Beau Jangles

I always listen to music when I write but I only allow myself to listen to instrumental music. No singing. Singing is a distraction. Tonight, I am listening to the 70’s station on Pandora Radio.

It’s funny how when we revisit old memories how those moments in time are frozen, waiting for us to revisit them. As I write this, I need to listen to the music that brings me back to my childhood. 

It’s June 26, 1978. I am 7 1/2 years old living in my childhood home in Buffalo, New York. My younger brother was four and my older brother was 11. It was after dinner , still light out and we were playing in our playroom.

“BEAU STOP”, my father yells. Tires screech and then a car peels away. There is yelling. There are men in the street. Our neighbors. My brothers and I run out of the house to see what’s wrong. There is blood all over the street. My father firmly commands us to turn around and go back into the house. My grandma runs out of the house to bring us back in. They don’t want us to see what happened. We know though. Our dog has been hit by a car. He is dead. Our dog is gone. That was a terrible night in our house.

The bitch that ran him over just kept driving. Although I would never wish anyone harm, for all these years I have wished karma would find her. Accidents happen and Beau did bolt across the street but it was obvious she killed our dog and she drove away without apology when my father was standing in the driveway. Really? Who does that?

Then men on our street hosed off the blood and helped my father put Beau’s body in a box. The box was placed up against the house in the driveway for the SPCA to retrieve the next day. My bedroom faced the driveway. For the longest time I could not sleep facing my bedroom window which faced the driveway. My back always had to be facing the window. Who knows what a psychiatrist would say about that today. Denial maybe.

Beau Jangles, Beau for short was a black mini poodle. My parents must have adopted him shortly after they purchased that house. I was around two. My little brother wasn’t born yet and my older brother was adopted later on. Beau peed on the light post in front of our house. That was his spot. When he wanted to go somewhere on our street he ran. He bolted as a matter of fact. There was a fat basset hound named Maude that lived down the street. She used to lay in the street and never got hit by a car. As a matter of fact sometimes people would stop to pet her. Beau slept on a rug in my grandma’s room. She’d let him out the back door and when she wanted him to come back in the house she’d call for him out the door and he’d come running. In the winter, my grandma let Beau out to do his business and he came right back in. He didn’t play around with Buffalo’s harsh winters. Moments before his death, he came into the room we were playing in. He’d approached each of us. We greeted him and pet him and then he went outside for the last time.

We moved to Atlanta two years after Beau died and never got another dog. We had a few cats instead. I was too young to understand the magnitude of a dog’s love as I do now but somewhere deep inside I could never bring myself to get attached to other people’s dogs, simply because they weren’t my dog. That didn’t happen until I was 41. My friend adopted a poodle mix that I fell head over heels over. I loved his face and the la la la playful way about him. That’s when I knew it was time for me to love another dog.

My husband had never had dogs growing up. Only cats. I gently eased him into a conversation about getting a dog. It was a good time for our family to adopt a dog and our kids had been asking. A few months later I was on Petfinder looking at Black Mini Poodles. A black poodle not to replace Beau Jangles, but because that little girl who lost her dog in 1978 can’t imagine herself with any other kind of dog.

Beau Jangles must have been watching over me from Heaven because there was a black male mini poodle waiting for us on Petfinder when I began my search. He was 2 1/2 and he’d been listed a few months.  I looked at other poodles too but kept going back to him.They say you don’t choose the dog, the dog chooses you. It was his eyes that drew me to him. Eyes that said, “I need you, you need me. Bring me home”. We went to meet him, spent two hours with him and brought him home. We changed his name from Pooky to Cooper Jay. There was an adjustment period of course. He’d been in a shelter for six months and wow did he ever have skeletons in his closet. We got through it though. We earned his trust and he taught us how to take care of him and love him on a level we didn’t know we were capable of.

I think of Beau from time to time. Especially on June 26. I wish he didn’t die so tragically. The little girl from 1978 believes somehow from Heaven he let me fall in love with my friend’s dog here on earth and  helped realize it was time okay for me to love another dog again and go looking for Cooper.

 

My Shelter Dog

On Sunday after mass, my priest invited the parish community to return to church at 5PM for the Blessing of the Animals to celebrate The Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi, the Patron Saint of Animals. I graciously accepted the invitation and my daughter and I brought our dog. As I stood there and watched the priest recite the prayers and then walk around to bless the animals with Holy Water, I reflected upon what a blessing our dog has been to our family.

A friend once told me, “You don’t pick the Animal, the Animal picks you”. I began looking for dogs on Petfinder in the spring of 2012. Of course I was looking for a puppy because everyone wants a puppy. During my search I spotted a black mini poodle, male and 2 1/2 years old. A black mini poodle.  Exactly what I wanted! But why was a 2 1/2 year old dog up for adoption? I kept looking. During my frequent online searches, I kept going back to the black poodle. I couldn’t get past the look of sadness and rejection in his eyes in the pictures that were listed online. I emailed the shelter about the dog and my husband and I decided to take the kids and go meet him. We agreed that if it didn’t feel right, we would not bring him home.

The dog was playful and full of kisses when the woman at the shelter brought him out to us. I fell in love with him the moment I saw him and I knew I had to have him. We took turns walking and playing with him. My husband wasn’t sure. He’d never had a dog before. It took me almost two hours to convince him that this dog would be good for our family. We filled out papers, paid for him and took him home. I sat in the back seat of the car with the kids and the dog as we drove home. I knew taking him was right because he put his head in my son’s lap and sighed with relief as if to say, “I’m going home”.

I remember the morning after my son was born. I was critically ill, whacked out on pain medication and magnesium sulfate, and the nursery nurse brought my son to me for a feeding. In my drug induced fog, I realized that I had no idea how to feed a newborn and wondered what I’d gotten myself into. We felt the same with this dog. The idea of having a baby or adopting a pet seems lovely and heartwarming at the time, but once you get into the nitty gritty, you realize it’s going to take patience, trial and error, education and a lot of love. We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into with this shelter dog. My friends said it would take a few months for him to adjust. I believed them and remained hopeful.

One evening shortly after we adopted him, the dog was sitting at the screen door barking at our neighbor who was outside mowing his lawn. The barking became excessive and my husband who was sitting on the couch, rolled up the magazine he was reading and smacked it against the side of the couch to distract the dog to get him to stop barking. The dog cowered as if he thought he was about to be hit. The dog did not allow us to touch all parts of his body. We couldn’t go near his lower back closer to his tail and hind legs. Once we tried to wipe some remaining poop from his backside and he almost tore my husband’s arm to shreds. We also discovered that he had moments of insanity where he’d just lose it and start spinning and chasing his tail. We also discovered he went crazy at the groomer and at vet appointments to the point we worried he was going to rip their arms to shreds. It was obvious that this dog had inner demons from his past to work though. We were fortunate to have found a groomer early on who was familiar with shelter dogs and made some recommendations which our veterinarian agreed with. We tried distraction, behavior modification, Prozac, a shock collar and nothing could break him of this excessive spinning and chasing his tail. The groomer recommended Acepromazine, a dog anti anxiety medication for grooming days, vet visits and situations that will be stressful for him. We also brought a trainer into our home for an afternoon. The trainer taught us techniques to break him of his spinning and to, in dog language, show the dog that we are the alpha, not him. It really has taken patience, trial and error, education and a lot of love but I am pleased to say he’s doing great.

It has now been exactly four years and five months since we adopted him. We have given him more love than he has ever dreamed of and he has learned to trust us. We have learned what his triggers and social limitations are.  We take him on vacation with us because we don’t want to board him and make him think he’s being surrendered and we don’t put him in situations that will stress him out. He’s a good boy. He doesn’t have accidents in the house and he doesn’t tear anything up. He knows our routine of family life and he’s part of it. He has a unique relationship with my each member of our family; my husband, my son, my daughter and myself. He’s a sweet boy and he loves to cuddle. He comforts us when we are sad, he’s our buddy and a trusted friend and confidant. He gets presents for his birthday and on Christmas and we allow him to put his nose in the bag to drag each present out. Our friends joke and say this dog owns my husband and I. He does.

My friend was right about the animal picking the human. This dog picked me before I even met him. The look of sadness and rejection in  eyes in his petfinder picture is what called me to him and made me bring him home. I never want him to feel that way again. I have absolutely no regrets about adopting this shelter dog and I encourage others to give shelter dogs a chance. They have so much to give. We gave this dog a home and feeling of security, love, tons of toys, good food, lots of playtime, discipline, health and grooming. In return he has given me the ability to love a dog in a way that I never knew I was capable of. He’s the best dog ever.