This photo was taken shortly after we took in this scrawny, underweight, rescued Pomeranian. He’d been given the name “Vince,” after the great NFL coach Vince Lombardi. But nobody had treated him with the respect and honor such a great name should have required.
10 For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. 11 I know all the birds of the hills, and all that moves in the field is mine. Psalm 50:10-11 ESV
Those are God’s words. Vince belonged to God before he belonged to whoever gave him his regal name, and who so sorely mistreated him. That person, whoever it was, will answer to God for the way in which he/she treated His creation. In the meantime, God made sure that there was a better place for Vince here on earth. It wasn’t perfect, but it’s been good.
This story, as you may have guessed by now, is about our first experience with a rescue dog. We’ve never been interested in rescues, and we weren’t looking for one. But as of this writing, he’s been with me about 13 months.
When Vince first came, he had no muscle development. From being caged most of his life (about 4 years), his little legs were like sticks. He’d been shaved because of the many knots in his fur. Only a small portion of his glorious tail had survived. And, as you can see from the photo, he was pretty nervous about being with us. Our daughter had actually negotiated the rescue; as such he was extremely attached to her. However, when she had to take a job with a crazy schedule, we could see that Vince would have to be placed somewhere else. And I don’t know what happened in my heart, but I put my foot down and said, “No. Vince will have to stay with us. This is going to be his last stop in the road,”—his “forever” home, so-to-speak.
Looking back I can see what a blow that must have been for Vince. He was so attached to my daughter and her boyfriend. My husband Jim and I, while we have very flexible schedules, work more than fulltime in our entrepreneurial endeavors. We probably have even less time to take care of a rescue animal than my daughter did at the time. But, we kept him and started a journey that neither one of us was prepared for.
We read blog after blog and tomes of literature about how to care for a rescue dog, and how to raise Pomeranians. We’re entrepreneurs so I think we thought we could just “educate” ourselves and get the ball rolling in the direction it should go so that the situation would eventually “profit” this little dog’s life. All of that stuff we poured into our minds helped—minimally.
We were told that Vince was housetrained. He was not. And before we figured it out, he’d destroyed our entire downstairs. We lost all the carpet, most of the padding, several inches of sheetrock, and 80 feet of wood trim. My downstairs smelled like a barn until we got it fixed—nearly $8,000 later.
Vince does not have the desire to be housetrained. For many years he lived in the same place he went potty. It’s extremely difficult for him to separate the two. On the other hand, there are these little wraps that look like diapers we can put around his middle and Vince, chronic leg-lifter that he is, can pretend to mark to his little heart’s content.
Vince couldn’t be kenneled. Judging from his actions when we attempted this, he must have been abused in a kennel. Though all the information on rescues recommended “close quarters” for our little “den dweller,” Vince wanted nothing to do with a kennel—or a den for that matter.
We couldn’t laugh out loud in front of Vince at first. He would cower and hide his head in a nearby corner. Needless to say, he didn’t like company either. He barked at everyone, especially my dear son-in-law, Charles, who is very tall, and moves very quickly. Because we couldn’t kennel Vince, we take him to the office on occasion (because he really can’t be left alone) and he barks without restraint whenever Charles is around the office, which is often. Charles, bless his heart, tries to glide slowly when Vince is around. That does help. Also, the vet put Vince on some Prozac. I think that helps a little too.
In an effort to build up his muscles, as the blogs suggested, we started to take Vince on walks. At first the little guy had to be carried back home. But now he can make it about a half mile and his little legs have developed meat and muscle. He’s filling out like a champ.
Though we loved this little dog, early on we could see how boring it had to be for him to lie around in our offices all day every day. Certainly we cuddle him, take him outside and offer him snacks for going potty in the yard. But the fact remains, we both still work for a living and we travel a great deal with our jobs. Also, there were times when we had to visit our restaurants and couldn’t take Vince with us. Unfortunately, and this will be hard to believe, the Health Department frowns on bringing our pets into the kitchens. So, to accommodate our schedules further, we looked for a doggie daycare. We visited the place first and did a thorough interview of the woman who runs it (Bed and Biscuit here in Sioux City, Iowa, and I highly recommend them for any rescue dog.) Becky, the owner, also came with remarkable references.
This was not an easy decision, but we could see that we weren’t giving Vince the time and attention he needed to be a real dog. We take him about 2-3 days a week. He doesn’t stay overnight (unless both of us are out of town at the same time), and he doesn’t have to be in a cage all day. He’s kept with little dogs his own size, and played with by people who love animals. After about year of going there on a regular basis, Vince has made some friends. And I also think he’s learned more how to be a “housetrained dog.” He doesn’t have to wear the wraps at daycare. And since he’s been going there he’ll stay dry for long stretches. Perhaps it’s because they are outside so often? I don’t know. Whatever it is, he has started to stay dry sometimes for days! But then we’ll have days where we fear we’ll run out of wraps before the next case comes. Yes, we order these things by the case.
Now, that’s not to say that we don’t “talk about” the wet wraps. We do. We ask him “what happened” and when he hangs his sweet little head in shame we embrace him and tell him that we love him. We don’t scold and we don’t smack him around. We learned this from a blog as well. Apparently, when a dog hangs his head in shame he’s saying that he’s sorry and you have to restore with him.
The sweetest thing that I watched happen over this last year with Vince has been the relationship that developed between Vince and my husband Jim.
Jim is truly the kindest and best of men, but he’s not a “little” dog kind of guy. He likes large hunting dogs. But Vince didn’t really like Jim at first either. He’d cower away whenever Jim came around, and I’d feel as if I’d made the worse decision of my life. Obviously Vince had been abused by a man and here I was making him live with one.
We live on an acreage out in the country, and there’s a lot of room for a little dog to roam. We have lots of predators out here too, so Vince can never go out alone. It was in this situation that Jim and Vince’s relationship blossomed. Whenever Jim went outside, Vince started to follow along. And as much as he disliked being with Jim, it was if Vince sensed that he might be in danger if he wandered off by himself. He stuck to Jim like glue. Pretty soon Vince was riding in the pickup when Jim went to the dump. It wasn’t long after that that Vince started camping with us.
These past few months have shown marked change in Vince. Now, more than a year later, he smiles every time he hears Jim’s truck coming up the drive. And he spins around in circles so fast when Jim comes through the back door that Jim can’t even get ahold of him to give him a little pet! He goes with Jim often in the pickup, even begs to join him. If Jim goes outside, Vince is right there with him, just like always, but has developed so much trust in Jim and his new surroundings that he’s started to wander over to see my neighbor’s bulls. He comes quickly when he’s called, but he’s developed so much ego I think he rather considers himself more of a shepherd than a little house dog now—some of Jim’s confidence must have rubbed off. And sometimes when Vince looks at Jim he gives him a wide open, toothy smile. It’s the most peaceful thing I’ve ever seen here on earth, and it delights me to no end.
10 Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast…Proverbs 12:10a ESV
Jim and I both take God’s word to heart, and in that we learned how to care for the needs of this little lost beast. We spent many nights praying for wisdom and discernment about how to deal with this little broken creature. After all, we knew that Vince had belonged to God first and foremost. Therefore, we reasoned, He must know what we should do. Little by little, our good and gracious God was able to lead us as we cared for Vince.
Vince doesn’t cower anymore when we laugh out loud. He still pees his pants. Sometimes he steals the cat food and poops on their special rug. He still barks at dear Charles. And now I’m trying to figure out a weight management program for that scrawny little rescue.
Would I recommend a rescue? Yes and no. Yes because these precious animals need to be rescued. No because I don’t think everyone is cut out for it. I certainly wasn’t prepared, nor did I have the knowledge or schedule required for such an endeavor.
Though, if you Google Vince Lombardi, this quote of his will come up: Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.
If one has the heart to regard the life of such a beast, even if you’re not perfect, it can still be very good for that rescue. And if you chase after our perfect God, He will help you to the excellence required. I know this to be true, because He helped us.
© 2017 Ta`Mara Hanscom