Baby Steps

Minnie and I have always had a special bond. When I met her for the first time at the shelter, she didn’t make much of an impression other than being a small-sized Rottweiler. I have always had an affinity for the breed having previously owned/rescued three Rottweilers, but adopting Minnie never really entered my radar. We had one dog, Lizzie, who we love dearly and knew the price of dog ownership, especially with Rottweilers, is pretty steep. We were done with huge vet bills.

This is us standing firm on our no more dogs policy.

Weeks after meeting Minnie, she went for surgery to repair her weak legs. Separated from her new dog friends, she was a forlorn sight curled up in a room by herself for recovery. She has a sulky face as a norm, but her face seemed even more sad than usual as she began her long convalescence. Feeling sorry for this poor soul (how many long-term commitments and unfortunate marriages start with that phrase!), I spent some extra time just sitting with her, petting her lovely big head, and feeding her a few yummy treats. Not surprisingly, she began to get excited with her little nub of a tail wagging upon my arrival. The rescue founder saw us together multiple times, and exasperated one day, she said “When are you going to take that dog home?!”

We explained our reasons for not taking her home due to costs and that they seem to die which makes us sad. Then, she gave us an offer we couldn’t refuse. Minnie would always have high vet needs due to breeding issues. She suggested that we could foster her permanently paying for feeding costs, but vet bills would be covered. You can’t wuss out of the death thing when you’re talking to a person who has witnessed hundreds of dogs reaching the end of their lives so that was a moot point (side effect of a senior and high medical needs rescue).

Admittedly, I still agonized over the decision, but in our family, our hearts have always been the decision-makers…which logical people who are wealthier than us shake their heads, but I own it now. So, home Minnie came.

From the outset, Minnie was my dog. She tolerates and likes everyone else, but she follows me everywhere except when certain people are in the kitchen. Then she will abandon me to wait patiently for a morsel of whatever is being made. She is gentle and loving and tolerates medications and an injection I have to give her monthly without an issue. I count myself very lucky to have her. I think everyone should experience the total loyalty of an animal in their life. It makes you try to be a better human to deserve that unconditional affection.

Then, enter Marin. In a different set of circumstances which I have outlined in a previous post, Marin has joined our canine herd. Still shivering and shaking but less and less, we see positive signs that we have a sassy dog on our hands. The other night, I saw her chasing her little tail and catching it, so she has determination which I admire because I certainly haven’t caught my tail yet. Often though when you stretch out a hand to pet her, she will cower and creep slowly for the attention. I seem to be her least favorite as I often had to pick her up in the first few days of her arrival, and she does not like to be airborne.

So when I sat down on the couch one afternoon to read my book, she slowly made her way over to me and nudged me for affection. I was thrilled, I gave her a few pats, and she snuggled next to me. Minnie who was eying the whole process out of the corner of her eye rose and came for her share of affection. Marin in a poorly chosen moment of bravado growled at Minnie establishing her position as sole receiver of my affection.

Drawing a line in the sand, Minnie drew herself up, growled as only a Rottweiler can, and barked at Marin a few times. Knowing that in a Rottweiler to Chihuahua show of dominance, the winner would be clear, Marin scurried to the opposite end of the couch and curled up in the corner in a fearful sulk.

And I swear Minnie smirked as she put her head under my hand. You can have anyone else, but mom is mine, she seemed to say. Hierarchy established. Dogs put in places. Peace restored. I can still pet Marin whenever she creeps over, but she shows deference to Minnie when she is around which is as it should be.

I can’t fault loyalty. I greatly admire loyalty, and I am still trying to be worthy of it.

They do get along when everyone knows their place.

If I could be half the human my dog is, I’d be twice the human I am.

– Charles Yu

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