Tuesday, 14 June 2022

The Life of Rowley

 You can’t change a dog's past,

but you can rewrite the future.  
Agnes Carass

Looking out from any of the window of our house, I’m bound to see one or more of the dogs that live at our Hutterite community, here in southern Manitoba, Canada. The dogs are all shapes, sizes, colours and breeds: collie, terrier, poodle, German shepherd, and American bulldog, to name a few. Mostly they are mixed breeds, maybe one or two pure bred.

These canine creatures can be seen playing with each other or the children, chasing birds, or snoozing under a tree. I always find it interesting how some of them always hang out around the school, during the school year. They obviously love the children, as much as the children love them.

Each dog has his or her own tale as to how they came to live on a Hutterite community. Some, like Rowley’s though, are more riveting and heart-warming. A fairly big American Bulldog, Rowley sported a beautiful beige coat, coffee-coloured eyes and it’s most noticeable feature, a nose which looked like someone had pushed it in.

During the summer of 2016 one of the families on our community was looking to get a dog, although they weren’t sure which type, or even where they’d get one. The dreams and plans of this family never included the kind of dog which ended up joining them.

Rowley, his fur growing back
 
One day the parents, were coming home from Winnipeg, when they noticed something strange in the ditch. Curious, they stopped to take a look. As they walked towards it, they first thought it was a pig. They remembered that a few days before there had been an accident including a semi-truck hauling pigs, and thought it could have come from that truck. On closer inspection though, they saw that it was a dog – a very sickly looking dog. Its hair was mostly gone, its body was full of sores, there was yellow stuff coming out of its eyes, it obviously had mange and was barely alive. Add a strong stench to all that and the flies having a field day, many people would have departed quicker than they had arrived. However, this couple felt nothing but compassion and couldn’t fathom leaving this suffering creature to die in a ditch. As gently as possible, they wrapped it in a sweater they bought that day and carried it to their vehicle. At home they laid the dog on a rug on their back porch. Surrounded by shrubs and flowers, the covered porch provided a pleasant place for a convalescing pooch.

None of the kids were very excited about this turn of events. “It doesn’t even look like a dog,” Fern, the youngest daughter stated disgustedly. Some people thought it looked like a kangaroo. Looking at the sickly creature, a jumble of thoughts buzzed around in their heads, like the flies buzzing around the dog: Unbelievable, why would their parents even bring the thing home? Yes, they wanted a dog, but not an ugly, smelly, half dead, rescue mongrel! Oh well, perhaps it will die. Then we can get a real dog.

Nevertheless, since they had been raised to be show love to all of God’s creatures, they all helped to take care of the dog. First, because of the mange it had to be quarantined. In a week or so, re-hydrated, well-fed and cared for, they were astonished to see that the dog started to improve, and before long the sores healed and his hair began to grow back.

Relaxing in the shade
Slowly but surely he had also nosed his way into their hearts. One day they were
discussing names for their pet. Lee jokingly suggested, “How about Pigler?”

“Absolutely not!” the girls chorused. They didn’t think much of that idea, since they wanted to forget what he first looked like. Finally they all agreed to name him Rowley, after a character in their mom’s favourite movie, Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

The family never found out who ditched the dog, but certain signs pointed to the fact that Rowley had been abused: Whenever he saw someone with a broom or big stick, he ran away to hide. This made them love him even more.

Rowley seemingly loved everyone on the colony, even those who didn’t particularly like him. He especially loved the family who had nursed him back to health, giving him a new lease on life. He loved to lick them, especially their feet. Upon researching this behavior, they learned that this was the dog’s way of showing gratitude.

Pouting
The newest member of the family turned out to be a very emotional dog, who sometimes came home pouting after a scuffle with one of the other dogs on the colony.  He enjoyed playing tag around the house, playing outside with his four-legged, furry friends, Mia, Lucy and Jasper or snoozing in the shade on hot summer days. But best of all he loved to join Fern, when she took golf cart rides around the colony, after a long day working in the garden. Rowley knew Fern had the spot right beside her reserved for him, and sat there like the proudest pooch of the pack. He also knew, when he jumped off for an impromptu swim in the lagoon, he had to go in the back or run home.

One of his favourite activities was swimming in any body of water he could find, lagoon, river or swimming pool. It didn’t seem to matter that as an American Bulldog, his center of gravity was around the torso, which made it hard for him to float properly and to keep his head above the water. His stubby nose didn’t help either.

Then there was the day he leisurely ambled around the colony. His stroll led him to an open door at the communal kitchen. A tantalizing scent met his twitching nostrils. Thinking the door may have been left open especially for him, he followed his nose right to the bakery. Before the bewildered bakers could react, he had snatched a few fresh buns from the table and high-tailed it back out.  Another prime example how splendid Rowley's retirement years really were!  

After a few years however, arthritis slowed down Rowley considerably. I always felt sorry watching him with the other dogs, but clearly no longer able to keep up with their antics. The family, not wanting to watch him suffer, made the painful decision to put him down. They decided to wait until morning though, to tell Fern this sad news. That night there was a thunderstorm. Fern heard it and hurried outside to check on Rowley who got really scared when it stormed. Not finding him on his back porch rug, nor in his dog house, she grew frantic running around in the pouring rain calling his name. Hearing the commotion, her mom came to the door and called her inside. “I can’t find Rowley.” Fern responded with a shaky voice.

“He’s gone.” Her mom said quietly, heading back to bed. After the sad truth sank in, Fern slowly walked to her room, a sad mantra playing in her head like the haunting song of a mourning dove, “Rowley is gone, gone, gone...” Happy memories mingled with the sad ones, followed the mournful mantra, as she drifted into dreamland: No more Rowley licks. No more golf cart rides with Rowley as co-driver. No more games of tag.

Rowley’s final five years were happy ones, thanks to the people who adopted him. He took full advantage of the many interesting places to discover and romp through on our Hutterite colony. Rowley, the rescue dog, will long be remembered by his adoptive family. In his own language, he showed that he believed every word of this poem:

I Am Rescued

You didn’t care how I looked or that I wasn’t a pedigree.

You showed me that I wasn’t disposable and that I was loved.

You brought back the sparkle in my eyes and the shine of my coat.

You restored my spirit so my tail can wag again.

You took a chance at me to see what I can become.

You gave me a place to call home and a family to call my own.

Author unknown

 

 

 

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