Today, just for some pure joy and sunshine, I introduce you to......our two dogs!
Meet our beautiful princess-on-paws Luna, aka "Luneta", "Lulu" or "Lunita." She is the sweetest, most loving dog you could ever hope to meet. She is a dalmatian - pit bull mix, and has the softest fur of any dog we have ever owned. She really feels like velvet. It's quite incredible. She also has permanent black eyeliner under both eyes, thanks to a line of naturally occurring black fur, giving her a very elegant look.
Luna was rescued from the pound about 3 years ago, and over the years her fun-loving nature has come out. When we adopted her she was incredibly anxious and timid, and was almost overlooked because she was trying so hard to hide herself. But, with the help of the family and big brother, Rocco, Luna has really blossomed!
She likes to take pictures and dress up, so she was an easy model for these St. Patrick's Day photos. It is rare to see her sitting directly on the ground, despite the photos. She will almost always prance over to the lawn chair lounger and arrange herself on that, draping her two front paws neatly down the front. Sometimes we paint her nails bright pink, and that gives her an extra bounce in her step.
She is the first one up in the morning and does her rounds among the bedrooms to see who is awake. We know it's her without even opening our eyes because she literally charges in, blowing open the door. Through cracked eyelids, the first sight is her wagging white tail, followed by the tip of her black nose and two soft brown eyes looking at you, saying "It's a new day! It's time to get up! There are so many wonderful things to do! Let's go!" She is just beautiful, inside and out.
Our second dog, Rocco, is also a rescue from the pound. I was talked into adopting a second dog by my kids about 6 years ago, because our city pound was overflowing with animals and had decided to run a special that waived all fees (and yet included shots and neutering). At that time, we had a beautiful black lab-border collie mix named Charlie, and the kids were convinced he needed a friend. They were probably right. Charlie was the smartest dog I've ever had, and he did get quite depressed when he was at home alone during the day. (We had Charlie for about 14 years, before he passed on this last summer. He remains a cherished friend and companion in our hearts, and we still miss him and his fatherly presence greatly.)
Because I loved Charlie, I gave in and went to the pound looking for a small, calm, easy going dog. We found all but the "small" in Rocco. We actually didn't choose Rocco; he was chosen for us. We were going through the adoption papers for another dog, when the shelter worker realized that this particular dog hadn't been neutered. Since it was against shelter policy to release any unneutered dogs, we would have to return the following week to get him. I remember standing there in the sweltering summer heat, 5 minutes before the shelter closed, seriously rethinking this whole "we need another dog" idea.
But then -"Wait, I know!" the worker told us. "There's another dog here who looks just like this one. He's been in the pound for several months, and I know he's ready to go."
"Ok, I guess we can see him," I agreed.
The worker left and returned very quickly, suspiciously quickly, in fact, and one look at the dog she was leading told us why. First of all, Rocco did not look anything like the first dog. Rocco was twice his size, his fur was patchy and full of bare spots and he had scabs across his face. He was also underweight, even though he had been fed regularly in the shelter. He was a mess.
If Rocco's appearance was off-putting, his behavior didn't help either. He was completely checked out and uninterested in us. He didn't even look at us.
I was not convinced. However, the shelter worker really was worth her weight in gold. She looked at her watch and said "I can just get him processed before we close and you can take advantage of the fee waiver. That special ends today."
Fine. We left with Rocco.
"Well," I reasoned as we drove home, "I suppose we can give him a try. I can always take him back in a week."
Six years later, Rocco is a part of the family. His fur has filled in - as has his waistline - and the scabs healed long ago. It turns out that life in a shelter is very tough on a dog, even though they are fed and cared for. And after all, no-kill shelters certainly beat the streets. We discovered that Rocco was actually just very stressed out.
I remembered walking past him in his kennel that day. He shared it with an even bigger dog. (Rocco is not actually that big. He just has a big presence and that can fool you into thinking he has a big body.) Poor Rocco tried to get people's attention as they walked by. He knew they were his ticket out of the kennel, even if for just a few minutes. But his methods weren't great. He just threw himself against the shelf under the window in the kennel (hence the scabs across his face) and barked his head off. Not the best way to garner interest in a family pet.
Over the years we have learned what a big marshmallow he is. He is convinced he is a lap dog, and he loves to have his belly rubbed. He enjoys taking daily sun baths. Every day, he reminds us how to live. He goes into the back yard around 10am, heads for the sunniest spot then raises his large, noble head up to gaze at the sun. He closes his eyes and breathes. Calmly. In and out. Every day, feeling the warmth of the sun, being fully present to it. He does this for about 15 minutes. He ignores the squirrels and the birds. He focuses only on the warmth of the sun on his face. We often watch him, and feel so much calmer ourselves. The feelings of urgency and stress fall away as we share the peace of this big rock of a dog, who has become so different from that stressed out mess we saw the first time.
We aren't the only ones who feel his steadiness and strength. We have some teenagers who visit often and the first thing they ask is "Where is Rocco?" They sit down on the floor, Rocco puts his big head on their leg, and he shares his calmness with them. One of these kids suffers from pretty severe anxiety, and Rocco never fails to help.
I realize that at first sight Rocco can look pretty intimidating. When we first got him, people I didn't even know took it upon themselves to knock on my door to express their concern about this vicious pit bull. But over the years, Rocco has become like a magnet, attracting people to him. There's just something about the way he walks, they way he looks at you. He's changed people's perceptions by just being himself.
Unlike Luna, Rocco does not go in for fancy dress. He will accept a collar and that's about it. On very cold days he will grudgingly wear a sweater, and look very cute while doing it! Above all, he knows who he is. As we affectionately call him, he's "Roc-kek-u" He's the big Rock.