I really wanted a dog. Life was getting too busy to find time to take a walk, feel the air, or simply just be outside. We had a dog before and I was ready for one now. When I broached the subject with my husband, Suresh, his first reaction was, “When do you have any time for anything? What will the dog do when you are not home, which you never are?” But in the end, Suresh conceded (which always is the case).
My next request, however, provoked a lively debate in the family. I wanted to get a rescue dog. My older daughter, like a true scientist, argued that a dog is a long-term commitment and one should try to control as many variables in the equation as possible. “Even in arranging your marriage, your parents looked at the family and their values.” She had a point!
My younger daughter, on the other hand, argued in favor of rescuing. She had rescued a lab herself and argued that the satisfaction of doing so and the bonding which results from struggling together is priceless.
Finally, I decided to give it a try and contacted a friend who had worked with a rescue shelter. Soon, I started to receive links with photos and descriptions from various shelters. It was the next day at noon that I received a photo which immediately caught my attention. There was something in those eyes. And the dog’s name was Sasha (the female mascot for the University of Houston). “A good omen!” I thought.
I skipped my lunch and immediately went to see the dog. Five minutes later, I called Suresh to say that I am bringing our dog home and if he would like to exercise his veto power, he better come to the shelter right away, which he did. Next came a trip to the pet store and 30 minutes later, we were the proud parents of a beautiful 1.5 year old German Shepherd.
Within minutes of getting home, Sasha disappeared and it took us 2 hours of frantic search to find her in the basement. She was scared and curled behind the water heater. That same evening, she crawled out from under the main gate and after calling her name all over the neighborhood, we found her behind a fence, trembling.
During the months that followed, our neighbors could count on having free entertainment every evening, as we tried to take Sasha on a walk. I was reading every Internet site I could find for instructions and tips on how to train a dog, and yet, it was hard to say who was walking whom. We sought the help of a trainer, but Sasha was unpredictable with dogs and people alike. She trusted no one and could not digest even the mildest food recommended by her doctor. She was scared to be left outside in the yard. The only thing she wanted was to be next to me. She would follow me everywhere.
This is not what I had bargained for!
Fast forward to a year later. Now Sasha responds to commands in three languages–English, Hindi and Spanish. She follows all basic commands and performs a unique trick which goes like this. I would ask, “Sasha, will you go to …[fill in the name of a rival university]… or be a dead dog?” She would make a low growling sound as if dying and then would quickly roll over as if dead. She is full of love, but unyielding in her duty to guard the property. With all the events in the house, she knows precisely who is supposed to be allowed in what part of the house at what time of the day. She walks obediently and fetches her ball beautifully. Neighbors have seen the transformation and often ask us for advise on training.
She loves to put on a UH scarf and come to the office with me on Red Fridays. She lets students pet her, but never accepts a treat someone she does not know.
I feel myself again. I have time that I could not find before. I am outdoors every day. So, here is my challenge for you: Dare to rescue a dog and if you do, dare to admit that it is the dog who is rescuing you and not the other way around.