last week, in fact early morning of the day we went to atlanta, i found out about a deaf, albino wolfhound that had been dropped at a shelter in michigan that was about 9 hours away from us. as soon as the shelter opened i called and got all the details from the shelter manager, dana. apparently his original owners had completely neglected him, leaving him in a crate most of the time until finally in what was seemingly an uncharacteristic act of compassion, they decided to turn him into the shelter. apparently only partially taking the advice of their vet who stated to them in a letter that it would be in "dakota's" best interest to find him a new home where he may thrive and find the training and communication required for a deaf dog. at the time i called dakota had been at the shelter for about a month because dana was worried about finding the proper home for him. she had just recently begun to spread the word about him, looking first among friends of friends and so forth before casting a wider net for fears (unfortunately well-founded) of a backlash of condemnation from the wolfhound breeders community. more on this later. i told dana about our living situation here and about our pack and that if she was comfortable with me to consider him adopted and i would figure out how to get him home. through the years i have developed a very strong affinity for wolfhounds. when i hear of one being neglected or abused it makes my blood boil. i love all dogs and obviously can’t tolerate any abuse of any animal but i take it even harder when it’s a wolfhound in the cross-hairs. i think we all have our causes and the wolfhound is definitely one of mine. maybe it’s because they are incredibly sensitive, kind and loving; are hopelessly devoted to humans and seem to have a much lower threshold to withstanding neglect before their spirits become broken. i have also taken dave down with me because as i was talking to dana and he was hearing my side of the conversation he handed me a note that said (now is a good time to have your tissues handy) “do we need to go get him today?” (i know, right?)
so while we were on our way to atlanta i hatched my plans for my mission to michigan to pick up dakota. on wed 4/23 i was going to fly to kalamazoo, drive about an hour to the shelter, pick him up and then get in the car and drive the 9 hours home. there were a few problems with this plan however, the least of which is my long-standing general hatred of driving. i didn't know the dog i was picking up and i began to get a little worried that i could have a hard time wrangling him by myself if he got antsy while traveling. there is also my tendency to fall asleep behind the wheel no matter what time of day it may be. ironically, during most nights in my actual bed, sleep is elusive and i spend much of the night reading and listening to dave snore - go figure. finally, completing the trifecta of kym's driving danger is the fact that i get so lost in my vocal performances that i very often wind up lost (even in my own town) before i know it.
just last weekend i got the awesome idea to instead fly to detroit, drive a few hours to the shelter to pick up dakota and then drive back to the airport. we would fly home together and be home by 9:00 p.m. - how great is that? the only problem was the logistics. specifically, how do i go to an airport with a rental car, get a large dog in a very large kennel inside by myself, check him in, return the rental car and get back to the airport. is that possible? now i can say "yes" but i don’t recommend it and it's not pretty. i was so worried about the whole return airport thing that dave called the airport and spoke to a seemingly very knowledgeable woman who laid out the plan. easy breezy cover-girl. just pull into parking level 6 where there are porters round the clock, get them to help me get dakota up to check-in, return to parking lot, return car and take shuttle back to airport. i was still very concerned but relieved that i had a plan and it should work out.
in case you're wondering, dave would have made the journey with me but it was a really hectic week with work and it would have been very hard to find someone to watch the dogs as we're between dog sitters. plus, the dogs are much better when one of us is home - especially when they're about to get their worlds rocked with a new addition. dave also offered more than several times to go himself and do the drive but i felt i really needed to be the one to do it. i would have loved to have shared the experience with him as we have had some pretty odd and amusing times rescuing dogs over the course of the last 14 or so years and lots of memories to go with them. we have driven long distances to strange places, met even stranger people and once dave even ran 2 miles home at 3:00 am with 2 dogs following him and me following them in the car. these particular dogs that we spotted in a parking lot while returning home from one of dave's gigs would not get in the car but were very happy to follow us - if we got out and hoofed it with them. (i did the run the last 100 or so yards when dave pooped out – cause that’s the kind of girl i am).
so wednesday arrives and i fly to detroit, get the car and make it to the shelter with no problems. i meet dana, a ridiculously overworked woman in a thankless job and she was very happy that i had come for dakota. before i continue with the best part of this mission - meeting him - let me digress for a moment back to that "backlash of condemnation" comment regarding the wolfhound breeders. it should be noted that, as a rule, i am not a fan of breeders as there are more dogs being euthanized in shelters across the country than we know what to do with. add in the homeless, unwanted animal population and the last thing we need are more dogs. i know that to categorically dismiss breeders is probably not fair, that there are responsible ones out there and i do think that the lot of irish wolfhound breeders tend to be mostly responsible. wolfhounds are a well protected and generally well placed breed and very rarely land in rescue but it is a disgusting fact that over 100 breeders called dana at the shelter calling for dakota to be euthanized and that it was irresponsible to do anything else given his genetically imperfect condition. the thought that this dog who has spent all 1-1/2 years of his 1-1/2 years on this planet completely neglected who finally gets a chance at a different life should now be put to death so as not to "disgrace the breed" is a sulliment to who we are as people. the idea that being killed would be the final impact of humans on this amazing creature is absolutely abhorrent. crash...ouch, sorry - i just fell off my soapbox.
dana went back to get dakota and as she rounded the corner and as i caught site of this hopped up, filthy dog wearing a pinch collar with a terrible haircut, cuts all over him and freaky eyes, i have to admit my first thought was “good god what i have i done now.” did i seriously just fly to detroit, spend all this money to pick up this guy…this guy??? i took hold of the leash, thanked dana, and dakota and i made our way to the car. as we were sitting in the car and i began taking him in he immediately started looking adorable and was so sweet i realized we would be okay. my mother made a good point the next day as i was telling her how awesome he was and how much i loved him when she said (although it could have been said in a nicer tone) “oh kym, when was there a dog you didn’t love?”
the trip home was not seamless. i’m glad it’s over and i will never try to do something like this again by myself. let’s just say if you rent a gold hyundai from hertz in detroit, in the heat of the summer it might possibly smell of urine. also, there are no porters on parking level 6 of the detroit airport and if you finally find someone to ask for help they will most likely tell you simply “no.” i was fortunate enough to find an abandoned cart in the parking lot - thank god for the person who didn't want their quarter back. i buggered up my shoulder and probably scared the bejinkles out of dakota by ramming myself, the cart and cage through many too-small doorways, into elevators we just barely fit into and somehow making it through a revolving door only to wait so long for a tsa agent to inspect the crate that, even though i was there 2.5 hours before my flight, i came very close to missing my flight home. i don’t know who designed the detroit airport but i’m pretty sure they're fond of bananas and can amaze people by knowing 250 different words in sign language, coincidentally none of those words being user or friendly.
dave picked us up at the airport and we made it home to start the introductions. it was a loud, unsettled evening but this guy was probably our most seamless new inductee. of course he couldn’t hear the barking so he was unfazed by it. he’s an adorable sweetheart who is adapting well after going through quite a lot of change in a very short amount of time. thursday morning he got his bath which is the official induction into the colella household, pina colada scent shampoo for a tropical feel. he’s awesome and in dire need of a new name.
by the time wednesday ended i felt like i had been away for a week and was so happy to be home. i always do that though. we go away and on the journey home i always get a bit upset and just want to be back home. if that makes me a fruitloop i’ll wear that badge proudly. what it means is that i love my life – every day of it. i married my favorite person in the universe and after many turbulent, lean years together we stumbled into something amazing. i adore my family, i adore my life, and i adore this guy…