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It's True, Dogs and Their Owners Do Become Alike. Mine Bites.

It's True, Dogs and Their Owners Do Become Alike. Mine Bites.

Not much sleep last night. Wide awake at 4 a.m., hiding beneath the sheets. A pretty sad state of affairs when a fellow of my years has to hide under his own bedding to avoid being bitten in the face by a dog.

But there you have it. Rescue dogs. Two of them. It's how my wife and I handle things. I liked the sullen blue healer-mix with the scary eyes. She liked the doe-eyed terrier-mix with the George Rodrigue ears. (I refer to the other George Rodrigue, who does the Blue Dog paintings.)

My own rescue dog snaps at my face in my sleep. Not sure what triggers it. Snoring? Or is she just sitting there the whole time thinking about biting my nose off? Does it build on her? Something about my face in particular? My sleeping facial expression somehow triggers attack mode? You try sleeping with that.

It's not just me. I am even comforted, in a strange way, by the fact that she bites other people too. I respect that. I think it's what I secretly admire in her. Dogs are our proxies, doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves.

We have found at our house that it changes the whole dynamic of receiving visitors when you have to say at the door, "I'm sorry, but try not to make any fast moves around that one." My wife doesn't like it a bit. I'm agnostic. No one forces them to visit.

Jim's dog Dorothy. Oddly, that's the same chops-licking face he makes when he's about to write something about John Wiley Price.
Jim's dog Dorothy. Oddly, that's the same chops-licking face he makes when he's about to write something about John Wiley Price.

Her dog is sweet and mild beyond compare but still has some pretty wacko rescue dog traits, if you ask me. In a former life, somebody did something very mean to this dog about coming back into the house from the back yard. When you open the door, she curls up in a corkscrew on her back in a way that says plaintively, "Please, oh Lady and Sir, do not beat me for asking to come back into your fine and warm house."

Oh, jeez. What can you even say to that? It could be a ploy for those fake bacon treats. If so, it works. Of the two, she's the one with a case of the chubs.

My rescue dog is much more straightforward. Bounds in exuberantly, maybe gives you a passing little nip on the shank -- nothing to break the skin, just a bit of a hair-snatcher. Quick little ouch.

My dog has been ruined, by the way, for visits to East Texas, because I was forced by other household personnel to rename her "Dorothy." Dorothy! Who names a dog Dorothy? It was posed as some kind of compromise. If we keep the biter, she's going to be named Dorothy. Like that will somehow ameliorate?

I had her out there in a small East Texas town one time, and she got away from me. I was afraid she would bite somebody, which in East Texas is a 12-gauge offense. So I'm walking around this small East Texas town angrily shouting, "DOROTHY! DOROTHY!"

Maybe you don't get the problem. In East Texas, Dorothy is not a dog name. Ever. It's not even possible. People there name their dogs after power tools, like "Makita," or "DeWalt," pronounced DEEwalt. A guy walking around town in Dallas clothes yelling "Dorothy!" is a 12-gauge molester. Anyway, I got her back in the damn truck and took off in time.

Our own Anna Merlan has written about this in a much more comprehensive and responsible way than I am, but based on our experiences with these dogs, here's what I wonder: Is it possible that rescue dogs are crazy less because of what they have been rescued from than what they have been rescued to? I speak of the rescue agency persons.

The guy we got Dorothy from turned out to be OK and quite responsible, but the lady from whom we got the sweet but cringing Penny, our mixed-up terrier, was a galloping loon. Plus, she withheld records from us which would have shown that the dog had heart worms, a trauma from which the dog and we seem to be from recovering. (Please note, Dear Bad Rescue Lady, that you are not named here. I suggest you keep it that way.)

Our vet suggested to us that the heartrending work of rescuing dogs may actually drive people a little bit wacko. They take a huge burden into their hearts, against a culture that can be terribly callous toward animals. But then do they become a worse affliction to the animals themselves, because they're so damned nuts?

Word of advice. Never ever take a dog or cat from a rescue person without a sincere reference from someone you know and trust. Otherwise, assume rescue psychosis.

At 4 o'clock this morning, semi-delirious from sleep deprivation, cringing under a quilt anticipating a sudden clamping of sharp little teeth on my snout, I could see how it happens.


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