In celebration of my "special" fireflies.

August 12th, 2009 1:30 pm by Kelly Garbato

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Kaylee & Jayne, x-mas 2006

So. When last we talked of my furkids, I told you how my husband and I came to adopt Ralphie, Peedee and O-Ren – none of whom were considered “less adoptable,” or at least not at the time of their adoption. In fact, I doubt that each dog’s respective rescue group would have had much trouble placing them, had Shane and I not come along. We both recognized this, and felt rather guilty about it. So when we decided to adopt dog number four (and possibly five!), we resolved to find a “special” dog – a senior, someone with medical or behavioral issues, maybe even a bonded pair of dogs.

Our first choice was a pair of teeny lil’ rat terrier sisters, Bella and…I forget the other dog’s name. They were older adults with behavior issues, namely, anxious temperaments and a fear of men. They also needed to be adopted together – strike three. Ultimately, the adoption didn’t pan out; we were never able to meet the girls, in fact, because their fear of men was so great that their foster mom had more or less decided to adopt them herself. When we inquired about them, they’d already spent a few years in their foster home and were still fearful in the foster dad’s presence. I can see why mom gave up any hope of rehoming them, dog bless her heart.

So we hit Petfinder again, specifically in search of a pair of dog-friends who had to be adopted together. Unfortunately, Petfinder’s search parameters don’t easily allow for such a search (or even easy browsing), so when looking for a pair, you really just have to hope that they share a single listing. (Or else be prepared to pour over every single profile!) There really weren’t many bonded pairs of dogs listed at the time; besides Bella and her sister, Kaylee and Jayne were the only smallish dog-friends up for adoption. So, three years ago this September, we went out to Lexington, MO – about an hour’s drive from where we lived – to visit them.

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From Kaylee’s Petfinder listing

Kaylee and Jayne originally came to Friends of the Friendless with a third dog, Paige, roughly six months before we met them. The three had been abandoned in a home when the tenants moved out; the landlord found them, several weeks later, starving and in rough shape. Jayne had heartworm, while Kaylee suffered from some serious dental problems, the result of both bad genes and a lifetime’s worth of neglect.

Curiously, Jayne had already been spayed by her previous owners, while Kaylee had not. From the looks of her sagging belly and, shall we say “well used” nipples, Kaylee had obviously birthed a few litters during her eight years. Jayne, in contrast, doesn’t appear to have ever had pups – odd because Jayne is a classically handsome terrier, while Kaylee is…not. (I joke that she’s so ugly, she’s back to being cute, much like a rhinoceros or ground mole. I totally mean that in a nice way, though.)

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From Jayne’s Petfinder listing

Paige had since been adopted, while Kaylee and Jayne languished in the shelter/rescue. Supposedly, an older women had committed to adopting them, but died while on a cruise she’d already booked and had to take before she could bring them home. (Shane is convinced that this is the most elaborate cop-out, ever.) So I can only imagine what their foster mom, Gina, thought when we committed to adopting them, but said we’d be unable to bring them home until after we got back from an already-scheduled trip to New York! Unlike their would-be fairy dogmother, Shane and I kept our word; we welcomed Kaylee and Jayne into our home several weeks later, on September 30, 2006.

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One of the few photos in which all five dogs appear.

For the most part, everything has worked out beautifully. They each have their “issues,” but that’s precisely why we adopted them!:

* As I mentioned, each has dealt with medical problems. Jayne was just finishing up heartworm treatment when we brought her home; while her bout with heartworm may have shortened her lifespan, Gina her vet able to treat it successfully. Don’t let a heartworm diagnosis deter you from adopting a dog – the treatment can be difficult (especially for the patient), but it is a treatable disease.

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At least she has a sense of humor about it.

Kaylee, on the other paw, has had ongoing dental issues. She’s been under for dental surgery at least twice, in order to have ten or so teeth removed. Friends of the Friendless also spent a small fortune in dental work prior to the adoption. I know it can be a chore, but it’s important to brush your dog-kid’s teeth every day. (Cats, too, though I’m hardly one to lecture – Ozzy won’t let us anywhere near his mouth!)

* Both girls are terrified of rain, thunder and loud noises – much more so than Ralphie, Peedee and O-Ren combined. A heavy rainfall is enough to send them each to their respective hiding places: Jayne, under the bed, and Kaylee, in the bathroom or closet. The July 4th fireworks display is like Armageddon to them. We’re fairly certain that they were kept outdoors, irregardless of the weather, which would explain their sometimes irrational fears.

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Jayne is afraid of the camera, too; each flash is like a stab to the heart!

* Jayne is especially nervous and aloof, probably owing to poor (or no!) early socialization. While she was mostly afraid of human contact in those early days, she’s gradually gotten used to our affections. When you pet her, she freezes up, as if terrified; but pull away, and she looks at once puzzled and annoyed: Why’dya stop!?

She spends much of her time alone, near but not in the action: when everyone’s in the living room, watching tv or eating, she’ll hang out across the hall, in the office; when we’re in the office, she’s in the living room, sleeping on the couch. Even at night, it’s hard to snuggle with her: everyone (save for the cat) sleeps in bed with us, but as always, Jayne stays back, claiming the guest bed as her own. She seems extremely conflicted about humans: are we friends or foes?

I suspect that some of Jayne’s issues might be due to something more insidious than a simple lack of socialization. For instance, the dogs jump at the chance to lick spoons and dishes, especially when covered in peanut butter. While Jayne will happily clean an unattended bowl, she cringes when I offer up a spoon; the larger the utensil, the more pained her expression. I don’t think it’s a stretch to assume that her previous owner used to hit her with similar objects. This would also explain her ambivalence in regards to human attention and kindness.

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Kaylee spurns my advances.

Luckily, Kayle doesn’t share Jayne’s uncertainty. Though she’s hardly one for hardcore snuggling, Kaylee enjoys giving and receiving affection. A little too much, perhaps: Kaylee and O-Ren are my two little shadows, following me everywhere. And I do mean everywhere, including the bathroom. Kaylee’s struggles with anxiety are the polar opposite of Jayne’s: she has separation anxiety, and will mark up the house when left alone, particularly if she knows I’m around, but cannot get to me. Thus, we’re rarely apart: while I do yoga in the spare room, she naps in a cage behind me; when I shower, she relaxes in the corner of the bathroom; she’s even at my heels while I vacuum, scaryloudrobot be damned.

Thankfully, Kaylee’s separation anxiety is on the mild side, and can usually be prevented by crating her on the rare occasions when she’s left alone. More often than not, we try to accommodate her, for example, by taking her to the drive-in with us. (Hey, she’s quiet – which is more than I can say about our first three adoptees!)

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Jayne & Kaylee

* Shane and I really, really wanted to adopt a bonded pair of dogs who couldn’t live without one another. We gave it our best shot, but even though Friends of the Friendless fought to keep them together, the two mostly seem indifferent towards one another. Perhaps they’ve simply grown apart in the three years they’ve been with us. It’s hard to remember exactly how they regarded one another in those early days.

The rescue group thought that Kaylee and Jayne might be mother and daughter, but I don’t see the resemblance; both are mostly white terriers, and that’s about it. Short of doing a DNA test, though, we’ll never know. Personally, I think Kaylee and O-Ren look more like mother and daughter than do Kaylee and Jayne. Both girls have decidedly porcine bodies: Kaylee is the momma sow to Rennie’s piglet.

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Kaylee, lovin’ on O-Ren

* Eight years old at the time of adoption, Kaylee was considered a “senior” even then; now going on eleven, she’s practically ancient! She’s also smart, alert and athletic – and more active than her soon-to-be five-year-old daughter Jayne. Don’t write off an adult or senior animal based on age alone – it’s just a number, even for dogs.

To use another example, Ralphie the dachshund will be twelve this October, yet he’s more active, playful and fit than when we adopted him eight years ago. Having plenty of playmates, a large yard, a healthy diet and lots of exercise has kept him young. There’s plenty of life yet in each of our “old people”!

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Kaylee can still keep up with Peedee!

Besides, old folks need love, too. There something especially heroic in adopting an animal who’s not long for this world; in loving someone whom you’re destined to lose much, much too soon; or in attempting to redress a life’s worth of neglect, abuse or loneliness in a few short months or weeks.

Even though Kaylee and Jayne faced some barriers to being adopted, I still think they’re on the “easy” end of the spectrum. Reading about Alec and his guardian Nicole, I wonder whether I could ever overcome such difficult obstacles. Anxious peeing? Cat trouble? Rotting teeth? Meh, these vegan cake when compared to sudden paralysis and incontinence! But I imagine that many people find unexpected resolve when faced with tragedy. Of course I’d continue to love and care for Ralphie if his back were to go, or Kaylee if she became incontinent in her old age. What other choice does one have?

Likewise, adopting a “less adoptable” animal can be an especially rewarding experience. You may not initially bring the benefit of a lifetime’s worth of love and bonding to the table when confronting the animal’s “special needs” – but these will develop in time (perhaps a surprisingly short time!). Until then, take comfort in the knowledge that you’ve saved a life – a life that so many others consider not worth saving. Beyond rescue. Undeserving. Unlovable. A throwaway.

But all animals deserve a safe, loving home. Every one.


From their Twitter profile (!);
Counterclockwise: Ralphie, Peedee, O-Ren, Ozzy, Jayne & Kaylee



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3 Responses to “In celebration of my "special" fireflies.”

  1. Tracy Says:

    What a sweet, informative post!

    You’re right about senior animals: People should definitely consider adopting one.

    My Chihuahua/rat terrier, Poncho, was considered a senior when I adopted him three years ago. (He was a stray, so they weren’t sure about his age.) I liked that he wasn’t a young, hyper dog. His mellowness and love to cuddle fit my personality.

  2. Kelly G. Says:

    Aw, thanks. Senior dogs are the best.

    Of course, I say that about *every* kind of dog! ;)

  3. The Perfect Pizza Press » Blog Archive » Find-a-Friend Friday: Ollie and Others Like Her Says:

    […] me when I say that intentionally seeking out and adopting a “less adoptable” animal can be an incredible rewarding experience – for both the rescuer as well as the rescued. If you think you’re ready to care for a […]

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