Saturday, November 22, 2008

Blame It on Barack Obama

It all started when I got caught up in the swirl of speculation surrounding the Obama puppy. A few days after reading Laurie's post about it, I got to wondering how hard would it be to find a so-called hypoallergenic dog in a shelter. (To find out why I say 'so-called', check out this NPR piece.)

So I toddled off to to have a look-see. On the front page, they had a Happy Tail for Charlie, a 10-year old, blind, huge dog who bore at least a passing resemblance to my beloved Kodiak. That got me thinking about older dogs and special needs dogs, so I did a search for older special needs dogs and came across Reno, a 6 year old Great Dane in Findlay, Ohio.

My parents have been without a dog for about a year now. I know they both miss Kodiak terribly but I suspect they're relieved to no longer have the responsibility of his care. A big dog, especially a big old dog, is a lot of work. Even so, a tiny part of me has believed that if a Kodiak-esque dog found them, they'd open their hearts and home to him. I'd never push a dog on them, but I think Kodiak and they had a nice symbiotic relationship - they provided care and love, Kodiak provided company and a reason to go for long walks.

I sent my dad the link for Reno as a trial balloon. He agreed that it was a lovely dog, but gently made it clear that he was not in the market for a dog. Fair enough. But now my dog-seeking gene was activated and I began to idly troll the various rescue sites in Ireland. I didn't really expect to find anything of interest. Peter and I love big dogs, giant knock-over-the-postman-steal-food-off-the-counter-shock-passersby sorts of dogs. (Well, better behaved then to knock people over or steal food off the counter, but physically capable of it.)

As a rule, Irish dogs just aren't that big. Even the labradors over here are smaller and more barrel-like than US labradors. So I didn't expect to find a dog that would fit the size criteria. And even if I did, most rescue places here (even the SPCAs) require home visits, which Peter and I both find a bit intrusive. Sure, I understand why they do it, but I still find it unnecessarily intrusive.

But then I happened across Molly, whose owner's best guess was that she was a Wolfhound-Alsatian mix. Intriguing. When I got home, I showed the link to Peter, fully expecting him to say 'no'. That's how things work around here. I come up with wild, crazy, half-baked ideas and Peter has to be the grown-up and put the kibbosh on them.

This time, Peter said 'yeah, looks good to me, give him a call'. Now wait just a minute, I was counting on him to say no. Now that this second dog lark might become reality, I was overcome with apprehension. (Even when I initiate change, I still get a little freaked out and don't like it.) But I rang the guy, who was all the way on the opposite side of County Kerry, so logistics were going to be an issue. We made arrangements to meet half-way last Sunday, just for an introductory meeting between Toby and Molly.

For several days, my mind was a tumble dryer full of images of us with Molly. I was so excited to meet her. I loved the name Molly - there's so much you can do with it. Molly Malone. Good Golly Miss Molly. Mollified. Mollycoddle. How fast would Mollycoddle become Mollycuddle with all of the doggy-goodness that implies?

I'm the sort of person who likes to think things out, to picture the potential outcomes of a situation. I was thinking about meeting Molly, about what it would be like, about how we would know if she was the right dog for us. I asked Peter what he was looking for in a new dog. He turned the question back on me, claiming that I'd asked it in such a way that made clear I'd already given the matter a good bit of thought. I took a deep breath and answered with my heart. 'I'm looking for the reincarnation of Kodiak.' He nodded and said 'At least you're honest about it.'

After what felt like an eternity (but was only four or five days), Sunday rolled around. About an hour before we were meant to leave (and while I was at my football club's All-Ireland semi-final match), I found out that Molly had been hit by a car. She was okay but her paw was injured and she was having some discomfort moving around, so her owner wanted to see how she healed up before proceeding.

Disappointed doesn't begin to describe it, but it's a good starting point. I also began to have some doubts about Molly. Would her injury cause undo long-term trouble? She was already heading into middle-aged for a giant breed. How exactly did she get hit by a car? Was she a runner-offer?

Peter found the contact information for the Irish Wolfhound Club and sent them an email explaining that we were looking to adopt an adult dog. I was not convinced that this would come to anything because about a year ago, I emailed the Bernese Mountain Dog Club and got no response. (Which was frustrating because they post their website address in the classified section of newspapers, warning people to contact them first to learn about the breed and breeding lest you get taken by an unscrupulous breeder.)

But Peter was put in contact with a woman who does Irish Wolfhound rescue and she just happened to have a pair of two-year old, spayed females. (Everyone here quite happily calls girl dogs 'bitches', which I suppose is their proper name but it makes me as uncomfortable as when the blue tits visit our garden and I want to tell Peter about it.)

We drove two-and-half hours out to the far fringe of County Tipperary to meet PND, Potential New Dog. We were met at the gate by the woman's husband, who briefly showed us the two wolfhounds for rehoming.

Then he invited us into the house, along with two of their eight (yes, EIGHT) wolfhounds. Peter and I greeted the woman, who quickly ushered us onto the couch because she told us that if we didn't sit fast, Liam, their oldest dog, would take over the entire couch. We sat and Liam wasn't long in crawling up onto the couch, making a spot for himself between us, and flopping down to sleep with his head in my lap.

I often said that Kodiak had no idea how big he was. I'm nearly positive that Liam knows exactly how big he is and just doesn't care. It was grand though - very calming and cozy. We talked to the people for a long while about wolfhounds and a trip they had to the US. Then it was time to go outside and introduce Toby to his potential sister.

Given that Toby is sometimes unreliable in his reactions to other dogs, it went swimmingly. The size difference factor intimidated Toby a little bit, but only not necessarily in a bad way. There was a little bit of romping, a lot of butt-sniffing, and a good bit of newspaper reading. (Which is what Peter's sister calls it when dogs sniff certain areas for a long time.)

On the drive there, Peter and I discussed how we would make a decision between the two dogs. With his typical pragmatism, he shrugged and said that we'd just pick one. The dogs looked nearly identical, although one had a white-tipped tail and the other was slightly larger, maybe an inch taller. We watched them frolicking with Toby and I noticed that the larger one was much more outgoing and pushy. She was quite forward with Toby and produced two little scuffles.

When the time came to make our decision, Peter seemed to be leaning toward the larger one, so I quickly pointed and said 'The one with the white-tipped tail.' Right after that, the larger one came over and put her head under my arm, nudging me for pets. I had a moment of doubt, wondering if it was her way of saying 'no, no, I'm the right dog.' But I realised that this was just part of her forwardness and we would be better off with the more laid-back dog.

Two-and-half hours in the car later, we were back home with Real New Dog (RND) and Toby. We also have a houseful of guests, since four of Peter's friends are visiting, so it's going to be a busy and interesting couple of days.

RND does not have a name yet. The name she came with is horrible (Lily Lady) and we haven't happened on the right name yet. We were calling her Sarah last night, because I had a dream a few weeks ago (before I started looking at dogs) about us having a Toby and a giant dog named Sarah. But everyone was calling her Sarah Palin, which will not do, and Peter mentioned late last night that the name feels weird to him to say it, which is how I'd been feeling about it as well.

We've also eliminated Molly, Maeve, Wheaton, Danada, Wrigley, Sky, and Sundance. Aisling and Pluto were both debated and filed under 'Maybe', but I'd say that if you don't love a name straight away, it's not the right one. Any suggestions will be carefully considered.


At 22 November 2008 at 08:22, Blogger The Boisterous Butterfly said...

What a fantastic dog! Lucky you!

At 22 November 2008 at 08:23, Blogger Babaloo said...

Oh my God! I am SOOOOO delighted for you! I was wondering where you were "hiding" over the last few days... :) But now I know why you were busy.

CONGRATULATIONS! She looks absolutely adorable. And I'm sure you'll find a name for her soon.

Oh, and 8 of these big dogs? What kind of house do these people have?! Do they still fit in the house once all the dogs are inside? ;-)

At 22 November 2008 at 08:28, Blogger Babaloo said...

How about Maxine by the way? Short version Maxie. She's certainly big enough to carry that off.

She looks gorgeous, did I say that already?

At 22 November 2008 at 12:25, Anonymous Amy said...

What a sweet, HUGE furry face! Congratulations on your new baby! That dog-seeking gene can be strong - the reason I am forever banned from looking at rescue websites.

As for names, how about Tipp? She came from County Tipperary, right?

At 22 November 2008 at 12:54, Blogger laurie said...

ah, now i understand your facebook photo.

she is a gorgeous dog. i still like Mildred. because she looks like a lady, and she's big and curly haired and kind of old-fashioned.

naming a dog is tough. it took me more than a week to name toby; the name, as you say, has to fit; it can't just be a random name that you like. with toby we tried on myriad names and then it just slipped out one morning when i called to him. 'Come here, Toby," and there you had it.

boscoe was easier. i knew that was his name the minute i saw him. doug tried a bunch of other names--stout (because he's black with white on the head), guinness (same reason), archie (for archie manning), etc. but we kept coming back to boscoe.

and riley---his name was Miller when he was in the pound. we chose riley because he was about to rile up our house.

you'll find the right name. and congratulations. two dogs just feels RIGHT, don't you know?

(and how romantic to drive to tipperary to find a dog. much more romantic than driving to forest lake, minnesota, which is where we got riley.)

At 22 November 2008 at 13:01, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wrigley I like! Glad you're not going with Sarah -- although caller a bitch Palin is pretty funny. Your dog is very much Kodiakian. -mB

At 22 November 2008 at 14:22, Blogger Kaycie said...

She's just adorable.

Mildred is cute, and you could call her Millie. Of course, I also like Maxine and Maxie. I'm sure it has something to do with our Madeleine/Maddy.

The only other names we seriously considered for Maddy were Jillian/Jill and Sugar. Hubby wanted to name her Jill simply because we already had a male dog named Jack. Too cute for me. Sugar was my childhood schnauzer, so that was just a sentimental name (which incidentally, I call both of the dogs by half the time).

Jack was almost immediately named. We took his father's name and his mother's name and our favorite boy name that we just couldn't put with our surname in good conscience. And there it was: Midnight Jack on his papers, although he's never called that. He's just Jack.

At 22 November 2008 at 18:09, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We love the new addition to the family. We want her. AL - my picks = Lucy, Lolly,Belle,Cassieopia, Shirley, UG's- Female warriors- Boudica, Aethelflaed or Follicle

At 22 November 2008 at 18:35, Blogger koehmstedt said...

Ann, congratulations on your RND, she's beautiful. How about "Sydney" for a name?

At 22 November 2008 at 22:34, Blogger Fence said...

Ahhh, she's cute. Can't help with the name, I'd have to meet the dog in order to find one that fits :)

At 23 November 2008 at 14:05, Blogger -Ann said...

Thanks for the good wishes and the great name suggestions. I'm going to have to remember these for the next time we need to name a dog. (Which I hope won't be for many years. We're quite happy with our two.)

At 23 November 2008 at 18:41, Blogger Dave P. said...

Congrats! She's beautiful. Sorry I'm late to the naming party, but what you came up with seems perfect.

At 24 November 2008 at 16:38, Blogger Noelle said...

I like dog names that aren't people names. It keeps you from having to deal with the embarrassment of meeting someone with your pet's name. (that being said, both my cats have people names, but I was not the one who named them.) Of course in this day and age of crazy celebrity baby names, who is to say what people names are anyway?

Oh, and as far as the home visit goes, that sounds like a super idea. I have known people who get dogs without a second thought, and they are simply terrible, terrible dog owners. If only someone had just gone to the house to confirm that, the dogs would be in a much happier situation.

At 27 November 2008 at 09:15, Blogger sanjeev said...

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