Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Hunter Chronicles (part 1)

The story of our life with Hunter began like this: my dear wife had been dropping hints during the first few years of our marriage that she wanted a dog. It wasn't going to happen during our time in seminary, but the hints became more frequent as we moved into a large parsonage in Wisconsin. There were times she walked into a dark, empty house with fear about what awaited her. With a dog, she wouldn't have to worry as much. When she called me upon entering our home while I was at work, I knew that she wasn't kidding around. Security is important.

I learned that getting a dog as a gift for my wife, either for a birthday, Christmas, or an anniversary wasn't going to fly--so I volunteered the idea of receiving a dog for my 30th birthday. Even though my dear wife wanted the dog, the dog would be mine. I don't recall how we decided to look for a Lab, but I think it had something to do with the size and temperament. I merely didn't want a yippy barking dog. Protection and security, but not dangerous to the household. We decided to go to the Waukesha County Humane Society to find our new family member, our first child, our training in team parenting. This was a new experience for me--my brothers and I never owned a dog in our childhood household--and I was a little bit afraid of dogs. I had German Shepherds and Dobermans in my neighborhoods as a child that terrified me. I also had relatives who owned dogs with temperaments not suited for children--a Poodle, a Chow, and some German Shepherds. I have memories of them growling behind closed doors near the bathroom, or nipping at me, or chasing after me in a yard, or savagely barking at me from behind a fence. For years I wanted nothing to do with dogs.

Hunter changed my attitude of dog fear rather quickly. One day I went to look at dogs on my own and found a dog that seemed interesting. Almost every dog in the Humane Society was barking or yipping or jumping up and down as I walked by. Cheyenne was a 5-year old female black lab. She wasn't barking in the cacophony of dog conversation, but she was active and excited to greet me in a playful way behind her cage. Cheyenne had been there awhile--I think I read somewhere that they keep dogs at that Humane Society for approximately two weeks (?) before they are euthanized. Cheyenne had been there for over a week. Her time seemed short. The Waukesha County Humane Society set up dog interviews for their prospective owners and had a few rooms to accommodate these interviews--an opportunity for owners to meet and interact with an animal. When my dear wife and I walked through the Human Society and saw Cheyenne again, we were both interested. We also notice one more dog who didn't bark. His name was Hunter, and he sat there, sitting down watching us walk by. He didn't jump, he didn't bark, he only looked at us. He was 2 years old--a beautiful Chocolate Lab. We thought we'd take a look at him as well.

Cheyenne came into the interview room first and was a nice dog, very playful and energetic. I can't say we were particularly drawn to her. Hunter came in the room next, gave us each a little bit of a sniff, curled up in a compact ball and laid down in between our chairs in the room. We knew Hunter was the dog for us. After a two day waiting period, Hunter joined our family on April 30, 2000. We bought him a few accessories--a large burgundy dog bed, a leash, a collar, some good food (Eukaneuba), and some chew toys. He was always sad to see us leave the house, and exceedingly excited to see us return from wherever life took us, almost singing every time we were reunited. We originally set up his bed in a spare room near our bedroom, but quickly learned that he wanted nothing to do with separation--he wanted to be as near to us as possible. We placed his bed near ours--sometimes that wasn't even good enough--on chilly evenings he would move his way from the drafty floor to inside our bed. He wanted to be by our side--a common theme for his behavior and how he became a part of the family.

As I remember the details of Hunter becoming part of the family, I remember another young man, about my age, carrying a dog and sobbing as I sat waiting to talk to someone from the Humane Society. It was clear the young man was giving up his dog because he couldn't care for him anymore. This appeared to be a normal occurrence--we were Hunter's third owners before he turned 3 years old. His previous owners both wrote they didn't have time to take care of him anymore. My dear wife reminded Hunter that we were going to be his "forever family." I wonder if he knows that. We were brought together for a reason. I've learned much from Hunter. This morning as we took a longer walk in the woods than normal, I realized how much more I have to remember. These days have been devoted to remember someone who has been in our family longer than our children. I don't know how long The Hunter Chronicles will be, but the memories are filling a blog library. Such is life with my first dog. I am continually awed by my relationship with God's creation--and Hunter expanded that understanding.

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