Rescue dog: Who has date night abandonment issues – owner or Albie?

The relationship between a new dog owner and his rescue dog Albie is surprisingly – and joyfully – more intense than expected. Date night and a bad dream bring home how strong the bond is.

Courtesy of Peter Zheutlin
Albie, the Zheutlin family's rescue dog, stayed home by himself for the first time. After a date night out, new dog owner Peter realized how strong and intense their bond is.

"Beasts of the Southern Wild" is a raw and powerful film about a tiny, hardscrabble Louisiana community clinging to life on a barrier island they call “The Bathtub,” an island slowly succumbing to the rising waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

When my wife Judy and I went to see it a few nights ago, we left Albie, our new rescue dog, alone at home. As hard as it was to close the door on that sad face, we knew at some point he’d need to learn to be home without us. But since he was a stray we’re concerned he has abandonment issues and closing the door reminded us of nights when we left crying kids in the hands of baby sitters, kids who would place their palms against the living room windows as we drove off as if they might never see us again. They sure weren’t thinking, “Have a nice time!” Or, “We know you need a break; take your time getting back!”

With Albie, of course, there’s no sitter to call to see if he’s OK, so when the movie was over we came right home. No coffee after the movie or late night bite to eat. As I came up the front steps, I looked in the window that frames our front entrance and there was Albie, lying down as close the door as he possibly could.

He was almost surely in that same spot for two hours just waiting and wondering if and when we’d be coming back.

It took him a good 10 minutes to settle down after we walked in. I patted his belly; he put his paws on my arms to keep me near. I rubbed his head; his tail thumped the floor in joy. I nuzzled his neck; he threw his front leg over my shoulder. To put it mildly, I got a much warmer reception than Mitt Romney in London.

That night I had a dream. It wasn’t one of those cinematic dreams with clear visuals and a script, but rather one of those visceral, purely emotional dreams devoid of images and sound. Perhaps because Albie is our very own beast of the southern wild, a rescue dog from Louisiana, I dreamt he, too, was in danger of succumbing; that his original owner had somehow tracked him down and was trying to take him back. The fear of loss in that dream was astonishingly intense and in it I vowed to do whatever it took to fight for Albie, to keep him from ever being left to his own devices again. How a dog this gentle managed to survive even a day by himself in the southern wild is beyond me. And to think that my feelings for a dog I didn’t know existed a month ago could be so powerful took me by surprise, perhaps because I’ve always been a bit suspicious of people who anthropomorphize their canine companions.

In the morning, still asleep, I felt Albie’s paw on my arm and woke to see his big nose about an inch from mine. Could he have had the same dream? Doubtful, but one thing is clear: three weeks in and we are now inseparable; buddies for life.

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