This is Oscar. He is the little pip that recruited me into the wild world of rescue. This is the dude that earned me the proud title of "failed foster." He was my little man. Oscar's story is a happy one, because it ended in love. So much love. I can hardly write this now without tears even though it has been almost a year since my guy passed on.
Oscar is what you would call a boomerang-dog. The same rescue group collected him at least twice from the same kill shelter. We don't know how he got there the first time. His paper work called him an owner surrender. Think about that. How sad, a five year old handed over to strangers in a strange place. His next foster adopted him, and two other dogs. When that person ended up in an assisted living center he and his pack members were separated and dumped...again. I try to imagine what it must be like for him to find himself suddenly alone. Thinking of my sweet guy living through this level of heart break is just, simply, painful. He didn't deserve it.
The thing is, he's an old dog at this point. Estimated to be 10 years old, and the chances of an older dog finding a permanent home are slim. Our society covets the puppy. Who doesn't love the puppy?! It's not a bad thing. There are boat loads of puppies that need good homes too. However, it is the seniors with the understanding of the position in which they find themselves. They are the ones ready to make a lasting relationship because they have lost everything.
My assigned task with Oscar was simple, keep him safe, sound, fed and learn what I could about him for four weeks. At the end of that four weeks, he would board a plane to New Jersey (seriously, you can't make this up) and my life would continue sans tiny dog. Honestly, I'm not a tiny dog person, but when his flight time arrived I could not picture my life without him. Don't get me wrong, he and I had a slow start. He certainly did not trust me in the beginning. He was cordial, and open to pets and taking food from me, but the truth is he didn't not much care to spend time with me. Who could blame him? Dumped. Unloved. Forgotten. I would be feeling pretty down on humanity as well. But, I stuck with it, and in the end was rewarded with the friendship and love of one amazing little guys.
As I've said, Oscar's story has a happy ending. He had five good years of couch time, sleeping under the covers, snuggles, road trips, walks, treats and a new pack with our chocolate lab (who incidentally passed away two years ago today and is also deeply missed). So many older dogs find themselves in the same boat in which Oscar first arrived. Owners surrender dogs. People find themselves in a new stage of life and dogs can be hard. I want to say, "I get it," but I just don't. The irony for me is, people adopt puppies for the love and cuddles they give, but truthfully the older dogs are the ones that amplify that love and give it back. People who have never adopted an older dog just never have the opportunity to learn that lesson. And that is a loss for older dogs and for people.
As a favor to my Oscar dog, next time you hear someone say, "you can't teach an old dog new tricks," you can tell them they just haven't earned that dog's respect yet. It takes time and effort to be an old dog's person. If you're lucky enough to find yourself in that position, you'll never look at puppies the same. And, the old dog that you take in, is guaranteed to change your life...never mind that you have probably saved theirs. I know that I miss my guy every day.