Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Colby (the dog and the Starving Armenian)- a story from my book

(A little background, in case you don't read my other blogs which can be found by clicking on-view my complete profile. I'm the granddaughter of an Armenian immigrant who fled the genocide in Turkey in 1915. During this time the term- Starving Armenian- was used a lot as the people who were not killed fled, often with no food and nothing but the clothes on their backs. Don't ask me what cosmic joke saw fit to allow me, the granddaughter of an Armenian genocide survivor, to end up with anorexia as a way to handle the distressing situations of my life, but so be it.The anorexia was in the past, I'm quite healthy and have been for a long time, it's just part of the overall story)


Colby and I had some karmic business to attend to, not that I always go in for this sort of stuff but often times life stares you in the face and offers you a chance to find resolution. Colby came into the shelter as a stray, and immediately became so disheartened that he stopped eating. As a former anorexic myself, how could I not be moved by such a dog. He spent his days curled up into a tiny ball with his hipbones sticking out, right up next to the gate in an outdoor group kennel. He wanted to make sure that if the door were opened he'd be the first one out. It was as if by lying in that spot he was willfully projecting himself out of there. His other dog mates would romp around with each other or lay up under the leanto, but not Colby. He was finally moved to his own private pen that had an individual doghouse in it, that we had put a blanket in. He'd crawl into the doghouse and sleep there most of the day. The staff was so worried that he'd starve to death on their watch, that they put him on anti-anxiety medication. I started walking him in the hopes that the special attention and exercise might help him to work up an appetite. If ever a dog could convey the persona of a disaffected jazz musician, he was it. He was a real cool cat of a dog. He stood fairly tall for a dog 70lbs. at normal weight, and was just so naturally low key. He'd walk alongside Blue( my dog) and I in a very well mannered disaffected way. He enjoyed being petted and receiving attention and had a lovelorn "I can't imagine why you'd want to bother expending energy on me" sort of look in his eye. We'd walk downtown at a leisurely pace. At times I'd stop to grab a coffee or snack, and tie the dogs up to a post for a few minutes. They would just sit politely waiting for me. Colby had the saddest eyes with the most pained look in them. It was a combination of pain and distance, with a touch of daring to yearn to come back from whatever faraway place he'd escape to. It was as if he wasn't sure whether or not to continue living, and whether engaging again with people, was really worth the trouble. He decided that his living situation at the shelter was intolerable and since he couldn’t escape he stopped eating. I had been in this situation myself years ago and was struck that this animal came to the same conclusion to handle its suffering as I had, but then his circumstances started to change a little with my consistent walks and attention. Perhaps this was truly full circle for me. I could intervene in his life and make a difference, even though in my own life my suffering went unnoticed. He wasn't needy, just dejected. His sadness just made you love him even more. I took to putting him in my car with Blue while I drove around town doing errands, just so he would be less lonely. He didn't always smell so terrific and he was too skinny for me to wash him and let him sit outside in the cold until he dried off, so I just damp towel washed him and put him in my car on a giant horse blanket. Such are the sacrifices one makes for troubled animals with broken hearts. Besides, the car had 100,000. miles on it anyway. I’d take him for long walks of at least an hour or so. He grew fond of us and started to finally regain some of the weight he'd lost and his hipbones became less pronounced. He would visually key in on my car as it pulled into the parking lot and also as it pulled away .He would sing in a low, muted, grumbly, "wu wu wu” at times when he saw me approaching, which was the height of enthusiasm for him. One day, I had him in the front passenger seat of my car while we were traveling to a small artsy town 15 miles away. He was curled up with his head facing me and resting on my emergency brake. He looked up at me with such profound love and tenderness that tears came to my eyes. I would have adopted him then and there but my husband wasn’t as smitten with him as I was. The shelter staff felt sorry for him too, and one of the gals was aching to foster him if he wasn’t adopted soon. We had our yearly benefit luncheon for the shelter at our local community center so I took Colby and my dog Blue over there with me in the car. I had had them in the car previously, but only unattended for twenty minutes at a time, before I returned to check on them. I got carried away at the benefit and found myself talking to a couple of the board members discussing the lengths we go to for our pets. I playfully found myself chiming in with ”yeah I know what you mean, I’ve got this dog who’s on anti-anxiety medication with me in my car” Then I realized they had been in the car for over two hours instead of the usual twenty minutes we were all accustomed to. All of a sudden, I was the one experiencing anxiety. I jokingly quipped “my husbands been wanting a new car anyway, maybe this will be the deciding factor” and I excused myself and went to check on them. I didn’t know what to expect; seat cushions torn up? Stuffing everywhere? When I finally reached the car, Colby was sprawled out on the back seat yawning and stretching, and Blue was in the far back. Not one sign of damage anywhere. Phew! A couple of weeks later Colby was adopted. I ran into the women who had adopted him while they were walking together downtown. She seemed so sweet, kind and gentle: a female complement to his sensitive nature. He came right up to me and I patted him on the head. I was so happy for them both. My little Colby cheese dog, my nickname for him, finally back to health.

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