Sunday, February 10, 2013

Emma's Story

I don't know everything about Emma's young life before she came here at the age of about 18 months in late January of this year. I was told a few things, but the story I have built about her is partly guesswork, but I think most biographies have to be partially inferred, because truth and story can be intriguingly vague.

Emma was left at the pound in Wytheville, Virginia, sometime in late 2012 by a female owner. Oddly enough, in November of last year a male Norwegian Elkhound that looked to be purebred was also picked up in Wythe county by animal control. That's what Emma is, from all indications, a purebred Norwegian Elkhound. She has beautiful conformation, lovely manners and personality, but she has a white spot on her chest and a brown undercoat, both traits that disqualify her with the American Kennel Club standard. She is also a bit too small to meet the standard. I suspect that a backyard breeder who didn't know what to look for bought her for breeding, and then discovered that she would not produce high dollar puppies because she passed on the faults. Emma had at least one litter of puppies before she was turned in to animal control.

I can't quite imagine how anyone could drop such a wonderful dog at the pound. The only justification I can come up with is that the owner was aware of how dedicated the volunteers are there in working to save the dogs, and because Emma, then known as Daisy, was such a beautiful animal that surely someone would want her. The minimal effort it would have taken to place her by the owner, though, would have meant assurance that she had a good home. I have to wonder what happened to the puppies that this person who defaulted on her responsibility to Daisy had to find homes for.

Not sure what the future holds 
I don't know how long Emma was at the pound, but she came up for adoption at the same time the little spotted puppy Tess became available. I opted for poor little Tess because a nice young couple in Blacksburg had spoken for Daisy. As I've mentioned, Tess came down with parvo and because her heart was affected, we were unable to save her. That is another story of neglect, as a simple and inexpensive vaccination at the age of six weeks would have helped to protect her from this dangerous disease.

Daisy went home with the young people and they renamed her Elsie. Being conscientious dog owners, they immediately had her vetted, spayed and got all her shots and then brought her home to their Basset Hound/Beagle mix. This dog and Elsie did not get along. Phoenix was a good dog and had been a great companion to his owners, but he and Elsie brought out the worst in each other. Although they made an effort to work with the two dogs, it soon became clear that Elsie and Phoenix were clashing and making everyone in the household unhappy. The young owners contacted the Wythe shelter volunteers, who were aware of my interest in Elsie and the loss of Tess. When they got in touch with me, I agreed to take Lily and meet Elsie to see if Lily would accept an adult female dog. The meeting went well and a week later Elsie came home with me.

Emma, home at last
The name Elsie somehow morphed into Emma, and as we all settled in together it became clear that the behaviors noticed by the young people that had her before had evaporated in a different setting and with two older settled females as companions. Emma loves people and enjoys everyone she sees, but it has only been in the last couple of days that she has been behaving as though she knows that I'm her real and true person that she can be sure will be here from now on. Lily isn't able to play very much but that seems to suit Emma; they sleep comfortably together during the day and Emma checks in with Lily after her walks and short separations. They eat well together and Emma likes to keep Lily company on her more frequent visits to the backyard potty area. Lily seems to enjoy watching Emma play and she is more lively with a companion that isn't too demanding.

I am Emma's third owner in her short life of 18 months or so. It isn't her fault that she has been bounced around a bit, but her life story is one that is repeated constantly in this country every day, and very often ends tragically in a shelter or on a roadside. Emma is beautiful and it was very little work to get her to fit into our little family (although we're still working on her feelings about the cat) so I feel like she would have wound up in a good home no matter what. But dogs require work, and time, and money. In my search for a new companion I've seen all sorts of excuses that people put forth to explain why they are giving up their dogs, but they all boil down to a lack of commitment and awareness that a dog would need more than they are willing or able to give.

Good dogs 
I know my regular readers are aware of what being a dog owner requires, but if you have stumbled on this blog because you are interested in getting a Norwegian Elkhound, think it over. This is a wonderful breed and the rewards of having one as a companion are boundless. But also realize that you may never be able to let your Elkhound run loose and she will need at least one daily walk of a half-hour to an hour. Many of the breed have a strong prey drive and just won't do well in off leash situations. They don't take well to being left alone for long periods and really need to be part of the family. Some elkhounds, like Emma, may be picky about their companion dogs and do not do well at the dog park or in crowded situations. They can be stubborn and obedient only when it suits them, or when they decide that there is something in it for them.

If you want a dog make sure it's for the right reasons, that you have the time and money to invest in taking proper care of her and that you plan to spay or neuter unless you are a knowledgeable breeder. The right reasons of course can vary; every dog needs a job and being your loyal companion is the best job available. And when you are searching for a wonderful companion, check the rescues and shelters first. You would be surprised to see how many purebred dogs wind up dumped and unwanted. Not every dog that ends up in the pound will turn out to be a delightful companion, but far more good dogs are there than bad ones. Give a good dog from the pound a second chance, mutt or aristocrat, and you may find a hidden treasure.

What I'm spinning: Greenberry House hand dyed and hand carded Corriedale and alpaca blend. Singles done and getting ready to ply.
What I'm knittingGarden Pond by Patricia Clift Martin in Fortissima Socka
What I'm crocheting: it's all hibernating
What I'm reading: Gargantua and Pantagruel by Rabelais; Vindication  by Lyndall Gordon.
Current sounds & sights for spinning along: Robin Hood on Netlfix
How the diet is going: Walking an hour in the morning with Emma and a half hour in the afternoon. Cutting back on sweets and not craving sodas anymore!


Anonymous said...

I'd say..2 Treasures met!
With your calm loving disposition, it must have been easy for Lily and Emma to bond..A great and well written story and I wish many long, fun and happy years for YOU, Lily and Emma!

Kimberly said...

I'm so happy for Emma, Lily and you. It sounds like you have a nice and cozy little family now.


Unknown said...

Love your story, LOuise

Unknown said...

Love your story, LOuise

Unknown said...

Love your story, LOuise

Becky Mushko said...

I'm so glad you and Emma found each other.

Connie Peterson said...

I agree with your comments about dog owners. This is NOT something to be taken lightly. A dog will be with you for 10 + years if you are lucky. Do NOT get a dog if you cannot dedicate her / his life and yours to a meaningful relationship. It's like choosing to have a child. Do it only when you are sure!

Thistle Cove Farm said...

Leslie, she is a beautiful dog and glad Emma gets along well with Lily. I've heard of older folks who died and their animals were dumped; so many sad stories and the animals seem to always suffer. Abbie and Gracie died last year so I've only got Sadie, Sam and Sophie now; Sophie is 9 this year and my old girl. She and Sam are rescues; it's hard to say no.

Becky Mushko said...

What a lovely lady your Emma is.