Albie, our half yellow Lab, half Golden Retriever rescue dog, has been with us almost three months now. Many have said that a rescue dog's personality reveals itself over time as he becomes accustomed to and comfortable in his new home, and this seems to be so.
For the first few days Albie was with us we couldn’t coax him upstairs. Maybe, we thought, he’s never lived anywhere with stairs. Then again, maybe he did but was punished whenever he tried to go up them. We had no idea. Now, every night, he sleeps under our bed and when he thinks we’ve overslept (in his opinion) he’ll jump right up and start licking any face he can find not buried in a pillow.
For the first week or so, we weren’t even sure he could bark. Now, we know. He can bark all right, though it’s mainly reserved, mercifully, for moments when he’s playing enthusiastically with another dog. His brief period of barking at guests – when he decided the house was his responsibility to defend – seems to have passed with a few exceptions (my apologies to Tim, our plumber).
But it’s not just Albie who’s changing. Unsure at the beginning whether life with a dog might prove limiting, I now can’t imagine being without him. Our daily walks in the woods have become a cherished time (check with me on that in February), and I find everything about him, from the little tear on his ear to the smell of the pads on his feet, endearing.
On a recent weekend away, I came home a day early because I missed seeing his big nose under mine whenever I tried to put on my shoes. I missed having him follow me from room to room and up and down the stairs. And I missed his ever-changing expressive face, comical one minute, wistful the next. I am hopelessly in love with a creature who cannot talk to me, but whose capacity for love and trust seems to have no bounds.
Before Albie I was always a bit wary of people who treated their dogs as if they were children, and in some ways I still am. Children are more complex, the challenges of raising them far tougher and the stakes higher.
And yet, as I’m finding, the bonds with a dog can be intense, and the love very, very sweet.
To be greeted every day, or, to be more precise, several times a day, as if you just delivered a Publisher’s Clearinghouse million dollar check to the lucky winner is endlessly gratifying. To be able to completely satisfy by patting a head and rubbing a belly is reassuring. (Though, truth be told, I would probably be completely satisfied if someone did the same for me.) And to see a creature whose idea of a great time is an hour chasing a $1 tennis ball, instead of playing a first person-shooter video game that requires major electronic components and an Internet connection, is a welcome reminder that the best things in life really are almost free.