His name is Luther.
I cannot have a dog.
I love him none the less.
On Sunday afternoon, Gypsy, our dear friend Barbara and I stopped in to a pet store not far from where we live. We were stopping mostly because we heard that they were carrying reptiles and I was interested in seeing the collection and if there was anything interesting.
We stopped by and visited the ferrets, I prefer to call them Weaselmonkeys. And we spent a few moments playing with the hand raised birds and marveling at the beautiful fish, and then as we wandered past the wall of enclosures containing dogs and cats for adoption, I was stalled in my tracks.
The information sheet on the window said that Luther had not had a very nice start to his life and had been chained in a yard for almost all of his three years and that he needed to be fattened up a bit and needed some tlc. But what I saw was a pair of huge brown eyes that practically screamed “Love me!”
We are unable to have a dog where we live, which is sometimes difficult for me, as I was raised around dogs, as a matter of fact, I was pretty much raised with a dog, a Siberian Husky named Tris that my dad bought the year before I was born and who was my brother through the first twelve years of my life.
My parents laughed for years about the fact that my first word wasn’t “Mama” or “Da” but “Tris.” said quickly, almost like a sneeze.
Tris shared my fondness and he watched over me, guarded me, even shared his dog biscuits with me, much to the horror of family friends. But my pediatrician said that it was fine and my parents let it go on. Dad would toss Tris a milkbone and Tris would crunch it up into manageable pieces and nudge a couple of them over my way.
We did everything together, played in the snow, swam in rivers, lakes and the ocean, we even slept out on the porch together on warm summer nights. Those that know me will readily tell you that I am at least as much dog as human and sadly, I even smell like wet dog when it rains, but that could just be because I am fuzzy.
I began my pursuit of deeper understanding of dogs not long after Tris’ death when I was twelve. I began reading every book on dog training and history that I could get my hands on and my father used my connections to get me into classes to learn dog training, classes where I was the youngest student by at least a decade.
By the time I was sixteen I was training dogs in the evenings after school, volunteering at two shelters and fostering dogs for a local rescue. I was convinced that there was an entire language that existed that if we could just learn to speak it, we could accomplish seemingly impossible things with dogs as partners, not servants or underlings.
Over the years I have never wavered in my love for our four legged brethren. I have attended seminars, programs, confirmation shows, including Westminster, obedience trials, and every other kind of competition that dogs can be involved in. I personally have had three titled dogs and have helped about a dozen others reach that status, but still, every time I encounter a dog, I learn.
On Sunday, Luther was my teacher.
Even though I did my best not to let him worm his way into my brain, I kept circling back to look at him, to see what lay behind those huge, liquid eyes. Eventually Gypsy and Barb joined me as I was watching him, curled up shivering. I knew the movement, it wasn’t cold, it was anxiety.
I was summoning up the strength to head for the car and put him from my mind when Barb said, “You gonna ask to pet him?” I started to shake my head when Gypsy added, “Yes, you are.”
Now one thing that I am very aware of is that Gypsy often knows what is better for me than I do myself and so with that thought in mind, I sought out one of the young ladies working there and asked if I could spend some time with him. She seemed delighted, even though I told her that I was unable to adopt at the time. She said, “He could use the company.”
And so we ended up in one of the small six by four foot cubicles with Barb sitting on the bench, Gypsy leaning over the door and me on the floor with forty pounds of wiggly pitbull in my lap.
Luther is underweight, shows signs of scarring around his neck from prolonged improper use of a collar and has a massive scar down his ribcage to his belly and another around his front leg that the clerk was unsure of the origin of. It was known that he had had little to no interaction before being taken from his owners and had not been properly cared for in much of his life.
Luther had every reason to be aloof, stand offish, angry or even sullen but he was none of those things. Luther was wiggly, silly, extremely gentle and completely open to being loved. He would gently relinquish his rope toy if you asked him, would not lunge at it if offered and even when he used his mouth to play, it was so soft and caring about it that it was touching.
He rolled on his back, lay quietly while I checked him for other injuries and gave his belly a good rub and scratch. I found that his tail was broken and healed crooked but it did not seem to bother him at all. He was thin, but otherwise healthy and outside of needing a good diet and a bath, he seemed in good hands.
For over an hour we sat with him, he played with each of us in turn and when a german shepherd across the aisle began to act up, Luther inserted himself between us and the dog and rumbled deep in his chest. It was not at aggressive fighting sound, it was a warning, “These are my people, be nice or you will be sorry.”
He was quick to learn, eager to please, sweet and easy going and would have made an excellent companion, working or possibly even therapy dog, and all of it after a lifetime of neglect and possible abuse.
I sat there, with my heart in little pieces, knowing, and I mean KNOWING that I had to leave there without him but wanting beyond want to take him home and give him the life he deserved to make up for those first three years. To reward his forgiveness of us as humans for how we treated him and have treated so many of his brothers and sisters and so many other species.
We humans have had dogs with us forever, they have evolved to fit our lifestyles, we have changed and modified them into thousands of shapes, sizes, duties and personalities. It is entirely possible that it was the domestication of wolves and their evolution into dogs that was responsible for us going from being strictly hunter gatherers to agricultural.
Dogs have been companions, guardians, heroes, friends, livestock protectors, and active members of our militaries and police forces, among a hundred other jobs. But the first and foremost accomplishment of dogs is loving us, unconditionally, even with all of our failings, even at our worst, our dogs have watched over us, comforted us and at some points, given us a reason to get out of bed in the morning when everything else in our lives was screaming to just, give, up…
As far as I know, Luther is still available, if you are interested in going to see him, let me know and I will tell you where he is. But it doesn’t have to be Luther, it just has to be something, someone who needs love. We have done a lot of harm in our time here, and we can begin healing it by being kind. Consider adopting a dog and showing him what we can really be like.
I would be most grateful…
And so would Luther.