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Emily Welker, Published July 07 2013

Creature Feature: Love for feisty rescue dog wasn't automatic

FARGO - I get a lot of questions about my dog.

“Oh, is he from that breeder in Hawley?” they’ll ask, as we run an errand to the salon, where he gets tortilla chips from my stylist and dog biscuits from the mailman. “They have husky-shepherd crosses there for sale all the time.”

“No, I rescued him in California,” I reply.

We usually keep walking without explaining, in spite of the funny looks. He’s a busy dog. They give out biscuits at the car dealership, too.

I adopted Leto from an old friend who found him where he was dumped, on the grounds of a California state park.

He was skinny, dirty and shaking in fear, Tim said, standing protectively over his companion, a small spaniel cross who was then in heat. They were surrounded by about 15 male dogs, all denizens of the park, where Tim lives. Tim, who’s made it a mission to take in strays, whisked up the dusty, hungry pair of vagabonds, cleaned their wounds and washed their coats, fed them well, and brought them home for Christmas.

In spite of Leto’s striking, blue-eyed beauty and obviously heroic nature, my first meeting with him did not brand the dog as prime adoption material.

Tim, my brother and I were holding approximately 70 pounds’ worth of stained glass panels in my parents’ kitchen overhead lights, trying to maneuver new fluorescent light bulbs so we wouldn’t have to cook Christmas dinner in the dark.

We noticed the husky mix and the spaniel, who were stashed in the den to avoid scuffles with my parents’ pit bull, were being suspiciously quiet (If you are the parent of a child, furry or human, you know what I mean – silence is always a bad sign). Tim shifted his portion of panel over to me and went to peek.

Inside the den, Leto had used his superior height to drag down a nice new printer cartridge from the upper shelves for him and the spaniel to chew. It must have been delicious – much more delicious than the legitimate dog toys he and the spaniel were ignoring – because he then moved on to a whole bottle of ink, blue leaking out of the teeth marks they left.

The dogs trotted nonchalantly out of the den as Tim ran for the carpet cleaner and the stained glass wobbled above Ian’s and my heads.

Leto went upstairs to introduce himself to the pit bull. And by introduce, I mean in the sort of way the 15 lustful dogs were trying to introduce themselves to the spaniel. The pit bull was having none of it, and Leto didn’t take rejection well. He stole one of her toys, then peed on her dog bed.

In the meantime, my parents had come home from grocery shopping, and the spaniel had wandered off through the open front door into traffic. We ran after the tiny creature, seized her and tossed her back in the den.

“Where’s Leto?” my mom asked, after inspecting the damaged carpet.

“He’s around here somewhere, trying to break all 10 commandments before lunchtime,” I responded.

By the time we located Leto, installed him in the den with a fresh supply on non-ink-filled chew toys, stripped the pit bull’s dog bed and soothed the insult to her honor, I was in love.

This is my kind of dog, I thought to myself. He’s like a bat out of hell. We belong together.

My boyfriend disagreed, but I reminded him he’d been almost as much a mess as Leto when we met, and I moved in with him.

Three months later, I jumped in my pickup. The dog, Tim and Ian jumped in their car, and we all met in the middle. After a beautiful three days in Denver, Leto and I drove home.

We still have five commandments to go.

Creature Feature is a monthly pet column in SheSays. Reporter Emily Welker can be reached at ewelker@forumcomm.com