August 2001 I was beating the pavement looking for work. My wife and I had been involved in Cocker Spaniel rescue for several years now and were known by several shelters for this. My wife got a telephone call from the Associated Humane Society in Tinton Falls. The volunteer that actually made the call told my wife there was an ASCOB male cocker that was supposed to have been euthanized “three days ago” and she hoped she’d come over and “pull” the dog from the shelter. The shelter is within walking distance from the house so my wife went over to see “Scooby” as he was known at the shelter.
What she saw was definitely an ASCOB male cocker who was disheveled who cat a wary eye at my wife. Long story short she brought the dog to our home and put him in a crate while she left the house again to run some errands.
Somewhere in the timeline I got a call on my cell phone from my wife telling me about this dog. I got home and found the dog as far back in the crate as he could go giving me a suspicious eye as he lay there shivering.
I quickly determined that this boy needed special handling and I should not rush in and force myself on him. I opened the crate and sat on the floor sideways with respect to him and didn’t look at him directly.
Using my peripheral vision I watched as he slowly inched his way out of the crate sniffing as he went. He warily approached me sniffing and flinched a couple of times as if he was afraid I’d do something evil to him.
Slowly he got closer to me and finally with two paws on my lap he was sniffing my face. At that moment my wife and daughter came through the front door. The dog retreated back to the crate, I got up off the floor and fastened the door to the crate. My wife says to me at that point “Oh by the way: he doesn’t like men.”
From those beginnings a bond started to develop between “Scooby” and I and we quickly dispelled the notion that he didn’t like men. He started to look to me for comfort when he was uncomfortable or scared. I discovered if I looked at his face straight on and yawned it went a long way to comfort him. If I imitated his noises back to him he loved it. My finest discovery was when he was really nervous about something (kiddies don’t try this at home) pressing my face against his it really calmed him.
As part of our “pull” agreement with the shelter we had a free vet visit and since I was unemployed at the time we certainly were going to take advantage of it. Off to the TED (The Evil Docotr) we went. In this case TED turned out to be a good term for who this dog (now named Moose, I hated “Scooby” as a name) was about to meet. This was not their first encounter I was to find out.
The TED in question exclaimed as soon as she saw him “OH! I now HIM! He’s evil! He is aggressive!!” and she started swinging a muzzle at his face by the strap trying to snag it onto his nose.
Now dear readers, I can saw with certainty if someone was to swing something at my face trying to snag my nose with it I can certainly think of about a dozen hostile actions I might take to get them to stop. Moose was no different and in my mind his reaction was perfectly legit. He snarled ferociously and went after the TED with every intention of taking her out.
I scooped Moose up in my arms and held his head under my chin and calmed him. TED for her part screamed at me “don’t let him near your face he’ll bite you!” ”Shut the **** up! I know this dog better than you do.” was my reply.
That cemented our bond but it would still take the better part of a year before he would fully trust me. I found out later the poor boy had been place in homes and returned three times and he was only eighteen months old.
Now just as an aside, my wife and I originally had not intention of keeping Moose. He was to be a foster that we’d place in another home as soon as we found one. Spending a year rehabilitating a dog does something special. Moose and I were fast bonded and became inseparable.
That could have been the end of the story and could have ended with “and they lived happily ever after.” But that’s not the end of the story.
I am a diabetic. I had a period of time in my life where at night my blood sugars were dropping through the basement into the forties and thirties while I slept. I would not wake up on my own when this would happen. Very dangerous.
One night I woke up to the sensation of something pulling on my mustache. I opened my eyes and saw and felt this long nose up against mine. A pair of Cocker eyes staring me in the face. His expression unmistakably asked “you awake now?” I then felt the sensations that went along with hypoglycemia.
The first time it happened I shrugged it off as coincidence being the natural born skeptic that I am. The second, not so much. By the third and fourth times I knew I had something going here. I praised the daylights out of him and rewarded him for his service.
The worst incident happened on a Sunday morning. My wife and daughter and left the house without me (wife to an obedience trial, daughter to sing with the worship team at church) and I could not wake myself up.
Queue the beard pulling action. Moose was not taking “no” for an answer and seemed to insist I get up. This time instead of laying back down in the bed he followed me down to the kitchen and would not leave my side until I had take care of myself.
I tell this story to encourage others to rescue your best friend. There are many dogs in shelters looking for homes. Moose has paid me back in spades for saving his life. Rescue dogs all do that, maybe not as spectacularly as Moose did.
His other “best friend” Sasha and he were constant companions. She went to the Rainbow Bridge a few months ago, her seventeen year old body just worn out.