Large, dark and hopeful eyes watched me. I couldn’t move without that gaze following my every step. He is sweet to the point of making you feel claustrophobic, which is a challenge to correct because any voice louder than normal talking sets about submissive urination. I want to let you in on what kind of perspective adopting a dog has given me.
We named him Maserati (Masi, for short) and he is our new rescue boxer. Deemed about a year old from our veterinarian, by the time we got him, the physical manifestations of his life as a stray were just a ghost of hair loss along his coat. He isn’t as bad off mentally as I know stray dogs can get, but based on his reactions to certain things, someone somewhere treated this sweet boy badly. I didn’t know his history, it was impossible to – but I found myself imagining what situations he was put into that created the reactions I saw in him.
Odd things make him jump and cause the urination to begin. Things like, trying to shoo him away from our other dog’s food bowl when he starts to eat it instead of his own, it happened once or twice when he was inadvertently trapped with nowhere to go while we were loving on him, or when one of us got home from being gone and tried to greet him, and he urinated when I scolded him when he stuck his nose into the trash. He seems to watch us for our reactions to his behavior. While this doesn’t affect how he acts (he was still motivated to stick his nose in the trash if I looked away from him), overall he seems attention starved. He follows us around constantly, head resting against your leg, nose bumping your hand, all for whatever reward it gets him (with the goal being an ear scratch or a belly rub).
Trying to see things from his point of view – I saw a little bouncing, energetic boxer puppy that someone didn’t want to deal with. Sometimes they gave him love, but sometimes they punished him for reasons he never understood. He did the normal things that a puppy liked to do – chew things, pee in places and generally act like a wild child. I pictured him spending a lot of his time outside when impatient parents didn’t want to deal with his antics. Either he got into so much mischief that he was dumped somewhere or – the more likely reason, he got out of his yard and never looked back.
Eager to get him acclimated to our routine, I wasted no time in taking him on a walk. This was something that every dog I’ve ever known has loved. Masi went along with it, but for the first couple of walks, never acted like he enjoyed them. While Enzo was his usual self, weaving a path for us, sniffing anything worth putting his nose on and stopping to pee on everything else, Masi was more reserved. His ears stayed flat against his head and he never wondered what his new older brother found so interesting. He never peed, on anything or otherwise. When we would encounter anything, from a passing car to a jogging couple, he would watch them, body tense.
This made more sense to me since a dog on the street never knew if what he encountered was going to cause him pain or not and he wouldn’t understand that non-stray dogs went on walks for enrichment, safely regulated through their harness and leash.
Almost three weeks into his time with us and I can already see improvements. We’ve noted some consistency with when he submissively urinates and learned how to mostly counter this, working on a week without an incident. He still craves attention, but he is getting easier and easier to distract from this, until we are ready for it. He is more engaged in his walks, actually attempting to keep up with Enzo, trotting beside him instead of falling behind me in a depressed manner.
As I sit here, finishing this article, watching his steady breathing as he lays beside me, I’m struck with a sense of gratefulness. I’m grateful that I was able to rescue him. Grateful that he won’t ever have to forage in a trash can for a meal, that he won’t ever wonder if that person coming toward him is going to hit him or love him, grateful that for the rest of his life, he’ll only know love, treats, play, exercise and companionship in abundance. I can see why people get addicted to rescuing. In every neglected, abused and forgotten stray, there’s a sparkling personality waiting and wanting to show itself.
I would also like to take a moment to express how great my experiences have been with the Houston Boxer Rescue. Even though I volunteer with them, I am constantly impressed with the integrity that they have built the foundation for the rescue on. HBR is a community of like-minded individuals who are passionate about finding homes for their favorite breed. They are committed to finding the right home for each dog, and I’ve found their application process thorough without being prohibitive. Anyone should be so lucky to be able to deal with a rescue so equipped to help out such a large number of dogs in need.
Want to learn a little more about Maserati’s back story and see his progress on how he’s fitting in? See his personal page!