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Return to-and-from Morgan Meadow

“Isn’t this nice?” I breathed cool misty fog
Just like my mother would say on an island,
But I was talking to my curvy hot dog dog,
A pointer-dachshund, who isn’t that reliable
When I let her run off-leash; the meadow

Seemed deserted, a 500-acre preserve,
No one else parked in the lot so I got risky,
Let the dog romp loose; lessons learned:
Once, she bounded unleashed into the woods
During our tour with the Inland Fisheries
Wildlife Biologist, and his great dane, Gus, rescued
Sophie-Bea. She trotted beneath his elegant body
As he galloped; it’s fleeting, the love lives
Of dogs, or so I have observed.

We tromped through unpredictable snow,
Followed deer tracks, boot holes and paths
Of snow-machines, a sort of broken treadmill
With trap doors for every third or fourth
Footfall, suddenly ankle-and-shin deep,
Crust-cutting and gator-bruising (I should
Have worn knee-pads). We trekked

A mile or more, then turned back, a hard
Walk (The dog snorted cold air and I panted
“Wait for me,” not a command she obeys.)
I felt somehow dismayed not to have
Seen wildlife, though there were signs:
Scat and smells the dog investigated.

At home, we guzzled water and cracked
Open some windows to let 40 degree
Fresh air fill the house; after that,
The dog tore through the upstairs
Screen, over the bulkhead, diving
Head-first, paws out, as if to jump!

There, by the lilac, where I’d tossed
Soft apples for squirrel and deer,
A small grey opossum rummaged
Around, not showing any fear
While my dog bashed herself
Against the window panes.

Oh, the pointless hysterics,
As I searched, half-naked,
Mid-dressing, for the camera
To take its picture.

I went out in mismatched PJ pieces
Breakfast slippers like an old man
Inching toward this bizarre species
That really belongs in Arkansas—
Just look at the headlines: “Recipe
Time: Eat Possum,” “Opossum
Found at Courthouse,” “Officials
Say ‘unlikely culprit’ raided Scout
Troups’ snack tray,” “Possum Tails:
How to Care for Your Pet.”

oppossum

Leah Stetson photo

Seeing this nonnative creature waddle
Through my little Maine wooded seep
Makes me wonder about the weirdos
Who save orphaned opossums, keep
Them as pets and make home videos
Of their marsupials doing pig-tricks.

Now bobcats and red foxes, moose
And coyotes, hell, local legends
Of wild dogs (they’re suspicious)
Run ‘round Morgan Meadow’s
Marshland and forested wetlands,
But the possum is a new-comer.

Its population won’t sky-rocket;
The possum’s plight is pathetic.
It doesn’t survive under pressure
(Tires, mainly, the kill’s automatic)
On my drive up the Hill of Doom,
I swerved to avoid a dead one,
Quite possibly the same possum
That drove my dog nuts.

She’s from Arkansas, too.

TP Subscribe

After reading a blog today about someone’s plan to buy/adopt a puppy at a pet store, I remembered how happy I was to adopt an adult dog from a rescue organization in August 2009. Earlier that summer I had moved into my new home, Nixie’s Vale, which I had chosen with the big yard, long driveway and nearby walking trails all in mind…for a dog. I had volunteered in animal shelters in upstate NY back in college–and promised a bunch of cats and dogs, including a one-eyed, one-legged dog, that I would one day adopt an adult dog, rather than get a puppy. I waited 12 years to honor that promise. This is my first-ever dog owning experience.

Rescue dogs, or shelter dogs, can have special needs. A vet will tell you that some rescue dogs have been abused, abandoned or neglected, or mistreated by their previous owners. (Kids, in particular, can be cruel, and few adults  like to admit their little kids were mean to the family dog.) Keeping this in mind, adopting a rescue dog often conjures up images of dogs that bite, act possessively or high strung around strangers. I’ve met people with rescue dogs at the beach–and for the most part, the dogs got along well with my rescue dog, and there weren’t any problems. One out of every 10 rescue dogs I meet, however, have owners with “issues” about their choice in dog, or at least, some negative feelings (regret, nervousness, disappointment) in their risky rescue experience not going as smoothly as they had dreamed.

I found my pointer-dachshund, Sophie-Bea, on Petfinder.com. She was named “Bea” then and listed with an organization called Paws n’ Claws, based in Maine. But…as it turned out, she was not in Maine but in Arkansas! Hmmm. I read her little story about having been rescued off the side of a highway in Hot Springs and that she needed a  home. (She and her heinous sister had been abandoned together and the ugly wiry sister got adopted right away.)  They guessed “Bea” to be somewhere between 1-2 years, and my vet later reviewed the paperwork and said she was a little over a year by the time I adopted her. (That means she’s now about 4. )  The Petfinder.com description left out that she was part dachshund. It said “pointer mix,” which I falsely assumed to mean pointer-English pointer, some mix of two types of pointer. Once I arranged for her transport to Maine, the paperwork forwarded by the Arkansas vet indicated a good reason for why she didn’t look like a typical pointer.  Nevertheless, when she swam in the lake with me for the first time, jumping off the end of the dock and swimming out deep to join me, I fell in love and knew she was the right dog, despite her weird & unexpected mix.

Yoga

This odd mix gives her the personality of a female Snoopy but without the beagle traits. Her pretty “hot dog dog” face and long body are hard to shop for (practically speaking, orange hunting vests, not Halloween costumes) since she’s only 37 pounds but tall like a gundog. It’s her dachshund side that’s her “bad girl” side. As I type this, she hopped up next to me on the couch and I had to ask, “why does your breath smell like poo?” Argh.

Such is the life of a dog owner. (Now my dog is rolling onto her back, insisting that I pet her belly, and kicking like a four-year-old kid.) For the most part, I think she’s well-behaved. When I take her places, to swim, to walk, to play with other dogs (or kids), I feel proud when I hear people (strangers!) say out loud, “wow, that dog is so gentle with the kids,” or “I wish our dog was like that. This dog is so sweet, so well-behaved.” They don’t see her stealing the kindling from the stock by the woodstove and making a mess of sticks in her doggie bed or stealing a turkey carcass off the family’s kitchen counter on leftover day.

Team effort

Hey, it wasn’t JUST her. My brother’s dog was in on it. But my dog was most likely the instigator. She’s the master of invention when it comes to breaking the rules. Once, when a porcupine was in the yard, I figured all was well since my dog was inside. Not so. My dog rocket-launched herself through a window to dispatch the porcupine, and got 30 quills in the face for her trouble. That required a midnight trip to the vet for sedation and extraction…but she learned. The next time the porcupine was in the yard, and Sophie-Bea saw it (outside this time), she growled at the porcupine and came running back to me in a tizzy. I guess she was wearing her smart hat that day. And I managed to scope out the big hulking porcupine–climbing a tree like an ape.

Fast friends

Since adopting Sophie-Bea, I’ve learned that personality of a dog is the most important factor in choosing the right dog for a household. I’ve seen people adopt the wrong breeds/personalities for their lifestyle and it’s a sorry situation for the dog. I used to daydream about one day adopting a husky mix but my vet convinced me that wasn’t the right breed for my personality. Now I can agree with her…but there was a time when I argued in favor of a husky. They are beautiful dogs. But I lucked out with this funny pointer-dachshund, and I have to admit that I never would have considered her had I known about the dachshund part. It’s the side that makes her affectionate, persistent, sneaky …and clever. And able to jump 8 feet into the air and flip like a circus performer.

Dream analysis

It all comes down to the doggie basics: what she likes to do, what she needs, and what I can provide for her:  exercise, nutritious meals, rewards, love, shelter, companionship, discipline, er, I mean, routine, heck, a relatively diverse set of activities.  She makes friends easily. She likes to nap and daydream (and look things up her dream dictionary). She likes to dig, hunt and run. She works well with others.

And she’s not only a great companion, she’s grown more confident in the past three years, making her a competent guard dog. I named her “Sophie-Bea” after Sophie B. Hawkins, and my dog’s theme song was “Damn, I wish I was your guard dog.” Well, considering she lives between a German Shepherd named “Trooper,” and a state trooper’s dog (K-9 cop division), she’s too small to be considered a traditional guard dog. Somehow this doesn’t seem to cross her mind as an issue. She holds her own in the neighborhood. There’s no way I would have bonded with a puppy like this. Taking on a rescue dog does require a commitment and a certain openness to dealing with a dog’s special needs, when and if they arise. She loves the water, woods and wetlands, that’s for sure.

Leah

Poet. Artist. Ecoheroine. Human ecologist. Spiritual mermaid and Mystic. I write about literary ecology, wetlands, water, Romantic ecology, and quirky adventures with my dog.

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