Be careful what you wish for – and embrace it anyway: Send us your pet rescue stories

August 23, 2018

Be careful what you wish for – and embrace it anyway: Send us your pet rescue stories

BROOK PARK, Ohio -- A dog. I had always wanted one when I moved into my own place, because a dog makes a house a home. Instead, my lovely wife overruled me, and we had children. 

However, I still wanted a dog. A child’s love may be conditional --What?!?! You’re punishing me because I didn’t do the thing you asked me 20 separate times to do? I DON’T LOVE YOU ANYMORE!!!!-- but a dog’s love has no limits. 

After the children got a bit older, I made my case: I. Want. A. Dog.

And so began the great dog search. I only had a few conditions: 1) It would have to be a rescue dog. 2) It would have to get along with my cat. 3) It would have to get along with my kids. It seemed easy enough, but the search took a long time.

Most of the rescue dogs I found were pit bull mixes, and my home insurance wouldn’t cover it. That took something like 75 percent of the dogs out of the running. The other 25 percent seemed to be made up of toy breeds. And, look, toy dogs are fine for some people. But not for this person. I wanted a larger dog, gosh darn it! If I wanted a dog small enough to carry in my backpack, I would have bought a hamster and called it a day. 

So I cast my net further afield. And finally, I found one! The write-up was so perfect, it should have had angels singing “Hallelujah!” in the background: Ginger is a nine-month-old, medium-sized dog! Golden lab mix! Super-friendly! Loves people! Loves other animals! Calm! Quiet! Short-haired and does not shed!Great for any family!  


“That one!” my wife and I cried together. And we arranged to go fetch the latest addition to our family. And we picked her up, and we all lived happily ever after!

Which is the way fairy tales end. Alas, real life is different.

I don’t want to say that the write-up was a TOTAL pack of lies. The dog’s name was Ginger. She was nine months old, medium sized and had golden lab in her. Everything else, though? I’ll be charitable and say the writer took creative liberties. 

For starters, Ginger’s other mixes include chow and greyhound. Which means she is the opposite of calm. Hook her up to a treadmill and I could power a small city with her energy. 

Loves other animals? I think the writer’s computer autocorrected “love” from “can’t stand.” Over the years, we have discovered exactly one (as in: one, single, sole, solitary) animal she doesn’t growl, snap or lunge at (Spoiler alert: This one animal is not my cat).

Does not shed? Lies and untruths! I could make a hundred life-sized dogs out of all the fur she has shed over the past few years. We now have a separate household budget line for vacuum bags. 

Quiet? She barks at everything. And I mean everything. Knock on the door? Bark bark ruff bark. Person walks by the house on the opposite side of the street? Bark bark growl bark. Sun rises in the morning? Bark bark bark bark. 

And loves people? Well, I’ll give partial credit: She took to my wife and children right away. Me? Not so much. She attempted to attack me the very night we brought her home. I stood on the opposite end of the hall from her, sighed and told her, “It’s a good thing you like my wife and kids so much.” She responded with a deep-throated growl. 

Turns out she only liked women and children. If you were an adult male, she was scared to death of you and responded to your presence with barks and snarls and hackles raised. 

See, some rescue dogs have issues. Think of rescue dogs like you would a kid. Some are well adjusted and give you no problems whatsoever! And others ... well. Others need some time, more understanding and a healthy dose of serenity.

I won’t bore you with the details of the following six months. All I will say is I have come to the conclusion that the universe thought I needed practice with patience. Showing that it has an evil sense of humor, it responded by dropping this dog in my house and saying: “Here you go. Practice your patience with this.”

Five years in, and Ginger is much more well-adjusted. She’s actually a great dog. With quirks. If she is barking incessantly at something and I tell her to be quiet, she has to have the last word and responds by chuffing at me. “Quiet, Ginger!” I say. “Ruff,” she responds. Every single time. Once we went back and forth repeatedly, and after 20 straight times, I let her have the final say.

She runs rings around the back yard so often that there is now a circular path worn into my yard where grass has given up all attempts at growing. She jumps on my bed when I’m not looking and s-l-o-w-l-y slinks off when I see her. If I don’t stay in the room until she is fully off, she will settle back on the bed like I never caught her. 

She tries to chase skunks, with predictable results (Pro tip: Mix 1 quart hydrogen peroxide, ¼ cup baking soda and 1 teaspoon dish-washing liquid. Scrub vigorously).

She’s now much better with adult men -- the only person she really barks and growls at is my friend’s husband. But that’s OK, because I don’t like him, either, and it stops him from coming around (good Ginger! Here’s a treat!).  

She’s loyal. And friendly. She loves my family (except for the cat). She listens (usually). And she may still have issues -- once we were gone for two hours and she opened the cabinets, shredded a box of cereal all over the living room, destroyed a box of ice cream cones and buried some of the remains in blankets on the couch -- but who doesn’t? 

Her devil-may-care personality fits in with our household, and her occasional acts of disobedience and/or destruction are no worse than your average 8-year-old human. In fact, hers are probably better, because at least she doesn’t try to blame it on a sibling. She’s fun, aggravating, loving, happy, infuriating, playful -- in short, she’s been a colorful addition to our family.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go. I hear Ginger barking at the door. Either someone is here, or the sun has risen again.

Johnny Bender

Brook Park

Do you share your life with an animal that is near and dear to you? Tell us something about your pet - all species are welcome - and send along a photo of the two of you. Be sure to tell us which Greater Cleveland community you live in. Send everything to Ann Norman at anorman@cleveland.com.

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