By Lynne Harpst Koen

It’s the day before Halloween, but I’m not going to candy coat anything. Yes, I am that “Dog Lady”.

I’m not over the top PETA queen, but I do consider my dogs as very much a part of the family. It’s always been that way as far back as I can remember. I was maybe three years old when I figured out my Mom loved the dog more than she did me. It didn’t bother me, it just was. During my first 17 years of life, we had several dogs at home. Only one at a time though. These dogs were from circumstances beyond our comprehension — abandoned, abused, neglected, left to starve.

I never knew it was possible to just go out and BUY a dog. I thought they showed up mysteriously in the night and then we took care of them for the rest of their lives!

When I was in college and living on my own, I got a dog and named him “JD” (just a dog). Oh, how I loved that boy! He was a shaggy, black-and-white mutt with the sweetest disposition. My tiny back yard had an alley behind it. One day as JD and I were playing in the yard, I heard some commotion in the alley — rummaging of some sort and then a crash! I flew out to the alley to see what happened. There I found the skinniest little dog. She could barely walk. Upon closer inspection, I saw she had a badly broken leg. She had probably been hit by a car — no tags or collar. I got some blankets, wrapped her up, and gently put her in the car. She was so frightened. She was shaking uncontrollably. The vet said I should have her put down because she probably had numerous problems aside from her obvious malnutrition and busted leg. I told him to do whatever it took to make her well enough so I could care for her at home. He looked at me like I had three heads but agreed to treat her. A week later, I had two dogs in my little yard on I Avenue! I decided to name my new girl dog “Rosie” after the wildly popular Saturday Night Live character Roseanne Rosanna Danna (played by Gilda Radnor). Rosie and JD got along great. They were best friends from day one!

This was back in the 1970s. That’s when I started the “Noah’s Ark” theory. From that time on, I always had two dogs in residence. When I had my babies and didn’t have as much time for the dogs, JD and Rosie had each other. They both lived long, happy lives and eventually passed away of old age. They were so special to me as they were my very first fur-babies. Since then we’ve had more dogs, cats, birds, horses, and even goats join the family! The interesting thing is that since the Rosie rescue, the animals have come to me much like they did to my Mom when I lived at home. I’ve always rooted for the underdog, pun intended!

Our animals were special in that they seemed to choose us rather than the other way around. Not one pure breed in the bunch. Just sweet, simple creatures who needed a loving home. Most had special needs that some people would not have tolerated or bothered with. To me, having a pet is like having a child. If there’s something wrong, you handle it. Plain and simple. I was in it for the long haul no matter what. This is the way God intended it to be. In my book anyway!

I’ve always treated my critters with love and respect. They return that affection 100+ fold in most cases. Only twice have I had to find other homes for my dogs. Both cases were because the dogs presented a danger to my children. The first case was Norman named after Norman Bates in Psycho. I knew Norman was odd, but I did my very best to accommodate him. However, it turned out he wasn’t a family-type dog at all. One Christmas, he bit just about everyone in the family. Norman had to go. Luckily, I found him a good home with an older couple who lived by themselves. Happy ending.

The other dog “Wendy” did not like children. As I had four kids in residence at the time, Wendy couldn’t stay. I tried so hard to find her a home, but everyone I knew had young kids like I did. Everyone except my Mom that is. Mom was “dogless” at the time. She really liked Wendy and Wendy liked her. However, Mom swore she’d never have another dog. Hard sell. I tried for months to convince Mom that Wendy was perfect for her. I begged and pleaded. The answer wasn’t just “no” but it was HELL NO. So the sad day came when I was going to take Wendy to the shelter. I was crying and so depressed. I thought what do I have to lose, so I tried asking Mom just one more time. She resounded with a very grouchy “Oh, alright.” I was overjoyed! Wendy was treated like a queen, living a life of luxury at Mom’s. It was truly a perfect match. One that God Himself had made to be sure.

I’ve always loved my dogs with all my heart. My single complaint is that they don’t live long enough. There comes a time when their quality of life slowly descends. Putting a dog to rest is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, hands down. Each time I literally thought I’d die from the grief. It never gets any easier, no matter what people may say. Now I have dog rescues that I help support. I usually stick to the smaller ones. That way I actually know where my money goes! I’ve taken to fostering dogs from time to time. That can be pretty tricky when there are resident dogs who get a bit jealous. Each time I’ve fostered, it’s been in pairs. Dogs who have been together all their lives who are up for adoption. The only criteria I’ve insisted upon is that the dogs are adopted together. Not everyone wants to take on two strange dogs at once. However, there are people who will. I know this to be true as they’ve all gone to great families. It just sometimes takes longer to make the right match.

Last year, a friend of mine went to a local estate sale. She mentioned to me that the matriarch of this family had passed away and left two animals behind — a dog and a cat. Turned out nobody in this family wanted the animals because they were both quite elderly. The dog “Peaches” was 14 and the cat was 12. This story made me so sad. I already had my hands full with our resident dog “Rockit” and our newly adopted dog “Boomer”, but I somehow HAD to meet Peaches! I just couldn’t ignore the circumstances. So my husband and I took our dogs over to Peaches’ house for a meet-and-greet session. Everybody did just fine! So Peaches came to live with us later that same day.

She was surprisingly fit for such an elderly lady. She was almost blind and completely deaf, but she got around amazingly well. She’d follow me everywhere. I loved her instantly. My husband thought I was nuts taking on such an old gal. He was just trying to protect me from the inevitable, Peaches being called to Heaven. For the next six months, Peaches was very much a part of the family. Our boy dogs readily accepted her, and everybody who met her loved her at first sight. She brought such joy to me. Sometimes I think I can still hear her tiny paws clicking on the tile floors! If my friend hadn’t have gone to that estate sale, I never would have known that Peaches needed a home. As with all the others, Divine Intervention. No doubt about it!

There are cute little puppies at every pet store. I don’t deny the fact they need good homes, but there are literally thousands upon thousands unwanted dogs at shelters and rescues. It’s heartbreaking beyond belief. These dogs’ days are numbered as there are very few “no kill” shelters. The majority of these dogs are there because of human error. Someone gets a cute puppy then that puppy grows up. Maybe that pup hasn’t been trained correctly so it acts badly and ends up in a shelter. Like children, dogs don’t naturally know how to behave. They must be taught. Training takes time. If you don’t have the time, then don’t get a dog — especially a puppy! Adopting an older dog can have it’s challenges, but it’s so worthwhile.

In a perfect world, all dogs would have happy, loving forever homes. No dog would be mistreated, cold, lonely, or hungry. However, life can be cruel; so it’s up to us as humans to help as much as we possibly can. I know that having a dog isn’t for everyone, but we can still help out by donating to a local shelter, and/or rescue. If you do decide to adopt, make it stick. Think about it like you would as if you were adopting a child. You don’t just throw a child away because he/she misbehaves! Adopting a dog is a permanent commitment. Not to be taken lightly or done on impulse. If done correctly, a decision to adopt can change your life for the greater good. The love of a dog is like nothing else in life. Dogs are not judgemental. Their love is unconditional. Dogs are loyal, furry blessings with cold noses. People can learn much from dogs!



This entry was posted in Clarion Rock, Winter Edition 2013. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to WHOM?

  1. Aleene Sexton Queen says:

    I’m in tears reading about your dog family Lynne. You truly are the queen of rescues .. God bless~

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