It’s official! Yesterday I signed the papers and we adopted Lady, a 3 year-old Labrador Collie cross. She’s been in our foster care for over a month, and as the weeks went by any notion of taking her back dissipated.
Mind you, that’s not to say there hasn’t been dog-induced drama along the way.
Marina Fiddler, the co-founder of Madra, advised us to foster Lady for a while, to see how things went for all of us. She told us it was important that the dog fitted in to our lifestyles, not the other way around, so it was vital to me that Lady could handle a trip to town.
We’d met a lot of dogs during an 18 month search, finding that some rescue dogs have been through such traumatic times that a crowded street proves too much for them.
We don’t know much about Lady’s past, but she proved such a star on her first appearance on the streets of Galway, that I became completely over-excited and took her for an extra walk on the Salthill Prom. We’d already walked the bog road that morning, because I wanted to get the energy out of her before her big trip to the city, so we’d had plenty of exercise. After the Prom, there was tea and buns at Dalooney’s, a cuppa with Whispering Blue and a gathering outside Neactains, at which point you’d think I’d know enough was enough.
But no. I am, sometimes, a complete and utter idiot.
After driving home from the city my spirits are so up I can look down on the moon. The sun is shining and the grass is long. Hey, why not mow the lawn?
An hour later my knee starts hurting. ‘Tis the old trouble, as men in their 50s are allowed to say. Time to stop, but no, I’ll just do another hour and finish it off. The sun’s shining and the dog’s brilliant and what’s a knee between the sun and a dog?
By that evening the pain in my knee is trending on the twitter inside my brain. How could I have been such a fool? A torn meniscus had been removed years ago, and the knee had recovered well. But now I can’t walk without pain, and I have to walk, as we have a dog.
All of a sudden everybody turns into an expert on dogs and starts telling me to rest the leg, the dog will be fine, don’t be silly, isn’t it better for the dog to be there than back in the charity shelter?
Well, maybe, and maybe not. Truth be told, I become really upset about this onslaught of well-meant opinion. None of them are in my kitchen at 8.30 with a 3 year-old dog bouncing off the floor in ecstatic anticipation of a walk. None of them consider that maybe, if I’m not going to be able to walk my own dog in a satisfactory way for both me and dog, it is better to admit so early, before strong bonds are forged. The rescued dogs at Madra are so well cared for, I’d rather take her back there, in the hope she’ll be adopted by a younger family, better able to offer her walks a young adult needs.
Aha, yes, but just as in all matters of life, there are many things to consider. Exceedingly high on the list is the fact that Lady is the best indoors dog in the world.
Okay, alright, for me, okay? I’m sure your pooch is better because he makes a mean cheese toastie and pops over to visit yer mam, to see if the old girl’s doing okay.
All I want my dog to do is exactly what she’s doing now. Sleeping on her bed, while I work. The Lab in her allows for fairly goofy behaviour, but the Collie just wants to please, and after walking the bog road each morning, she flops and sleeps and leaves me to it, until afternoon laps of the garden.
Within half a mile circle of my home there must be 20 dogs, many of whom wander loose, making regular visits to our garden. Lady seems to be finding her place in the local hierarchy, but it’s pretty heartbreaking when she wants to run with her boyfriend, a tan Springer Spaniel from down the bohreen. When he runs off, Lady’s straining at the lead, whimpering, leaving me feeling pretty mean.
My knee? So kind of you to ask. Well, it’s a pain, but I wear a knee brace thingy most of the day, and now that I know we’re keeping Lady, there's only one thing for it to do: get better, because whatever anybody says, you have to walk your dog.
Naturally, the Snapper and Lady have a wonderful thing going on. After IVF failed we accepted we’d be childless, so having another heartbeat in the house is lovely.
Marina, Tara, Paul and all the crew at Madra have been fantastic, patient, wise and generally wonderful human beings. The charity is a magnificent combination of shelter, care and utterly dog-centred people.
All they ask is you take choosing a dog seriously. Yes, it has to fit into your lifestyle, but that doesn’t mean a St. Bernard can live in a high rise flat. Consult an unbiased expert in a rescue shelter, such as Madra or the GSPCA. They’ll guide you to a breed that suits both your needs and the dog’s. All dogs adopted from Madra come microchipped, neutered and vaccinated. All you have to do is put an i-d tag on them, love them and make sure they don’t find their way back to the Pound.
Last year, Madra rescued 515 adult dogs and 204 pups. In 2005, the put-to-sleep rate for rescued dogs in County Galway was 83%. Now it’s 14%.
Madra I salute you. Lady waves a paw.