My friend, Michele, has been going through some hard times with one of her dogs. Her story is very appropriate for this week, because in addition to being Adopt-a-Less-Adoptable-Pet Week it’s also Deaf Pet Awareness Week. A while back I suggested to her that she start blogging to help her organize her feelings and get perspective. The following is something she recently shared with me. Though it’s a long post, it’s worth reading. And it’s a true story.
“Hi, is this Cooper’s mom?” This is how it all began, when I picked up the phone that day. A friend of a friend involved in fostering contacting me because I was indeed the Mom of Cooper.
“There is this Boxer, he’s about 14 weeks old, named Marley and he’s about to be surrendered to a shelter. His family doesn’t want him anymore because he’s deaf.”
I said, “What can I do to help you? Are you looking for me to talk to them about deaf Boxers?” Being deaf is such a small piece of what being a dog is about.
“No. Marley’s family had already decided he was not what they had planned for when they picked him out.”
STOP and REWIND!!!
That’s what my brain did: stop and think Michele! There was a reason I was called and a reason the first question they asked was, “Is this Cooper’s mom?”
Cooper is my 6 ½ year old Boxer who was born deaf. I met him when he was just 2 days old and he was the only boy out of a litter of 5. I picked him up and held him in my hands. That moment was the day I fell in love. I visited him 3 times before I brought him home and every time I went, I thought he seems so laid back, nothing seems to bother him at all! The reason he seemed so calm, which I discovered the day he came home with me, was that he was totally deaf. At that time, I also had a 9 month old female Boxer named Bailey who was instantly smitten with him. When I called the breeder, I said, “Are you aware that he is deaf?” She replied, “Would you like to bring him back?” I was so angry! Not because Cooper was deaf, but because they thought he was a piece of merchandise to be exchanged for a better or newer product! I said, “Absolutely not! I’ve loved him for 9 weeks and he’s mine now!”
Cooper is one of the best gifts I’ve ever gotten. Good ole’ Coop! Momma’s boy from the start! Gangly legs, patch on his eye, following me everywhere and learning everything I could teach him! We taught him sign language, how to ring a bell to go outside, how to come in when we flashed the back porch lights. Heck, he listens better than my hearing dogs!
He taught us, how to be patient, how to love unconditionally, how to accept life is not perfect and how to be grateful for the gifts God gives us!
One more thing he’s teaching us… it’s how to let go.
You see Cooper has Stage III mast cell cancer. He was diagnosed on March 10th, just one day before my 40th birthday. He had a tumor removed from his back end the week before in which we almost lost him while under anesthesia. But he’s a fighter! We’ve also tried some alternative therapies to slow things down. Unfortunately, the tumors keep coming.
My vet (who’s amazing!) and I have decided that it’s time we let Cooper tell us when he’s ready to cross the Rainbow Bridge. He’s a sensitive guy, and we’re doing everything to keep him happy and comfortable. I’m still not prepared to think about the fact our Cooper will leave us when his time is up.
So the call I got about a new puppy who nobody wanted because he’s deaf inspired a mix of emotions. How could I possibly bring a deaf puppy home, and not feel like I was replacing my Coop?
I offered to foster Marley with the intention of finding a family to adopt him who would appreciate how much a deaf dog could be taught and how much love they could give. So food in hand, puppy in arms, and my mind thinking I was absolutely crazy, I brought him home.
Marley came home to Bailey, my seven year old Boxer, Cooper m y six year old Boxer and Geddy my three year old Boxer. That first night, I grabbed my pillow and blanket and settled into a night on the couch hoping his crate training would allow me a few hours of sleep. The other boys went to their crates; Bailey went to her pillow upstairs, leaving just me and this little guy. Looking at me like he’d lost his last friend, the howling began! Oh boy! He cried for about 10 minutes, which is about how long it took me to move Cooper’s kennel right next to his. I figured, hey it’s not like his howling will keep Cooper up and maybe it will comfort this pup some. Cooper got in his kennel stuck his big old head in the gap and out came Marley’s tongue to give him a kiss! That night we all got 4 hours of sleep! Amazing!
This went on for a week. Then one morning I woke up early. It was so quiet. I could only hear the faint sounds of Cooper and Marley snoring. I got all my Boxers up and out back for a potty break when it suddenly hit me: When I signed for Cooper, Marley came too! I sat on the ground and cried. What a cry I had! It was like the gates opened and all my emotions about Cooper and this puppy came rolling out of me!
Cooper was not being replaced; he was leaving a piece of himself behind in this pup. With every step, with every sign, with every patient look he gave this pup, he was telling me “Mom, this is where Marley belongs.” I laughed at that moment thinking, “Well I guess it’s a good thing you are deaf, because you sure don’t look like a Marley!” That’s when Marley became Mason; I figured he deserved a new life and a new name.
I called that Monday to ask his former family if they were sure they did not want him. I was afraid to hear what they would say because it’s pretty easy to fall in love with a Boxer’s smooshy face! They seemed relieved that they would not have to find someone to take him. They were focused on the new puppy they were planning on getting. That was the last day I spoke to them.
I’m not involved in the Boxer rescue groups, although I support them wholeheartedly in the work they do to foster and care for so many unwanted Boxers. I’m just a Boxer lover.
I shared my news with just a few people when I brought Mason home–I mean if I thought I was crazy for doing this, wouldn’t my friends, coworkers and extend family think that too?
But I don’t believe there are any coincidences in life and sometimes the path you’re on doesn’t take you in the direction you expected. I began journaling my thoughts about Cooper and Mason at the advice of a good friend who said it would help me, and it has. I know there are going to be days in the future that are going to be hard. I know that Cooper will not always be here to teach me things. However, the biggest gift Cooper gave me is what I want to share with you.
Don’t ever give up on a pet because they are not perfect, because no matter how imperfect we are, they don’t give up on us. Love is what you get when you give it unconditionally and it doesn’t matter if they can hear you say “I love you” or not…they will love you back.
Mason and Coop