Rescue Dogs Are Like a Box Of Chocolates…

When you rescue a dog you can never be too sure about what you’re going to get. The beagle, a Texan, came from the Houston Beagle Rescue Association. An organization which appeared (from its website) to have dozens of middle-aged beagles with some serious baggage.

Each beagle had an icon to click with a story to tell. “Her previous owners started a new business and they were never home” or “the previous owners had a baby and it just didn’t work out with the dog”. All of the excuses seemed perfectly legitimate, but in hindsight I imagine it was easier than “this dog is out of control and incredibly inconvenient in my life” or “this dog likes to pee on the carpet five times a day and last week she ate a frozen chicken along with the polystyrene plate and glad wrap it came in” (that’s our girl).

When you rescue an expat animal the stories are a little different. The bunny that hops into your yard may have belonged to the people at number 24 who mysteriously left the country weeks ago. The once fluffy white cat who you think belonged to the family at number 98 is now skinny, matted, and living under  your car – you’re pretty sure you saw the moving van at 98 a month ago. And then there was the Pekinese beauty who was left in the laundry after the packers had loaded their final box. Erm, forget something?

In our case Kimmy the cocker spaniel came from the friend of a friend who was moving back to her homeland. Kimmy had lived in Qatar since she was a puppy which is why they thought it best to leave her here rather than take her with them to Scotland. She was an old girl, a dame in the dog world.

I’d been looking for a companion for the incessantly barking beagle. I’d read that having a friend around would quieten the beagle down (it didn’t). I was sure she’d find it calming (she didn’t). “I think we should get an older dog, something her size so she’s not threatened.” I was desperately trying to convince my husband (he wasn’t). After seeing Kimmy in my newsfeed I knew she was the one and like all good rescue dog stories, the children and I took her “just for a couple of hours”. I knew my husband would be overjoyed at the prospect of another dog (he wasn’t).

And as beautiful as she was we knew from the first day we’d got it wrong. Kimmy not only enjoyed a good bark, she encouraged a good bark. She and the beagle were now in barking nirvana. They barked in the morning, they barked at night, they barked when they were happy, they barked when they were sad. “C’mon lets start barking!” she’d encourage the beagle at 5am. “Let’s do it again!” she’d howl while we ate our breakfast. “Keep going!” she’d yap as we packed the dishwasher and loaded the car for school. “Okay, you can stop now!” she’d declare once we left the house.

They barked when they were hungry, they barked to celebrate a meal. They barked when visitors came, and when visitors left. They barked all their way through every dinner party and movie night. But there was a level of companionship that can’t be denied, they travelled together. And like a couple of grouchy old aunts they took their space in our world and demanded attention when they felt it was deserved.

“Great” said my husband “let me get this straight, so now instead of one neurotic dog we now have two neurotic dogs?”

“Yes”

“And we’ve once again taken a dog that someone else no longer wanted?”

“Yes”

“And this improves our lives how?”

“It doesn’t – but now the beagle has a friend!”

He shook his head and sighed. For the next few years when the barking got too much he’d look at me and say “that bloody dog” and I’d nod in agreement as if I’d had nothing to do with her arrival.

My work day begins at 5am and like many, kicks off with a strong cup of coffee made in our kitchen, but I was on the phone to a colleague before I’d got downstairs to get started this morning. I’d stopped half way there on the couch in the living room which meant I wasn’t the first to see that Kimmy had had a stroke overnight.

I was mid sentence, talking about the layout of our website when G mouthed that something was really wrong with the dog. When I made my way into the kitchen she was laying motionless with our nine year old Henry Hotdog and my husband crouched over her. For the next hour (while we waited for the vet’s doors to open) each of us spent some time brushing her hair, stroking her ears and telling her she’d been a good dog.

When the children left for school each of them held the optimism of a child, thinking the vet would miraculously bring the old girl back. “Peace out and good luck” said the teen. “The beagle will miss you if you don’t come back” said the tween. “I’ll be sad if you’re not here” said the nine year old.

When they were gone we scooped up the Grand Dame in a blanket and made our way to the vets.

Lizzie, who is of course home from school travelled in the back of the car, stroking the cocker spaniel’s head as we made our way in silence. When the vet told us the facts we all cried, including G who confirmed my recent suspicions that under that tough guy exterior is the kindest and most beautiful man I know. I’d watched him for an hour that morning as he’d brushed the hair of the dog who’d driven him crazy while the children unknowingly said their goodbyes.

It is a privilege to see a dog through its life. Even if it’s one of the most annoying dogs you’ve ever met. This morning my family shared an experience that will make us both stronger as people, and in our love for each other. We held tight today, there were tears, inappropriate giggles, and lots of hugs. It was brutal, but it was pure love and sadness.

Goodbye old girl, we’re all the better for having you in our lives.

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