Rescuing Dogs Rescued Me

Mystique (mom), Spirit (dad), Castiel (son)

NOTE FROM NETH: I have recently pitched this story to a publication known for being essence’s broth, as they are taking submissions for dog stories. Should they select it, I will need to take this down. But, until I hear such, I have decided to share 🙂

Growing up, I never got the opportunity to have a dog. I got to feed stray cats, some places allowed for pet mice (some places had mice that weren’t pets), but dogs and I didn’t get to live together until I was an adult. 

My husband grew up with dogs and always wanted one as an adult. We decided that we were in a place to care for one, and do it well, so he began searching for rescues available in the Nashville area. I came home from work, one day, to a black labrador that had the most beautiful blue eyes – Tyr.

Tyr was found roaming the woods, living on rodents. His rescuer took some time to capture the poor puppy, and spent a couple months comforting and nurturing the boy. Tyr had shown signs of trauma and abuse, but that didn’t stop him from smiling. He did show signs of distrust of men, but that disappeared in time.

Tyr was the friendliest creature I had ever met. I was not used to an animal actually going out of his way to get my attention, and wanting to bond the way that a dog does. I fell in love hard. He outgrew all of his previous signs of distrust, no longer worried about getting in trouble over every little thing, and enjoyed befriending the cats we already had.

After six years, he began experiencing health troubles. We knew we’d have to put him down in a short period of time – less than a week. Up to this point, all of my human death experiences were sudden. This was my first death that came with advanced notice. Those final days, I made sure Tyr was spoiled. No dog food – he ate only what we ate. His final meal got to be his favorite dish – meatloaf and mashed potatoes. He got car rides every day…until that final one.

While none of the preparation was able to keep the hole in the heart from forming when he passed, it alleviated the guilt that I was used to associating with death. The guilt of having not spent more time with the deceased, the guilt of not saying “I love you” enough, and the guilt of having not worked more at the relationship didn’t exist because I got to know that I did put in the effort to do each of those things.

I held off on replacing Tyr. I just didn’t want to jump into such a commitment right away. One spring day, that changed when a car randomly stopped in my neighborhood. It stopped just long enough for a pit bull to come out, then the car took off. This beautiful baby was understandably confused, but approached my son as he called for the dog. That is how Spirit came into my life.

Spirit was a dog who clearly grew up without love, but certainly appreciated it once he found it. He was the cuddliest dog I ever met, almost trying to burrow inside your body with his head. He wants to meet and befriend everyone and everything.

A neighbor had helped local police split up a puppy mill. He was trying to help find homes for some of the puppies and knew that we had just taken a rescue. My husband had always wanted a puppy to raise and this is how Mystique came into our lives. 

This was our first experience raising a puppy, but we found that it was much easier simply because Mystique had not been around enough to develop bad habits that we needed to break. Spirit had taken a special interest in the puppy, becoming a fantastic big brother. As Mystique grew, her appearance as a lab became more prominent.

Before we had taken either dog to get fixed, and during her first heat cycle, they got together. This led to another first for me and my husband – pregnancy and birth puppies. Mystique had five babies – two black, two tan, and one chocolate color. We could only keep one, so we opted for the one who was unique. Friends were able to take the other four. Once again, we got to raise a dog from being a puppy.

Spirit was just as great of a father as he was a guardian for Mystique. The two parents actually formed a family dynamic with baby Castiel. It was fun to watch daddy get a little rough with the puppy only for mommy to step in and assert her dominance. Even though the puppy is now seven years old, the three still hold this dynamic and are the best of friends as a pack. 

I learned a lot about myself and the world by taking in these dogs. I learned that those who were raised without love will still need it, no matter if anyone freely gives it or not. I learned that even though my dogs didn’t grow up with their parents, they were still able to be great parents for their own babies – something that could be inspirational to humans. I also learned that I can only hope to have the capacity to love that my dogs have.

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