24 May 2012

Brownie

In 2000, I moved my kids and me from our home in Woodbridge, Virginia to my home town of Grand Junction, CO. I quit a good paying job at the American Red Cross Tissue Services in Washington, DC to move to a small town to go to school. I wanted more for my life; more for my kids and home just seemed like the place to be. It was a hard move for the kids – everything they knew at that point was in Virginia – friends, school, and normality – and I ripped them from it, knowing they would find new friends, a new school and a new normal. Ali and Josh, on the other hand, were not quite so sure. My daughter insisted that I was ruining her life and my son was convinced that nothing would be home like Virginia. The transition, to say the least, was rocky.

In September of 2000, I decided it was time we had a dog. I told myself that it was for The Boy (as I affectionately call Josh) because there’s just something about a Boy and his Dog that makes everything right but little did I know the dog that would choose us came because we all needed her. We all needed the unconditional, forgiving love that only a dog could give. So while the kids were in school one September afternoon, I went to Roice-Hurst Humane Society to find this dog. Originally I wanted to see if I could find a poodle. I had the best poodle ever while growing up (Louis, or Louie) and I was convinced that if I, a self-proclaimed non-dog person, were to get a dog, only a poodle would do. They had no poodles at the Humane Society. They had medium-sized dogs, and huge-ass dogs and little yippy dogs (I affectionately call “fake dogs”) but no poodles. I was just about to turn around to leave when, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a medium-sized dog sitting quietly in her kennel. I could tell she was observant and intelligent but she wasn’t in-your-face giddy to be introduced to anyone. She stayed in the kennel, watching, taking it all in, but not getting her hopes up. I asked a volunteer if they could tell me anything about her and I learned that she was a Border Collie mix, had been physically abused and then abandoned and her name was Brownie. I asked if I could walk her and was given a leash and a direction to walk. So we went on a walk, this shy dog and I, and from that point on she became a part of my life.

I took Brownie home and introduced her to the kids when they got off of school. I told them that Brownie was a member of our family but had been through so much in her short 2 years of life that it might take some time for her to get used to us, to recognize us as her pack and to know that we wouldn’t abuse her or leave her. I told them that technically Brownie was Josh’s dog but we all had a responsibility to her – to love her, play with her and want her. They would take her to the park and fight over who got to hold her leash. They would fight over who got to feed her, who got to put water in her dish and who got to name her (I decided we would keep the name given to her at the shelter). The one thing they never fought about, though, was playing with her, loving her and being happy to see her. It took some time but eventually Brownie began to trust us. One day we heard her barking when we were leaving the house – she hadn’t barked at all up to that point – I thought her barker was broken. And then one day, about 2 years later, she wagged her tail at us. And from that point on, her tail was always wagging.

Brownie never really got over her past. She bolted through doors like we were going to slam the door on her. She would hide when voices were raised in argument (when the kids were younger, she was hiding a lot as they fought. A lot.). She was never easy around men and she never learned how to play fetch or catch or any of the other games Border Collies loved to do. But she would herd my children when they were at the park, keeping them in a well-defined, Brownie determined safe area and she loved to spend any and all time with us. If we were in one part of the house, Brownie was too. If we moved to another part of the house, Brownie did too. Eventually she grew to accept my Dad as an extension of her pack and she was always excited to “go to Grandpa and Grandma’s” to see them and their dogs. Every time we came home, she greeted us enthusiastically. She listened to my ramblings. She listened to the kids. And she never judged, never withheld any of her love for us. She loved the feline members of our family and took great pleasure in the game, “Get the Cat!” but she never snapped at them, never growled, never responded to their butt in her face with anything stronger than a look to me that said, “Mom – could you please get this cat butt out of my face?” Brownie was a perfect fit for our family.

This past weekend I had to put Brownie down. Age had run its course with her and tumors were invading her body. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do and I was an emotional wreck for the rest of the weekend. In fact, I’m still a wreck but each day is getting a little easier. The void she left is amazingly large.

Things I Learned From Brownie

1. Trust is hard but rewarding.
2. Wag your tail when you’re happy – you get petted.
3. Simple things are best – a warm bed, a treat, a walk.
4. Never forget who your pack is.
5. Second chances are imperative. Everyone deserves a second chance.

And I am sure there are more that I will add to this list. I just can’t right now. I loved that stupid dog.


When it comes time to get your life-long friend, please check out your local humane society.  Everyone deserves a second chance.  Roice-Hurst Humane Society in Grand Junction can be found at 362 28 Road, Grand Junction, CO.  They are a no-kill facility and would appreciate your time, money and adoption!
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