dog days

written and photographed by liesa cole


I wasn’t in the market for a dog, or two, but sometimes love just happens.

For the record, let me say that I was not in the market for additional dependants. With a roster that included two mighty fine offspring,  a tuxedo kitty  and a pair of Rhode Island Reds… if asked, I would have emphatically attested to the fullness of my proverbial “quiver.” I won’t even mention the dozen or so goldfish that inhabit the little pond in the back yard, since those little guys are fairly self-sufficient. The point is, this is a girl who was not walking around with some nagging angst fueled by an unfulfilled nurturing impulse. That box was checked. In ink.

So, there I was, on that fateful day before Thanksgiving of last year, naively jogging along my regular morning route. I am mentally packing the car for the road trip to Grans’ house. (Don’t forget the sweet potato casserole in the freezer!) And I am pushing myself a little harder than usual up those pesky hills in a futile attempt to offset the over-indulgence that I know lies ahead. So, maybe I can blame oxygen deprivation for what happens next.

As if zapped by a stun gun, I freeze and stare in the direction of the backlit canine shape in the distance. It is purposefully moving toward me in slow motion. I am not afraid. A feeling more like hypnosis has taken over. As the creature continues it’s deliberate trek ever closer, I see it’s pitiful state. The poor guy is emaciated and fatigued, scarred by old wounds, with fresh ones glinting red in the crisp morning light. He balances a boxy head three sizes too big on his shrunken frame. He is collarless, of course. And those huge almond shaped and mercilessly golden eyes pierce my soul and manage to imprint the entire catalog of Shakespeare’s sonnets in my heart in that instant. And just like that I become a zombie… and a liar. I’ll explain.


I skip right past the internal debate that usually, and probably should, accompany events like this ….. (What if he has disease?  What if he isn’t friendly?  What if he eats the cat? Hey, aren’t you going out of town in a few hours?) Instead, I go totally “Stepford” and, with spinning disks in place of eyes, I hoist the grateful creature into my arms. I struggle but somehow manage to carry the meek, adoring thing the 1.5 miles back to my abode. Whereupon, sensing the disapproval of the man of the house, I falsely declare without shame, “But he followed me all the way home!” You and I know that would be an untruth in the literal sense. But it just slipped out.

Insert time-lapse video here of episodic face-licking and cuddling sessions, house-breaking instruction (this went amazingly well, btw) ball tossing and retrieving, leash training, more face-licking and cuddling, attempts at jogging together that end with him parking his expanding posterior on the sidewalk and having to be carried home. This, a much more difficult feat now that “Max” has achieved his ideal weight. In fact, we witness, over the course of a mere few weeks, a surprising transformation of innocuous whippet-like creature to virtual spark plug with a tail, more reflective of his intimidating bully-breed gene pool.

So now we are a month into our new “dog people” status. The entire household has   bonded beautifully. (Okay, I admit Max and Setzer the cat are not quite yet chummy.,  but I am pleased to report that no one has been consumed). Everyone is getting along so well, in fact, that I periodically gloat obnoxiously at the genuine affection I see on display between the more resistant (hostile may be more accurate) member of the household and it’s newest addition. A couple of things we have learned about Max so far are  a) he is a complete and total teddy bear, and b) he is terrified of all other members of his own species.


I pick up on this right away as he flinches and cowers every time a bark can be heard in the vicinity. Distant and barely audible dog voices send him into hiding. My attempts to “socialize” him do not go as I hope. When I take him to the dog park, instead of joining in the frolicsome fun my traumatized Max spends his time desperately trying to escape his would-be pooch pals, ears and tail locked down, pressing his body into the exit gate. Poor guy. I can only speculate about the origins of this fear. But considering the mangled state he was in when he found me, I am certain it is well justified.

So this is the backdrop for the day my then 8-year–old son and I are walking Max down the sidewalk near my home. We are complimenting him on his newly acquired leash skills. Out of nowhere, an exuberant mottled black streak rushes us. Max is startled but, surprisingly, he doesn’t cower. Instead both mule ears and un-docked tail spring up to their perkiest and most gleeful position. A live action Disney movie ensues.

We are at a vacant lot, so I let Max’s leash go, we take our seats on the curb and watch the show as these two romp and roll with euphoric abandon. If dogs could get whiplash in their tails, these two would have been fitted for braces that day. We are so elated to see this side of Max for the first time, I ring my man on the cellie. “You have to see this!” I declare jubilantly. As he ambles over to take in the scene, I realize he is not wearing the amused face I was expecting. Instead, he shoots one glance at this odd-looking, collar-less and, evidently, ownerless dog scampering about the Disney soundstage with Max and sends me a molten look followed by a terse accusation: “SO, I see you have signed us up for the stray a month club.”


In hindsight, I can totally understand his trepidation. A dog is a big commitment.  And they were starting to seem like potato chips. I can’t stop at one of those either.

But, here we are over a year later, and I haven’t brought home any more strays. Max and Gravy seem to be the critters fate had selected and sent our way. Max got a personal trainer in Gravy that keeps him from slugging about all day mangling rawhides and morphing into a land manatee. I finally got my running buddy. This dog is impossible to exhaust! And Tony got his motivation to start that meditation practice he had been putting off. The kids got enough playful pets for everyone to have a cuddle buddy at the same time. Life is good. And messy. But there aren’t too many bummers in life that a good face-lickin’ can’t cure.•

All of the precious pooches pictured here are from the Alabama Animal Adoption Society.

This is a wonderful, volunteer-run facility in Homewood that places animals in foster families until they can be placed in forever homes. With such fine specimens like these eager to provide immeasurable love and companionship to some fortunate human, one must wonder why anyone would want to promote the business of breeding for profit by investing in a “designer dog” from a puppy mill.

Allie and Allison


Dean and Deluca


max and gravy

If every dog has his day, today is the day for these lovelies—all likely still available at the Alabama Animal  Adoption Society in Homewood

2 Responses to “dog days”

  1. Chere Brown says:

    I just loved this story. Very heart warming. I know too well that feeling of “Stepford”. I have two of my own that chose our family. They are the best and love them so much. They always brighten my day. Thanks for the great story. Congratulations!

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