Gus came into the Tulsa Dalmatian Assistance League and into our home for foster care on May 15, 2014. He was an older gentleman, thin, and very quiet. His tail didn’t wag. His eyes didn’t connect with us.
The old guy had been hurriedly shoved from a pickup truck that barely bothered to stop in front of the Mannford, OK fire department. If you need to abandon a Dalmatian, you should do it at a fire station, right? Fire fighters are required to take in spotted castaways, aren’t they? Isn’t that in the fire fighters code?
Oh wait. No. No it’s actually not.
The old dog was transferred to the Mannford animal shelter – a very small, no frills kennel building. The animal control officer knew this dog would not do well there, his prospects would be grim. Thanks to the miracle of Facebook, a photo of the dog made the rounds quickly. I think Jim and I saw it simultaneously. I didn’t have to wonder if Jim would drop everything to rush to get the dog. Of course he would and did. He’s cool that way.
The age guess on Gus was somewhere around “older than dirt.” No need to be too specific at some point in the game of life, right? Both of his ears were crinkled and scarred, likely from past hematomas caused by ear infections. He had a pronounced heart murmur that required three different types of medicine, and he was malnourished. Nothing we couldn’t deal with.
Gus adjusted to life at Tails You Win Farm very quickly. His needs were simple…give me a soft place to lie down, give me two good meals a day, give me my medicine, and give me a little attention every day.
An unusual dog, Gus wasn’t very responsive to things that make most dogs giddy. None of the “who wants a treat,” or “who wants to go for a walk” banter broke through his fog. Toys fell untouched at his feet. For a long time we didn’t see him wag his tail. Sometimes he would look right through you, almost as if he were blind, but he was not. He didn’t bark. He didn’t play. He did, however, enjoy a good back rub.
He loved routine. He loved his meals. He loved any treats offered and might accidentally take the tips of your fingers along with a cookie if you weren’t careful, but that was just enthusiasm and bad aim. He truly didn’t have a mean bone in his body
I jokingly called him Raymond, based on Dustin Hoffman’s character from the movie Rainman. I don’t know if dogs can be autistic, but on many levels, Gus seemed to be in his own little world most of the time.
Every now and then, we would see a glimpse of personality in Gus. He’d find his way to you, just to lean against your leg, to fall asleep on your foot, to have his little ears rubbed. He’d come to you quietly, his eyes suddenly alert and connected. These moments with Gus were always special.
I don’t know what might have caused his unusual demeanor. I often wonder if he just lived his life very alone with little opportunity to connect to humans. Or perhaps he had a puppyhood illness that left him compromised. Or maybe it was just Gus being Gus. We’ll never know. It really doesn’t matter. His eccentricities really just made him charming in his own odd way.
Gus slipped into our home and lives quite easily. And yesterday we helped him slip out of this life. Weakening legs were failing him. His aging brain was starting to play tricks on him. His old heart was beginning to struggle despite his six pills a day.
Gus, like all of the senior foster dogs we have known through the years, reminded us that there is joy in loving dogs in all stages of life. You don’t have to get a dog as a tiny puppy to bond with that dog, to cherish every moment with that dog. You don’t have to spend a dozen years with a dog for him to be a special part of your life and family.
Whatever Gus’ life lacked before coming to us, I think, I hope, Jim and I more than made up for it in the 16 months we got to love him. And in the end, Gus had two people with him reminding him that he was an important, handsome, well-loved boy.
In return, we were treated to a last little wag of his tail.
Thank you sweet Gus. We love you.