Ted's riffing on smoking chimps and it reminded me about something I've been wanting to share about our dog Polly. We brought her home in August of 2003 from Columbus' Franklin County Animal Shelter. The orginal plan was to foster Polly until we could find her a loving family. We did the latter, but failed miserably at the former and now she's a permanent fixture.
She was turned in to the pound as a stray, so we don't have much history on her, other than what we've been able to observe. She was obviously loved by someone and treated well (her sunny disposition and self-assuredness are evidence of this.) She's got a couple teeth missing (not unusual for a dog her age, estimated to be 4-ish.) I personally think her owner was single, a male, and quite possibly an older gentleman. And here's why...
When we first got Polly, she absolutely did not get along with my wife LeeAnn. Snarling, nipping, mistrust. She bit LeeAnn twice. It was actually very upsetting for a while. A good long while.
We laughed it off at first (my recurring joke was that we had two headstrong bitches in the house) but eventually it just became evident to me: Polly had never lived with a woman. I just don't think she knew what a human woman was. (If you're wondering, me she bonded with almost instantly. In fact, we were fast friends almost from the moment I first held her at the shelter.) And she also developed instant crushes on any male friends who came to visit the house. So, okay, Polly lived with a man.
She also exhibited the weirdest bit of behavior back in those days: she would sit on my lap, and hold her snout an inch from my nostrils. Just hold it there, as if she were waiting for something. If I craned my neck to the left, snout went left. To the right? Snout went right. LeeAnn claimed that Polly was 'stealing my breath.' I formed a theory right around the time we gave Polly her first bath.
Our dogs are indoor dogs, and generally smell pretty good -- Dozer, in fact, has a pleasant naturally-occuring nutty scent -- so we only rarely give them baths. The first time we dropped Polly in the tub, we'd probably had her for 3 weeks. (She was getting over kennel-cough contracted at the shelter.) Her coat was a mess -- her undercoat was worse. And worst of all, once wet, she absolutely reeked of smoke. Like she'd been dipped in nicotine and wrapped in tobbaco every night for a year. Okay, her owner was a smoker. And... waitamminit!
Stealing my breath? Dammit, I think she had been waiting on a toke! I think that Polly was a smoker. Her owner must have supported her habit by puffing into her waiting face! And her disposition was bearing this theory out. Her crankiness with LeeAnn probably reached its peak a couple of weeks after she entered our home, then abated over time. (Today they're fast friends -- cuddling all the time. It'd make you sick, I tellya.) I think she was going through withdrawal.
She also had bad asthmatic episodes when she first came to live with us (that have all but disappeared since she 'kicked.') Sucking and wheezing, trying to get air into her little doggy lungs.
But why do I think that Polly's owner was an older smoking, single gentleman? Well, this part is highly speculative, and kinda sad. But we've thought a lot about what circumstances must have brought her to the pound.
Her official records state 'turned in as stray' (with no location of capture listed --we asked, with every intent of trying to find her owners.) But we've found Polly to be a pretty responsible, and completely non-escapive
dog. (If your dog is an escape-artist, you know what I'm talking about here.) Polly just doesn't have a wandering jones. In fact, nothing makes her happier than to lay on her bed
all day long. So it's unlikely she wandered off on purpose.
But of course, dogs get lost for all kinds of reasons. It is curious to us, however, noone came looking for such a happy, sunny little dog. (Remember, it was obvious to us from the first that Polly had been treated well and loved by someone.) LeeAnn made it her life's mission for weeks to find this dog's family. Periodic checks with the shelter (no one had enquired), filing reports with Pet FBI (and monitoring the site for months afterward.) Who could love this dog, raise her to 4 years old, and then forget about her so completely?
I guess the sad truth is that there are any number of heartless bastards out there in the world who could probably turn in a dog that they've cared for and walk away without a backwards glance. But for some reason, in my mind, Polly's owner never came looking for her because he can't. I kind of believe that he passed away. (From cancer? I wonder) And I think his family took Polly to the pound because noone wanted to take her on as their own. Like I said.. highly speculative on my part. And definitely sad.
In the end, I guess it doesn't really matter. She's ours now. For always and forever.