The gift that keeps on giving

T'is the season for giving and I gave myself the gift of love. Puppy love. Or, in my case, grown-up doggie love in the form of Isabella (Izzy), a three year old Boxer who was in need of a new home and now lives with me.

I can’t imagine – don’t want to have to ever imagine – the agony of having to rehome an animal that is well-loved. That’s what has happened to Izzy’s family. That’s not my story to tell, but now Izzy is my girl and I’m happy to talk about her.

A little dog history  

Back around the middle of the last century a beautiful fawn colored Boxer showed up at my family home. I can’t recall exactly how old I was but let’s say 10-ish, maybe younger. Anyway, this gorgeous dog showed up and wanted to stay. We called her Dixie and we loved her. She loved us. She was smart, she was protective, she was well-mannered. My siblings and I never questioned that dogs could show up like magic, though my parents did inquire as to where this amazing animal had come from and to whom she would have to be returned.

Dixie belonged to a breeder who lived a few miles away. She had somehow gotten out of her kennel and decided to rehome herself with my family. We were delighted to have this dog in our lives. The owner was not. He had no desire to sell Dixie to us or give her any choice about where she wanted to live. 

We were heartbroken when Dixie had to go back to the kennel. I can’t recall if we’d had her weeks or months, but my memory tells me it was a long time. It probably wasn’t.

Then Dixie showed up again. This time nobody was in a hurry to return her to her legal home. I may be adjusting history to suit my memories but it seems to me that my parents decided to wait until her owner asked for her back and that took a while. Maybe they even fudged a bit about what was going on. Meanwhile, we kids were thrilled to have Dixie in our lives.

But of course a valuable animal like that couldn’t be allowed to choose her own destiny, and back she went. 

We eventually got over the loss. The hurt was soothed when another dog wandered into our lives not long after. We lived in a rural area, you understand, and city folk who didn’t like grown dogs as much as the cute puppies they started out as would routinely just open car doors and shove the poor animals out. People still do that. But I’m not going to rant about that now, I’m telling you about Izzy in a round-about way.

I’ve been a lover and owner of Anatolian Shepherd Dogs, a livestock guardian breed, since the mid 1980s. Not so coincidentally, the breed resembles that other dog that came into our lives after Dixie. Fritz was no ASD, of course, but mutt or not, he was the main dog of my teenage years and lived a long, if not peaceful, life. 

Fritz became the standard against which my subsequent dogs were measured.

Back in the 1980s I was inspired to adopt an ASD, having no idea what I was getting in to.  That first one, Patty (I think the person who wanted to get rid of her called her Fang or Wolf or some nonsense name like that), somehow survived our ignorance and lived to be an ancient dog for her breed.  Even though I've still got scars on my hands from not having a clue about how to handle her breed (I'm not stupid, I learned) my husband and I went on to bring home a bunch of rescue Anatolians over the years, all adults.  

Then, in the middle of the first decade of the 21st century, I decided to get myself an ASD pup from a breeder I knew so that I wouldn't have to overcome the challenges that naturally come with rescue dogs.  That was the right thing for me to do.  That dog, Buckshot Jones, became my soul mate.  He was lion-hearted, gentle, fiercely protective, infuriating, a wanderer, and he owned me fully.

Joe was diagnosed with cancer in 2014, then another kind the following year, and then a third.  No matter that he was old for an ASD, Joe's passing in 2016 broke my heart.   It still hurts to think about him.

That was it for me.  I was done with dogs forever. I did not intend to open myself to that kind of hurt ever again. I convinced myself that I was okay without a dog in my life – me, a person who had never gone without at least one dog around since I was a baby.

But no.  Life doesn't work that way

Suddenly was Izzy. A pretty little thing, with kind eyes and a need for a loving home. A Boxer. 

Dixie, the Boxer from my long ago childhood, was fawn with a black mask and white feet, with a beautiful face and sweet eyes.  She was delicate yet muscled.  Izzy is black with a spotted chest and white feet, refined and yet muscled, with eyes that seem to be examining my soul. Izzy is just different enough to not be another Dixie, and so unlike a big bruiser of an Anatolian as to not remind me of my Joe.  And so...

A few weeks ago I saw Izzy's photo on Facebook, posted by a FB friend for someone else.  I asked a few questions (well, maybe more than a few), and somehow found myself saying yes yes yes, just like that. 

I was inspired to send Izzy a tee shirt that I had slept in for a week so that she would become pre-introduced to me by smell. I'm glad I did.  I’m told she got very possessive about it. As if she knew.

Two afternoons ago, on Boxing Day, I met the Boxer named Isabelle, and Izzy knew me right away.  She did know me and she took advantage right away.  She sent a dart directly to my heart that shattered the shell I had cast around it.  

I have tossed away the shards.  How could I not.


Thank you Stan for your generosity, and Julia for making this happen.