A challenging month. One made worse by my habit of acting like the Florence Nightingale of the animal world. This tendency of mine becomes more pronounced during hot weather. I've picked up a strange dog during June or July for the past three years.
A week after my surgery, on my way home from work, I saw a very large yellow lab on the road. He appeared to be trying to find a specific driver; he kept approaching moving cars near the driver side window.
I got half a mile down the road, arguing with myself. On the mind-your-own-business side: he was huge, didn't have a collar and I knew nothing about his temperament. On the other hand: he clearly was in distress and wanting help, it was dusk and soon to be dark and he was sure to get killed if he continued to stay in the middle of the road.
At the next opportunity, I turned around and headed back. I'd decided my involvement would be determined upon on whether he came when I called to him.
I stopped my car on the shoulder, rolled down my window and called to him.
He came bounding across two lanes of traffic toward me. I opened the door, and the fool animal tried to climb into my Toyota across my lap. I shouted, "No!" and he recoiled.
I climbed out of the car and offered my hand for him to smell. He sniffed once and immediately leaped into the car, settling himself into the passenger seat.
I was appalled. I guesstimated his weight at approximately 100 lbs. My vet later weighed him in at 110. He was so big, he knocked my transmission out of gear on the way home.
The next week was a blur of activity. I christened the behemoth "Grendel" for the monster in Beowulf. He was a mass of contradictions:
- Friendly but not needy. He was content to lie quietly nearby wherever I was.
- Obedient but unaware of simple commands. Fortunately, he was VERY food-oriented. He learned "sit" in about twenty minutes.
- Beautifully kept but without a identity chip. I realized pretty quickly he had a nasty ear infection. He was also at least 30 lbs overweight.
- A purebred lab who had been neutered at a very young age.
Being a writer, I took that story and ran with it. "An ill person might not have noticed the beginnings of his ear infection. Maybe Grendel's owner died or had to be hospitalized, and a relative put him in the backyard. He figured out how to open my gate in about five minutes. I'll bet he escaped from wherever and got lost."
The vet nodded. "He probably tried to return to his owner's house."
The bad news was that my vet told me Grendel could not be left in my yard. "He has no experience as a yard dog. With his weight, this heat will kill him."
That complicated my life unbelievably. My roommate was already furious. Undeterred by Grendel's size, my little 12-lb. cat took every opportunity to leap out and attack Grendel. The first time I shouted, "No," Grendel figured out his continued residence in my home was dependent upon getting along with this tiny, nasty, spitting creature. He studiously ignored Bob from that moment forward, which only infuriated my little kamikaze feline. Bob would slash at Grendel at every opportunity. Fortunately, the lab's thick fur protected him.
Leaving Grendel inside meant I had section the rooms off so each animal had his part of the house. It also meant I had to come straight home from work to let the dog out. Because of the heat, I confined our walks to 6:15 in the morning and 10:30 at night.
Nighttime was a nightmare. My bedroom became the battlefield. Grendel abandoned his calm exterior at bedtime. He WANTED to sleep in my bed. Of course, my four-poster belonged to Bob.
Like Solomon, I made an executive decision which offered a compromise to all parties involved. Grendel might want to sleep in my bed. I would allow him to sleep beside my bed. The bed belonged to Bob, who spent every night with his little triangular head hanging over the side of the mattress, hoping for a chance to slash at Grendel from above. I slept badly, waking up every couple of hours to see what was going on.
Desperate to get my life back, I hung "Found Dog" signs all over the neighborhood in which I'd found Grendel and knocked on doors, showing his photo to homeowners, hoping for a clue. I haunted the Internet. I contacted local vets. All to no avail. No one knew Grendel, and no one appeared to be looking for him. That only reinforced my belief that his owner had died.
After a week, I switched my efforts from "locate owner" to "locate new owner." I sent emails to a couple of people who belong to large, networked church communities in Dallas. Within two days, I began to do phone interviews of potential new owners. Last Sunday, I surrendered Grendel to a young minister at one of the largest churches in Dallas. He was originally looking for a dog for his sister, but during my home visit when his setter bitch and Grendel fell in love, he began to wonder if he should keep him.
Grendel and Sami played happily together while we watched, smiling. I got up to leave, and Grendel immediately followed me to the door. I kissed him goodbye, and his new owner held the lab tightly while I slipped outside.
Came home and collapsed into my bed with Bob purring contentedly beside me.