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Ruth Bass: A rescue dog often comes with challenges — and rewards

Berkshire Humane Society entrance

The Berkshire Humane Society on Barker Road in Pittsfield helped connect the author with a dog in need of a home.

RICHMOND — Rescue. It’s a word that evokes the romance of adventure, the exhilaration of success.

When it involves adoption of a dog, it’s all of the above, plus mystery, frustration and the occasional feeling that it’s not going to work.

Adventure began almost immediately. A mile from the Berkshire Humane Society, the little rascal slipped its collar, escaped the safety net harness and appeared in the passenger seat, all but smiling at the achievement. You had to laugh.

Four Shelties preceded the new dog in this house. All from area breeders, they were accompanied by fancy sheets of paper showing they descended from various male champions named MacDega and several with a parent named Delta Dawn or some other popular song.

All came with descriptions of potential personalities and considerable assurance about fitting in. They’d fit with us and, as we relearned each time, we’d adjust to fit with them.

An adopted dog rarely has a written genealogy and no guarantees. The owner may have gotten too old to care for him/her. May have died. In either case, they have grief baggage of indeterminate duration and, as with people, time is the only thing that works. Or, a rescue dog may have had a hard life, neglected in some way, possibly abused, even abandoned on the street to fend for itself.

The new resident here wasn’t cared for, suffered abuse from another dog and was taken out of the house by animal control. After determining that the new client was pretty healthy, just very thin, Berkshire Humane put up a photo on the society’s website.

I had spent several months perusing dogs from breeders and rescue websites all over the country; among the things learned was that you can wait quite awhile for a dog with genealogy, hundreds of the dogs listed are part pit bull (sometimes described by their real name of Staffordshire terrier), most are quite large, and many have medical problems that involve a money and time commitment that could prove major. Luckily, I saw my future dog shortly after their internet debut and called.

The Berkshire Humane Society rep asked if I’d like to visit the next day. “How about this afternoon?” I said, knowing from experience that you could think you were about to get a dog, and then it went to someone else.

The minute I saw this little dog, I knew they might move in. In the visitor room, it wandered around until the employee left, then jumped up on the couch and settled in as close as it could get to me. Sold.

Sweet, house-trained, sits when asked, eats as neatly as the queen, doesn’t grab my knitting or any of my papers, displays no interest in licking the dishwasher contents, doesn’t bark at passing cars or the school bus (the Richmond driver slows a little when passing us on the road — it’s nice).

But. Always, there’s a but. It barks at people, until introduced. Barks at dogs and refuses to be introduced. It’s a yappy dog, waking up the neighborhood when out early. And doesn’t want to go to bed at night, talking sometimes for nearly an hour, not wanting the day to end.

It reminds me of evenings after a toddler transferred to a real bed and kept appearing on the stairs.

But, it also makes me laugh. After the time change, walking after dark, it suddenly saw the moon, stopped to stare (did that owner never take it out?) and then barked at the bright orb. It heard geese (a huge flock) honking southward, stopped to find them way up high and barked until their V was gone.

Watched an oak leaf float down, barked at it, then attacked when it reached the asphalt. It did look alive, didn’t it? And every morning a joyous wriggle greets me as if the dog’s thinking, “Oh, my. I’m still here.”

Meanwhile, since it arrived with serious digestive problems (resolved), I was probably deemed Pest of the Month at Berkshire Humane. But, with smiling voices, they never failed to answer the questions, provide special food and pills when necessary, offer advice about getting this otherwise charming creature to properly meet and greet its fellow dogs.

Tomorrow is not soon enough for me, but New Year’s might be a more realistic goal. And dog trainer par excellence Lea Foran has assured me that this is a smart dog that can learn.

“You’ve won the lottery,” my friend told my little dog. Perhaps I did, too.

Ruth Bass is an award-winning journalist. Her website is ruthbass.com. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of The Berkshire Eagle.

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