when we first moved here, to the patchwork farmhouse, we brought with us three dogs and three cats.
Tyler Bean was the first to leave us...at the ripe old age of 17. then Malcolm...whose age we never quite knew, other than that he was quite an elderly gentlecat when he moved on.
then, last April, i said goodbye to my Beloved Sausage - my Constant of 15 years.
a dog-in-a-million, he was.
then again, they all are.
all of our four-leggeds found us. we only ever sought out one dog - our first, Rosie, who was a rescued Rottweiler adopted when we still lived in Florida. [she died when Savannah was still a baby]
Tyler came to live with us after his owner got a job requiring a lot of travel. Oscar wandered [literally] up the driveway of the farm where we were keeping horses.
Malcolm, Snowbell and Simba -- our feline friends, are/were either strays or castoffs as well.
and then there's Emma.
i temporarily lost my mind a couple of years ago and was inspired to volunteer us to foster rescued Jack Russells.
i think there was only one that actually passed through our hands, and that was because he was only ever meant to be a stop-over.
Emma came first - and never left.
Oscar-Jack ended up with my sister and her family...
..and that's when we figured we weren't cut out for the fostering gig. :)
it's funny, you always hear such heartwarming stories about wonderful rescue dogs that come from incredibly dire circumstances and then go on to be perfect companions. they're heroes, even - usually they rescue at least one small child from a mine shaft or maybe a litter of kittens from an inferno.
in fact, everyone i've ever known who's adopted a rescue dog will proclaim their new friend to be the Best. Dog. Ever.
not so much.
i've lost track of how many people she's bitten.
she's only vaguely house-trained.
she regularly attacked my beloved Oscar, once necessitating sutures to close the tear on his eyelid.
she chases cat, chickens and anyone who runs.
when people come to visit us, when they first get out of the car and she's running towards them barking, we have to be right behind her shouting,"Don't touch her! Don't touch the dog!"
there were several occasions during the early years where family meetings were called and we discussed how we were going to have to give her back.
"but who else would have her?"....was the question we always came back to.
the answer, as we all knew, was no-one.
no-one in their right mind would want a dog like Emma.
for a long time, i didn't like her very much. i think, sometimes, i may actually have hated her.
she spent the first two years of her life, before we got her, tied up in a yard in Toronto. she was obviously never socialized properly and didn't really understand what it meant to be stroked or petted. she still gets suspicious sometimes when you pet her.
she has fear-aggression.
and she's afraid of a lot of things.
she's a bite-now, ask questions later kinda gal.
if she had to undergo temperament testing, she'd fail in spectacular fashion.
but, she's incredibly smart. we sailed through two levels of obedience training and, after three years, she still remembers how to do the tricks i taught her.
she's fiercely loyal. her most aggravating behaviour is due to her wanting to keep Her People together and safe.
vacuum cleaners? known to suck up small children. so woe betide anyone vacuuming near the kids. :)
i haven't always been my best self for her. i haven't always been the most patient or understanding, even knowing why she does the things she does.
there's been a lot of shouting and a lot of shoe-throwing [to break up fights].
somehow, though, here we are.
unconditional love is one of those things that's so easy when it's easy. it isn't until you bump up against the conditions you didn't know you had, that you realize it's actually one of the hardest things you'll ever have to do.
until you test it, it's just a platitude; Emma has taken me right to the edges and shown me what unconditional love looks like.
she's the last dog standing.
the last dog standing in a family of long-haulers.
'cos if we say we're gonna love you forever, well, you're gonna be stuck with us.
it's hell or high-water, you rotten little bugger. :)