Thursday, May 22, 2008

The dog who saved a family!

I got my father a dog for Christmas because I desperately needed help.

It was almost a decade ago. My parents and I were suffering terribly as a result of an estrangement from my only sibling and his family and I just couldn’t handle Christmas alone.

I had only been dating my Rob for a few months and he wasn’t yet a regular fixture at holidays. No matter how hard I tried, and believe me I tried, I wasn’t big enough or loud enough or entertaining enough to fill the hole they left. I just couldn’t take up enough space.

I needed a dog.

My parents, my dad especially, have always adored dogs. Two mutts had the run of the house throughout my childhood and the younger had finally died at 18 years of age the previous summer.

Mom felt sure Dad was ready for another and gave her blessing for me to pick one out at The Toronto Humane Society and surprise him with it at Christmas. Get a smaller dog, she advised. Something sweet and low-maintenance.

And that’s what I intended, I swear.

But we can’t help who or what we fall in love with.

A pit bull-German shepherd-doberman mix (we think), he had been living at the shelter for more than three months. There was a letter taped to his cage, written as if by him, begging someone to give him a chance. I gathered from the shelter staff that his days were numbered.

I had to have him.

I took him home to my little downtown house and while he wildly raced around and around I called my mom to advise her that I found a dog that was a little different from what we discussed, but nonetheless, perfect.

And he was perfect, in his way. From the moment a few days later when I dropped him onto my blindfolded Dad’s lap and shouted Merry Christmas!, he was a perfect diversion from the sadness that back then hung like a heavy cloud in my parent’s house.

Hercules became his name and he was incorrigible. He chewed everything he could find. He climbed the kitchen table and gobbled bread baskets and pounds of butter. He ate a whole raw chicken my mother was prepping and threw it up an hour later. He was so excitable that a playful tone of voice would send him bouncing on all four legs, three or feet into the air. He was so hyper that my father was often forced to wrestle him to the ground, hold him there and coo softly in his ear, imploring him to relax and calm down.

Hercules did calm down as time went on. He became intimately attached to my father. He insisted on sitting on his lap, burrowing into chest and tucking his head under his chin and to this day he wails and cries like a baby when left alone. Dad takes him everywhere; flying him into his fishing camp and letting him ride shotgun in his pick-up truck on morning coffee runs when he is treated to a donut hole daily.

Everywhere they go people stop them. “What kind of dog is that?” they say. “That’s the weirdest looking dog I’ve ever seen.”

And Dad puts his hands over Herc’s ears. “Don’t listen to them Hercie,” he says. “You’re a fine-looking dog.”

It seems silly to make some kind of dramatic proclamation or put a cheesy movie-of-the-week title to this story, a la The Dog Who Saved A Family!

But in a lot of ways I think he did.

Hercules made us laugh and gave us something to talk about that Christmas and we needed that. In the days that followed he made my parent’s house a noisy place to be, a busy place to be and they needed that even more.

He gave my parents something to focus on during a very dark period of their life. He was so grateful for their love, so overjoyed to be in their presence, so friendly and accepting of everything and everyone in their world that it was impossible not to be infected by his happiness.

And when the rift with my brother and his children began to mend Hercules and his boundless energy was there to break the ice and relieve the tension: no one could refuse him a smile, no one was unmoved by his enthusiasm.

Today my parent’s house, being on the lake, is a gathering place for my family and friends and my brother and his children and their friends. Summers especially are a whirlwind of flying and boating and barbecues and laughter and fun.

Hercules is there too of course. Old and grey and grizzled now, he’ll join in the fun if asked, but mainly sticks close to my father’s side. And in my typical, cheesy, movie-of-the-week way I'll always think of them both as the glue that continues to keep our home and our family together.


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62 comments:

Miss said...

What a CUTIE he is. I think that is so great, a dog who saved a family. Sometimes we take our pets for granted huh? I know I'll snuggle mine a little tighter tonight!

chelle said...

awww that is an incredible story! I want a dog! hehe

kgirl said...

what a nice story. good dog.

caramama said...

Yea! What a great dog! What a great gift that you gave your parents... so much more than just a dog. :-)

Kathryn said...

What a beautiful story. I have tears in my eyes.
Dogs become such a part of the family and it sounds as if this dog was meant to be in yours.
Lovely. Just lovely.

kittenpie said...

So nice. Pets really are great in those times of need. It's like they somehow KNOW, I swear.

nomotherearth said...

He looks like such a funny sweetheart of a dog.

Mary said...

I enjoyed this post.......very heartfelt :) What a great gift you gave to your family. It's nice that you were able to see that maybe it was something you all needed :)

David said...

Heartfelt indeed, but just as important is fact that you saved little guy from a fate that is not the happiest ending for him. You gave him a life as well as your father a dish full of happiness.
God Bless!

flutter said...

Oh herc! What a doll

Angie said...

No offense, but he kind of, actually, IS weird looking. I gotta agree. However, I am glad he helped your family mend.

KEEP BELIEVING

Jaina said...

What a wonderful story, and a beautiful and unique dog!

Dawn said...

I loved this story so much! I'm now forwarding it to my husband (I really want a dog ;)

furiousBall said...

good puppy, my big pup cheers me up all the time

Aunt Becky said...

The strangest of things always make the biggest impacts.

Melisa said...

Oh my gosh Kelly,
You already know I'm a total sucker for dogs...but dogs AND Dads? You're killing me today. LOL

What a great post! Thanks for sharing it! :)

xoxo

John-Michael said...

To give a heart, hungry for a place to invest its love and affection, a creature also yearning for the gift of acceptance, adoration, and respect, is to fill a love void that makes our universe ... in some small, but significant way ... more in balance, and complete. You, my darling Don Mills Darling, gave that gift to your Family (including ALL of its two, and four legged members) just as you, in your constantly skillful and caring way, give a loving completeness to my personal world.

I love You.

Mac and Cheese said...

I couldn't imagine not having a dog now that I've had not one but two for five years now. They really do add character to a family.

Momma said...

As you must know from reading my blog, I'm an animal-lover (putting it mildly). A dog can certainly save the day or even your life. I will always be thankful for mine. You did a wonderful thing for your father. You can see the bond between them in the picture.

Peace - D

Momma Mary said...

Very touching! Now I want to meet your dog!

The Boyds Family said...

What a great story and your dad is right....he's a good looking dog. ;)

wheelsonthebus said...

A dog might destroy my family. But he sounds like a wonderful animal.

Ashlee said...

What a warm and fuzzy story. Dogs can bring such love and warmth to a family. My kids love their doggy so much. What a great gift you gave your dad.

Susiewearsthepants said...

Are you plotting against me with my children by any chance? They have been begging me for years to get them a dog. I could break. Really soon.

Maureen said...

Wonderly DMD... Herc is beautiful. And you are wonderful for saving him and placing him in the perfect home.

Have you read Marley and Me? It's a great book for dog lovers (I too have a dog, she will be 11 in 2 days!)

But be warned; you'll need a whole box of Kleenex before you finish it...

Kami said...

What a wonderful story. Animals are amazing, he was meant to be part of your family!

Glad the rift has cleared too :-)

Amy said...

Beautiful.

Elaine A. said...

I believe there is nothing in life like a good dog. They are loyal and faithful and in this case, healing.

Once again, your post made me smile.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

Ah yes, the power of a dog. It's hard to believe that some people just don't get it.

OHmommy said...

I love that you called your mom to tell her you found a dog, but not one like you had discussed.

Of course.

That is something I would do too. ;)

Stapeliad said...

What a thoroughly enjoyable post.
Hercules is adorable.

:)

Kathy said...

It just goes to show that a little love and a lot of patience can tame any dog. Kudos to your Dad for training a wild pup!! I totally believe in therapeutic qualities in animals. I'm glad he save your family...I suppose he was returning the favor...

skiplovey said...

Hercules reminds me of our old family dog Simon. He was a collie/german shepherd mix and he was the sweetest dog in the world.
A good dog really is a member of the family.
*sniff, wipes tear.
I totally miss our old dog.

Jenifer said...

My heart is melting...what a wonderful dog and a wonderful story. I was so scared it was going to end with, "and now he is gone" so whew!

C said...

What a beautiful post! GAH! You got me all teary eyed! I hate when that happens! LOL!

It really is amazing how a pet can change people's lives and help them through tough times (and of course, be there in good times)!

What a wonderful gift he was for your family.

When I read the title of this post, I immediately thought of the French Canadian film "La Guerre des Tuques" (AKA: "The Dog Who Stopped the War").

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0087373/

common mom said...

What a wonderful story. I LOVE our dog and miss our previous dog dearly. I love how our kids play with our puppy and train her and love on her and dress her up in their costumes. I love how she snuggles up with Dude every night for bed (she's a yellow lab, so not small!). I love having a dog in the house.

I love your story. Thank you for sharing!

Montay said...

Great story Love the dog what a cutie!! Just hopped over from Ashlees blog come over if you want thanks for the warm fuzzy today

Montay said...

Great story Love the dog what a cutie!! Just hopped over from Ashlees blog come over if you want thanks for the warm fuzzy today

Karen said...

I love hearing how pets become a part of us. They truly are like members of our family.

La La said...

He is a beautiful dog, and I'm a firm believer that pets SAVE our lives DAILY. I know my two cats DO.

Beautifully written.

Motherhood for Dummies said...

the dog really is different looking and beauitful! I was never a dog person till we got one and we because so close to us and we loved him like family. I totally understand now

Mental P Mama said...

What a beautiful story. My cheeks hurt from so much smiling.

Shellie said...

That was a great post, sometimes a dog is just what the doctor ordered. He sounds adorable. Way to go, Herc!

Karen MEG said...

What a sweet post; what a wonderful member of the family Herc is (the BEST name, BTW ;))

Beth from the Funny Farm said...

That last picture of you dad and Herc is a gem. He sounds like he really was needed in the family.

IRISHKAT said...

Thanks, I really needed to read a story like that. I have been struggling with pooch issues in my home so this is just what I needed to cheer me up!

sarah in disturbia said...

what a nice post in so many ways! I wish I could give Hercules a big old hug right now : )

KathyLikesPink said...

A lovely tribute. A loyal, loving pet is one of life's joys. The photo of your dad with his good friend is very touching. I wish many more years for Hercie!

Damselfly said...

You're right. He's perfect. :)

Now that you mention it, a dog may have saved my childhood.....

painted maypole said...

very sweet. the unconditional love of pets can work wonders

slouching mom said...

that is the sweetest story. he sounds like the best kind of companion.

you chose well!

Tootsie Farklepants said...

ohmygosh I just want to rub his belly. Um, Herci, not your pa.

Whitenoise said...

Great story. I have a shadow as well. ;-)

secret agent mama said...

That made me smile and cry. Great way to tell it, K! Dogs are something I will never live without.

Mandy said...

That's a great story. Dogs are like that, their ability to bring people closer together. And their overwhelming capacity to love us. What a wonderful story!

Tranny Head said...

This is one of those posts that REALLY gives me "I want a dog" fever!

a kelly said...

Love the title, love the story, love the dog!
These creatures sure make a way into our lives and our hearts!

imbeingheldhostage said...

It may not have been your intention, but I cried through this. What a lovely, lovely tribute. Dogs make a special place for themselves in our hearts, don't they? Even our over-excited lab that just chewed through my dryer hose...

Noodle said...

Oh yes, animals ARE that important! I don't think Herc is ugly though. The coloring looks similar to a Plott Hound. My parents have one. :)

Alpha DogMa said...

What a lovely post! I'm getting all misty.

The WunderDog is the "Dog That Made Us A Family" as she took us from merely a shacked up couple to being her lovestruck parents.

And Hercules is a good looking dog! And your dad is handsome, too.

Victoria said...

Aww - what a sweet post. This dog-lover loved it!

Sharon said...

Kelly it was so nice to read your stories, and to see the picture of your Dad after all these years, please tell him I am happy for him and hercules, I know he loved the two dogs you had growing up, even the stinky one...lol. Keep up the good work, Sharon.