Today I dedicate this post to my canine pal, Bubba Gump, who turns 8 on this beautiful summer day. He’s a true measure of unconditional love as I have failed again and again over the last 3 years to hold up my end of the bargain in our relationship. All he really wants in life is a soft place to sleep, something delicious to gnaw on, and back massages. He and I share the same #goals. And just like me, he’s not receiving enough back massages.
He’s been INCREDIBLY tolerant of having a toddler around. He’s been poked, prodded, sat on, careened into, and all the while he lays patiently waiting for me to get my demon spawn the hell away. I’m so proud of him, and knew he was going to be a great family dog. This was a bit of a surprise to some of our family members because he has been known to have some *issues* but I have always been confident any baby I brought home would be considered part of the pack.
So what is Bubba Gump’s origin story you ask? Let me reminisce…
In late June 2011 Troy and I were new homeowners. We pulled off the deal of a century and found ourselves paying a mortgage on a modest 3 bedroom, 1 bath ranch with a huge backyard. A perfect starter home. It was previously bank owned, so although it wasn’t high quality all of the paint and carpets were brand new. I was about a year into my job at the animal rescue, which was an extremely small operation at the time with very limited spaces for animals. It was about 2 weeks after my move that a homeless couple came in looking to relinquish their very pregnant shepherd mix named Shasta.
Shasta was sweet and stressed, but in good health overall. As a recently pregnant mammal myself, my heart goes out to her at undergoing a huge emotional and environmental change so late in the game. Luckily, at the time I had a vague sense of what she must be going through and opted to bring her home with me as a foster dog rather than having her sleep in the kennels (much to Troy’s chagrin, but he has always been a trooper regarding my compassion for animals). I spent the next couple of days trying to keep her comfortable and watching her abdomen ripple and bulge with all of the little puppies moving inside. It was my first up close and personal experience with pregnancy and I found it amazing. Then the director of the rescue drops a bomb on me that should have been a giant red flag as to her truly repulsive personality, but she talks a good game and made her request to get Shasta spayed sound almost reasonable. To get a dog spayed that late in a pregnancy not only means to put her through a difficult surgical procedure, but it also means euthanizing each puppy as they are pulled out. Honestly, the thought of it now is triggering my postpartum depression and I almost can’t stand how horrible and sad it is. THANKFULLY she listened to me when I told her that I would keep Shasta through her pregnancy, raise the puppies to a proper age to be adopted out (after 8 weeks), and be the primary coordinator on all of the adoptions. Which is exactly what happened to the mess and destruction of my brand new carpet. On July 19, 2011 Shasta’s water broke in our office at the rescue and we immediately took her to the vet we worked with nearby. She brought 7 beautiful puppies into the world before the vet closed at which point I picked them all up and took them back to the extra bedroom in my new house. One more was stillborn that night and buried ceremoniously in my backyard.
Shasta was the ideal mother and did everything right. She nursed, nurtured, and protected. We had puppy parties for human socialization while Cricket and my cats provided socialization on an animal level. The puppies grew up beautifully those first 8 weeks except for one. I guess there is a runt in every litter and this guy was it. He was the last to open his eyes, the last to start walking, and the last to stop nursing (poor Shasta really got her steps in trying to put distance between her and her last weaning pup! I feel you girl). It didn’t take us long to start saying he was a little Gumpy in reference to Forrest Gump. And after we accidentally named him it was clear he’d be our Gumpy Guy for the long run.
Now, I had noticed that Shasta had some tendency for leash reactivity (barking at other dogs while on a leash), but chalked it up to hormones from #momlife. After a year of successful outings to puppy class, rivers, dog parks, beaches, etc we noticed Bubba Gump starting to exhibit leash reactivity towards other dogs, too. Then he got into a minor brawl with another pooch at the river, and I was actually kind of livid because that dog was clearly aggressive towards others (the owner was carrying a break stick for crying out loud), but it was a pivotal moment for us. From then on Bubba couldn’t be trusted to be around dogs off leash without exhibiting aggressive behavior. At a year and a half we put him on puppy prozac to take the edge off his anxiety. With positive reinforcement and treats he had a few good years of management where we still took him to places like the beach, although my hair would stand on end anytime someone with an off-leash dog shared the space. Then one night he escaped our yard when we were letting him out to pee and our gate wasn’t properly latched. He was gone for a few minutes but returned immediately when we started calling for him (good boy!). We thought all was well until the next morning our neighbor came to our door saying our dog had attacked his Dachshund. We paid $700 in vet bills and Hercules turned out fine [poops on our driveway until this day], but it was a sad nail in the coffin that our beloved pooch who enjoyed so many outdoor activities was an unsafe member of the community. We stopped taking him places except for the beach house a few times a year, although he doesn’t get to go down to the beach proper anymore.
It’s kind of a huge problem to have a dog that can’t enjoy basic things like walks or visits to the park. It’s hard to find dog sitters if we want to do an overnight somewhere, and it makes my failure to give him more attention feel bigger because that is all he has. Yet, I am also so grateful that we found each other. In the wrong family he could have been treated so much worse for his anxiety. I know that I gave him the most positive puppyhood possible, and he still has dog aggression which makes me believe that nurture can only do so much. But he wasn’t abused for it. He wasn’t returned to the shelter. He wasn’t euthanized. Instead he is celebrating his 8th birthday with a bully stick and a new toy and a person that loves him very, very much despite her shortcomings.
His snuggles are the purest. His the devotion the most loyal. He is the goodest boy, and tonight he gets to lay on the couch for as long as he wants.
Cheers Bubba Gump!