Finding Huff

Huff, a senior dog in need of rescue gets his forever home and teaches his new human a few things. Old dogs are great companions, especially when the dog is border collie-aussie mix with a sense of humor.

Suzanne's note:

I'm sure you've heard the expression "Who rescued who?" in reference to older rescue dogs.  I thought it was merely a way to deflect praise for taking in a homeless, abused, or neglected animal. It made me uncomfortable to have people tell me how wonderful I was for giving Huff a forever home. In my mind, I had simply acted with compassion.  It was okay if he never did more than look at me with those grateful eyes. 

But it is true. I rescued an old, neglected dog from confinement and and pain. In return, Huff rescued me with his love and companionship. He made me work hard to put myself inside the mind of another creature as I tried to figure out what he needed.

And best of all, he makes me laugh. 

The Hard Part

Huff is 14 year old border collie/aussie mix, a senior rescue.  A senior rescue is an older dog who has outlived his owner’s ability or willingness to care for him.

Adopting an older dog is different from getting a puppy, and it is not just about training and energy  levels. A puppy is malleable and a mostly clean slate. With a mature dog, there are holes in the past.

You don’t know if the dog nips your fingers when you give him a treat because he’s food aggressive or because his close vision is failing. In Huff’s case it is the latter. He can see distant objects much better than something that is right in front of his nose. Now, I put his treats in my open hand so he can lick them up rather than try to grab. (C’mon you can’t read that crossword puzzle without your glasses, can you? Up close vision is usually the first to go.)  Maybe I should get him reading glasses.

It is easy to forget how old he really is. His mind is sharp and he is eager to please. He will walk in any weather as herding dogs will. When he first arrived, his default setting was grim determination. It was two days before he trusted me to always keep water available. It was weeks before he wagged his stubby aussie tail and over a month before he “negotiated” with me. If you have a herding dog, you know this negotiation is not disobedience. Sometimes, they just have better ideas and want to share them. Ultimately they will follow your lead, even if they think you are wrong.

I am still learning his body language. My previous dogs all had long bushy tails. It was easy to tell when they were excited (high wagging tail) or tired (low, drooping tail.) I’ve never had a dog with a stubby tail before, so I have learned to look for more subtle clues - the shrinking shoulders, the loss of bounce in his step.  He was not particularly expressive at first, but he is coming around.  It has taken me a while to tell the difference between “I’m having fun” and “I can survive this.” I think I am still learning.

A few days ago, a family member who hadn’t seen Huff in a few weeks commented, “He looks brighter.”  And he does. It’s not just the bath or the nutritious food. I think it is hope. Maybe even love.

The Love of an Old Dog

He loves kids,even those who hug him too hard, or tug on his fur.  He knows - and obeys -  a lot of commands. He enjoys his naps, especially if someone will pet him while he naps. Best thing ever!!

Sometimes as I stroke his fur, I wonder what he was like as a puppy. I wonder about the children who loved him and taught him all those commands.  And I wonder where are those children now.

The love of an old dog is an incomparable gift. They are missing some of the best years they might have had with him. Their loss. I have a loving and content companion, who has the jokester side common in herding breeds such as border collies.   

I know our time together may be short. I know it will break my heart when he goes. But the love and the laughter will remain with me forever.