Twelve years ago I was a volunteer adoption counselor with the Ozaukee Human Society. It was when they operated out of the old drive in theatre in Grafton and while the building was small, the staff and volunteers cared deeply about the animals housed there. I was a volunteer there because upon the death of my first dog and subsequent adoption of a coonhound-lab mix from OHS, I realized just how important dogs were to me. Volunteering was simply ‘payback’ for the pleasure dogs brought into my life.
One Saturday, a young couple came in and had their eye on a young hound mix and I talked with them about the the lifestyle this dog would expect to live – lots of exercise, diverse routes to sniff, etc. They were very tuned in and were planning how they could adapt their lives to accomodate a new family member. They adopted Alvie, below, and provided him with pre-dawn, winter walks at Kathryn Kearney Carpenter Dog Park in Mequon, as well as rides in the car and all the love he could take in.
I would occasionally see them at the park with my dog. We’d usually walk together and compare notes about things our dogs would do, training methods that worked, and home items that were destroyed by their chewing. Think of 2 moms on a play date and you get the picture.
It was while I was volunteering that 12 English Pointer puppies had come back from the foster moms that cared for them when they were surrendered to OHS at just 5 weeks of age. Now they were 12 weeks, spayed/neutered and ready to go. My, they were cute and rambunctious! Yes, one came home with me a day later.
It was about that time that I saw Maurita, Mike and Alvie again. I asked them if they ever considered a companion dog for Alvie and talked up the Pointer Puppies that were up for adoption. They’d seen them and were considering it. It was just a coincidence that we might both have puppies from the same litter after I’d also helped them adopt Alvie. You know where this is going, right? Angus, a nice, sturdy male in the Pointer litter, came home to share the house with his people and Alvie.
We’ve stayed in touch through the years of our dogs lives. After the first year birthday party I organized at the shelter for the 12 puppies, we’d email, see each other out or I’d stop by their house while riding my bicycle. It was always good to catch up about our dogs and then, their 2 daughters.
Last summer Maurita called me to say that Alvie wasn’t doing well and she wanted to have him photographed before he was too bad. I gladly went to see and photograph him. In these situations, I pray that I’m able to capture the whole dog, be respectful to their present state and make an image that the owners will love. Mission accomplished and then Alvie recovered and rallied.
Three days ago, Maurita called to let me know that they had let Alvie go. We both cried as we relived the story of how Alvie came to live with them and how hard it is to let go when then the love is so tight. But letting go, when the time arrives, IS an act of love. They tell us when their ready and soon it will be our turn. My coonhound Ellie is nearly 14 and our Pointers are now 11.5 years old.
What’s really cool, however, is when our dogs are gone, we’ll still be friends. I’ll still stop by on my bicycle to visit and watch their girls grow up. Who knows, maybe our ‘dog paths’ will cross again in the future. Thanks for bringing us together Alvie!