I'll never forget the day I met Nate DoGG. I had been cruising petfinder.com and looking for a house mate. I knew what I wanted; a big Lab, Rottweiler, or Greater Swiss Mountain dog. I was not home enough for a puppy and figured that there are plenty of older dogs that need a little Nina love. I found a couple dogs with a local rescue group that I was interested in. I filled out a ridiculously long adoption application. The group replied and narrowed my choice down to one dog that they thought would make a good fit for my lifestyle. His name was Nate. We arranged to meet at a local pet store.Nate was excited... so excited that his foster mom had him on a prong collar (first red flag - Nate's bio had described him as almost lazy). But he seemed sweet! He had one ear that cocked up a little bit and his eyes begged 'take me home'. I had told myself that I would not take the first dog I met - that I should meet a few - but how could I NOT take him home? He was about 2 years old and already had a rough start in life. He needed a forever home.
As I loaded him into sporty 2-door coupe a brief 'this dog is WAY TOO BIG for this little car, what am I thinking?' thought passed through my head. It flew right out the window as I smiled while Nate hung his giant head out the side window or through the sunroof. Boy did he love car rides.
We soon settled into our Nina-Nate routine. Plenty of walks, hikes in the woods, dog park play and fetch. In typical Lab fashion he had an obsession with playing fetch and with swimming. He was referred to as 'Rocket Dog' several times at the dog park as he would beat anyone to the ball. I remember shortly after I brought him home I was sick and fell asleep on the couch. Nate had been bugging me and wanted to play, but I was dead tired. I woke up a few hours later and was covered in dog toys. Ahh, good times. And then there was the trip to Michigan with Nici and her lab Drake. It was a 12 hour drive in a Chevrolet Suburban and two alpha male dogs. Somehow we all survived without any fights (in the truck, at least). Nate was also an attention hog. He constantly wanted to be touching you, or nudging you with a ball, or begging for a morsel of food.
Most importantly, Nate helped me weed through several potential boyfriends. Since Nate was big and annoying, I was able to judge a man quite well on how he dealt with Nate. There was only one guy who LOVED my dumb dog, and that was Tom. On our second date we took the dog for a 2 hour walk. He wanted to take the leash (maybe because it looked as if Nate was pulling my arms out of their sockets, hehe). And then he bought Nate the biggest rawhide I'd ever seen (helloooo sick doggy after eating too much of that!). During that first summer Nate & Tom would often disappear and I'd find them playing fetch in the field. My favorite memory is coming home to Nate and noticing an empty french bread bag on the floor; he had apparently stolen it off the counter and had a treat while I was out. A few minutes later I walked into the bedroom and noticed something odd about one of the pillows. There was half a loaf of bread under Tom's pillow. My first thought was WHY would Tom leave bread under his pillow??? I quickly realized that Nate had done it. He wanted to save a some for his best pal.
And then came baby.
Poor Nate was suddenly displaced; mom had no time for walks and fun and dad was trying hard as he could to give Nate extra attention, but that new little baby made everyone tired and demanded 100% of his new parents. Fast forward a year to a crawling toddler. Nate was uncomfortable, I could tell. I realized that Nate was not that dog that would let kids crawl all over him, pull his tail and pinch his ears, like so many other labs. I have seen my friends pics of the the sleeping baby lying on the calm and lazy dog. I had hoped that Nate would adjust and become that dog, but it just wasn't happening.
I began thinking of giving Nate up. It was a hard and painful thought. New baby morphes into toddling toddler, we're looking to sell the house soon, work and life demand more and more time and Nate was getting the short end of the stick. His barking became worse, he was getting mean to other dogs, and just unpredictable. After lots of deliberation I decided to try and find Nate a new home. I would not give him to the humane society. I asked friends and friends of friends. Not too many people are willing to take on a 6 year old not-so-well-bahaved dog with the energy of a puppy. So I contacted the rescue group I originally got him from. They are WONDERFUL and eased my mind. They asked extensive questions about Nate's behavior and decided he would need an experienced foster mom. They asked if I was willing to keep Nate until the right foster was available. Of course, I said.
Yesterday was Nate's last day with us. I feel so guilty and relieved all at once. Last night I woke up several times to dead silence; no licking, no shaking, no clicking of his nails on the floor.
It was... lonely. I hope he knows that I love him and miss him already.