Rescue Dog: Albie leads a “dog’s life” – in a good way

A "dog's life" lived well: Off-leash in fall’s filagree foliage, rescue dog Albie both gives and gets the gift of irrational exuberance.

Courtesy of the Zheutlin family
Rescue dog Albie hangs out in the car – ready for the next adventure in his “dog’s life.”

Albie, our rescue dog, and I have a favorite place to walk: a beautiful series of trails that run along the Charles River on land owned by the Massachusetts Horticulture Society called Elm Bank. 

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Now, in autumn, the trails are covered in soft yellowish pine needles and the woods are laced with red, gold, and orange leaves. When the sun filters through the trees, and you see them doubled by their reflection in the water, you feel as though you’ve landed in an impressionist landscape rendered by Monet, or in Winnie the Pooh’s Hundred Acre Wood, though I’m not sure Albie fully appreciates nature’s handiwork unless it comes in the form of a small critter he can chase over fallen trees, under bushes and along the river banks.

Albie can go off-leash at Elm Bank (well, technically no, but the rules are flouted by almost everyone with a dog and it’s a popular spot for dog owners and their charges). And once he’s released, all bets are off.

I haven’t seen this kind of irrational exuberance since Alan Greenspan warned that the stock market was getting frothy at around 6,000 on the Dow. He runs with complete abandon; the image of pure, unbridled joy.

When I lose sight of him I worry, but he never fails to return, though he often emerges from the woods from an entirely different location than I expect given his most recently observed trajectory.

He’s also indiscriminate in choosing his spots when he decides to plunge into the river for a drink. He still shows no signs of being able to swim, but he often emerges from some mucky pool covered in mud to his haunches.

From a distance he looks like a yellow lab on top and a black lab below. Then the challenge is to lure him back into a cleaner, free running spot in the river where he can return to his original color before hopping onto the beige leather back seat of my car. 

If I’d known I’d soon have a dog I’m not sure I’d have bought a Volvo with beige leather seats; I probably would have gone with a more rustic vehicle I could have ordered from the Eddie Bauer catalogue.

I think one of the things people love about their dogs is the perspective we get on our own troubles and travails from being with them. A dog’s life seems relatively simple, their needs few, and their joy, when those needs are being met, complete.

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The expression, “it’s a dog’s life,” seems at odds with Albie’s reality. But Albie is one of the lucky ones. In the short time he’s been with us we’ve met dozens of rescue dogs – all from the south – and for each one of them now living in comfort and with love, there are dozens if not hundreds more languishing in kill shelters or fending for themselves on city streets or in the wild. For them, “a dog’s life” is no picnic.

For us, Albie is the gift that keeps on giving: every day we derive enormous pleasure from his presence in our family. We give him a lot of love, but he’s given back as much as he’s received and then some.

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