if they have any physical illnesses that might compromise the health of a senior dog like Guinness, whether they’re of a size that might provide a challenge with Tim’s dogs–all kinds of things.
Since I wasn’t looking for a foster at that particular time, I couldn’t understand why my mind kept going back to Heather. I went and looked at the email again a few times. Then, not having even talked to Tom, I emailed our rescue coordinator. I told her if it was okay, I wanted to pull this dog, but I didn’t want RPM to look for rescue yet. I was thinking of fostering to adopt, and I didn’t want to take a chance that another group might pull her. I wanted to bring her home and see how she did with Anime. I made arrangements to pick her up the next day after her spay. Then I realized I needed to tell Tom; fortunately, he had no objections.
Debby went with me to BARC to get Heather. She was still pretty out of it from the anesthesia. On the drive home though heavy traffic, she loved it when Debby sang to her and would lie still in her arms and stare at her with wonder, then would turn to gaze at me like, Who are you? Where are you taking me? Once home, she went right into a crate and slept. Now and again, she’d open her eyes and warily look at Guinness, Anime, or me. That night Tom fed her about half of a normal meal, and she pulled the bowl inside the crate and tried to hide it. The next day, and the next, she continued to spend her time in the crate. Her appetite improved, though she’d pick up her food bowl and take it into the crate if it was set across the room. She still had no interest in getting or receiving affection from us, and a couple of times she growled at Anime if Anime ventured too near the crate. I was beginning to wonder if I’d made a big mistake, and I was relieved when RPM’s president told me that it would be no problem finding rescue for Heather if our family wasn’t a good fit for her.
Heather. It still didn’t sound right, and she didn’t seem right. I thought I knew what was wrong, so Debby and I took her to the clinic to be checked out, and sure enough, she had an upper respiratory infection. She received antibiotics, and less than two days later, her turnaround began. She emerged from the safe crate, begging for petting, loving to snuggle, ready to explore the house and the yard. I sent this picture of her to Jim, saying we were thinking of adopting her and hadn’t found the right name. “Delta,” he texted back. And truly, what else, with those jet-wing ears, could she be named?
We watched this progression happen.
As she gets even more comfortable, Delta is starting to push her limits so she can learn boundaries. We’ve begun the “slow” treatment for her heartworms. She’s officially ours, with a new collar picked out by Tom and her tag that matches her sister’s tag. Sometimes Delta’s “wings” even perk up.
Most of all, I think this is the start of a beautiful friendship. They play together, sunbathe together, sleep together, and create a little mayhem together. They team up against Tim’s Pollock (still a big puppy at 60 pounds, he LOVES this).
All is right with Guinness’s world, too. She wanders the yard with her two sisters, eats next to them, watches as they run around, and sleeps soundly with them a few feet away. As a rescued dog herself, if she could talk, I know she’d say, “Thank you BARC, for saving them. I’m glad we met them because of RPM. And everyone should ADOPT, NOT SHOP, because rescue dogs are great friends and little sisters!”