Today is a little bit different in terms of content. Because today I have a surprise. Don’t be surprised if my site domain changes to Doggierecomposition.com soon.
Anyhow, today and Thursday is going to be another couple of posts about dogs. Well, more specifically about a single dog named ALFIE! Now can probably guess what today is going to be about by the title alone; read it all anyhow. It’s background for Part 2 on Thursday anyway.
Now, those of you who read/remember the entirety of the Volunteering at the Austin Humane Shelter series may remember that i mentioned a BB (blue extreme) dog named Alfie that was one of my current favorites, but that I didn’t ever get to walk him because he was above my level.
But that I’d sat with him in the runs from time to time and really dug him. He was cute in that sort of stupid looking way and he’s just a big goofball; I couldn’t figure out why he hadn’t been adopted and he’d been at the shelter for at least a couple of months. He was cute, and lovable even if he didn’t seem to be quite all there. And I’m not just being mean; others at the shelter who had worked with him felt exactly the same way about him. Lovable but not quite all there
I mean, he’s a bit crosseyed and just seems, well, a few cards short of a full deck. Still lovable and that’s all that matters. At the shelter he was a bit out of control for reasons I’ll talk about in a second. And he was positively idiotic for squeak toys. I’d watch higher level volunteers sit with him in the field and scratch his back while he just squeaked a toy in his mouth. For like 30 minutes straight. Squeak, squeak, squeak. He couldn’t have been happier.
In any case, this is the picture I put up of the big goober although with a different caption.
I certainly didn’t feel about ALFIE! the way I felt about Babe but I did really like the hell out of him. Whenever I’d see him in the kennel, I’d always address him in all caps, yelling out his name. ALFIE! Because I’m often a few cards short of a full deck myself.
I mean, I also used to ask Rosler (the dog who got his leg amputated) to give me ‘Three on the floor”. We want four (paws) on the floor and quiet before we pull the dogs out of the kennel or treat them but the best Rosler could do was three legs on the floor. It’s all he had. Yeah.
Anyhow, if you’re wondering what in the hell ALFIE! is, other than a bit slow, he’s a beagle/labrador mix. You can see the beagle bit in his face but his body is bigger than a straight up beagle; if you could see his whole body you’d see that he’s kind of a fat ass too. Apparently the breed is prone to obesity and sitting in the kennel most of the day doesn’t help. He needs RFL: Dog Edition. He won’t be able to use the online calculator, mind you; no thumbs.
And as I found out recently, he had actually had a Forever Home but had been returned to the shelter; that was probably a big part of his behavioral issues. Because while the shelter is stressful enough, being brought back after you’ve been adopted is even worse.
To understand this, try to imagine being in jail, and then thinking you’re free, and being happy for a while before being brought back again to a small cell. It’s massively stressful for the dogs and ALFIE! was a bit dog reactive, touch reactive, a little mouthy (he’d sort of play bite when he got overagitated) and tended to be maniacal on the leash pulling like crazy. I still couldn’t figure out why he hadn’t been adopted because he was a big lovable goofball and nobody saw most of the bad stuff in the kennels.
Now, one endless conversation you have with other volunteers (right after “How long have you been volunteering?”) is “So do you have dogs?” And I would always explain that I had had dogs as a child, wanted a dog but didn’t really feel like I I could have one until I wasn’t in a third floor apartment and had a proper house/back yard. And invariably I was told “Oh, that doesn’t matter, we have three dogs in our little apartment.” or something to the effect that my excuses were just that.
I think mainly I was using it as an excuse to be lazy: after the summer of hell, I still wasn’t sure I could handle the responsibility of another life to take care of; I can be a bit selfish too. It’s why I don’t have kids, I come first in the hierarchy. Basically, the shelter provided all the benefits of doggie time without the responsibility. It’s like having a nephew that you can give back when you’re sick of him. Which, trust me, is the ONLY way to have children.
I should probably mention that about a month ago, I house/dog sat for two of my friends here in Austin. The 5 days I spent with the beautiful Lupe sort of made me realize that it wasn’t nearly as difficult as I had thought. Sure you have to get home every 5-6 hours to potty them but it’s not that big of a deal, especially with a schedule like mine. And it was nice having a warm body in bed next to me, even if Lupe took 90% of the bed and the cat took another 5%. It’s a good thing I’m little.
But ultimately all of those little conversations and being told that my excuses for not having a dog were bullshit along with a 5-day basic training having my own dog were going to come to a head the week of Thanksgiving.
Tuesday Before Thanksgiving: Playtime
While at the shelter the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, one of the full blue volunteers had walked Alfie and since I was done with what I had to do, asked me if I could run his butt around the auditorium a bit. He’s very high energy and being in the kennel most of the day isn’t good for him. I, of course, said I’d love to.
Now, this was actually a mistake and we both got in trouble with a yellow volunteer. A blue dot like myself can watch a BB in the runs but I’m not supposed to do anything else with him like play in the auditorium unsupervised. I didn’t know that ALFIE! is touch reactive or gets overagitated during play and snaps and I could have easily been bitten for my own lack of information. As well, part of the shelter program is correcting bad behaviors and I don’t have the training to do any of that with a BB level dog.
But before getting talked to, I basically just played fetch with him to run off some of his energy. Intuitively, I figured out a game called two toy fetch which is how you teach dogs to drop the toy they have in their mouth. Alfie is a bit ADHD and he’ll forget about the toy in his mouth when you show him another one. Especially if it squeaks. So I’d throw one, he’d lunge after it, come back carrying it and I’d show him the other one; he’d drop the first, I’d throw the second which he’d chase and bring back. Repeat until he got tired. Which he didn’t.
The yellow also taught me some other things to do with him since he does have some behavioral issues.
Thanksgiving: A Good Question
On Thanksgiving, every person I know in Austin was either out of town or already had family plans that I didn’t fit into. That meant I was doing lonely guy Thanksgiving. Which was actually ok with me. Sure, I love gorging on food but it didn’t matter if I didn’t. So after I trained in the morning, I went to spend time with my new family: I hung out with the dogs.
Given what I heard happened at my own family Thanksgiving back in Tennessee, I think I got the better part of the deal even if I ate chicken breast and rice for lunch and omelet/pancakes for dinner and didn’t have an iota of Thanksgiving food all day (eating clean for the win). There were actually a fair few volunteers, folks who either had no family of their own or who simply wanted to come in and see the dogs before they went to eat themselves sick.
And on that day, I got to talking to a blue volunteer who was pottying Alfie in the runs while I was walking someone else in the field. He was one of her favorites too but she already had dogs. I opined that I really dug him but couldn’t understand why he hadn’t been adopted. She asked me “Well, why don’t you adopt him?”
And that was actually a really good question. The apartment thing was a non-excuse at this point, I was intending to move to a house with a back yard in February anyhow and I really couldn’t come up with any good reason not to adopt him. My 5 days with Lupe told me that it wasn’t nearly the level of hassle I had thought it would be.
I already liked him and he was a bit special needs kind of like me in some ways. We had bonded over being a little bit stupid in the head (you can’t grasp this until you’ve watched me play DJHero2 with a moronic look on my face; don’t ask why I’m wearing khakis). So why not adopt him, indeed? And I couldn’t come up with any good reason.
But the shelter wasn’t open so I couldn’t do anything that day anyhow; probably for the best since I can be impulsive sometimes. I had a good 24 hours to think about it and, as per my usual, I went from “That’s an interesting idea” to “I want to do this” to “I’m going to do this” fairly quickly. I had wanted a dog, had been making excuses, and had already lost the love of my life in Babe that summer. I wanted ALFIE!
I knew I had to do some preparation before I could do anything but I went in and put a 24 hour hold on him and filled out the application to be sure. Having already lost Babe, I didn’t need someone poaching ALFIE! from me. And then it was time to work. Up to Petsmart I went and the whole Black Friday nonsense was fantastic.
I was able to get all of the stuff I needed (leash, premier collar, ez-walk harness, some toys, bowls, a crate/kennel) for cheap since it was all on sale. The Petsmart employees were not only helpful but actually knowledgeable. I was impressed as hell since I’m usually used to BestBuy people who barely know what a computer is. I didn’t get dog food though, a yellow volunteer actually recommended the Costco Kirkland brand and, hell, I use their fish oils. If the brand is good enough for me it’s good enough for ALFIE!
And then after my Saturday slideboard workout, it was time. I went to the shelter, talked to the adoption counselor (even as a BRATT I still got the full treatment), got a bunch of paperwork to keep track of (his medical files, coupons for various things, etc) and then it was time to go get my dog. The staff member went and got him out of his kennel and I met them in the adoption room.
He was out of his mind with excitement, he knew something was up since he was being taken to an adoption room rather than straight to the runs. I met him there and it took me forever to even get his new collar on him and get him leashed. I couldn’t bother with the ez-walk harness (it helps correct pulling) but I only had to get him into his crate for now.
And his behavior didn’t worry me, I figured it was normal given what was going on. I mean think of how you’d feel knowing you were being released from jail. You might get a little bit crazy, too. If they’d have let him in, I’d have taken him to the strip club for booze and lap dances. Still might.
Instead, I took him to the car and put him in his crate for the ride home. As it turned out the volunteer who had asked me the single important question the past Thursday was driving in. She came running up “Are you adopting Alfie?” Yup. She was ecstatic, he needed a home so badly and everybody wanted to see him find one. That it was me (surprisingly to the people I’m currently harassing on Facebook, people do actually tend to like me sometimes) was just double bonus.
It’s great when a dog gets adopted at all but when a BRATT adopts a shelter dog, everyone else knows that they’re in a home with someone who both knows what he’s doing and truly loves dogs. Epic win. Of course, she also wanted to say goodbye to him; he was one of her favorites and, as I discussed in the other series, volunteers are always happy but a bit sad when their favorites get adopted. Babe had gone when I wasn’t even there, she at least got to say goodbye to ALFIE!
And honestly, she’s as much to thank for it as ALFIE! himself for me doing what I did. Other things in my life had all led up to this point but had she not asked me a question I couldn’t come up with a good “no” answer to that day, this scene wouldn’t have played out in the back of my car.
And I’ll cut this there, continuing with Alfie’s first week or so in his new home on Thursday. And there will be plenty of pictures.
See you next time.
Read ALFIE! Part 2
- People Do It Because We Let Them
- People Do It Because We Let Them: Part 2
- People Do It Because We Let Them: Part 3
- No Regrets – My Life in Speed Skating