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True Love With A Senior Dog Inspired The Book, "Walks With Sierra"

True Love With A Senior Dog Inspired The Book, "Walks With Sierra"

Walks with Sierra: The Story of an Old Soul is the memoir of a stray. Sierra takes us into his world and chronicles in lyrical vignettes what was to be the last year of his life.

This special dog shares his inner most thoughts and touching conversations with momma and his new friends, his pig sister Wilma, a magnificent grey heron, and the other animals with whom he has come to live on 68-acres of rugged Pennsylvania farmland.

Walks With Sierra is a tender and cathartic story that speaks to the powerful bond between humans and the animals that enrich our lives.
It’s a love story that will tug at your heartstrings, and a gift that will make you smile, have you weep, and remind you of the indelible mark one can leave upon another.


A beautiful, hardcover picture book, Walks with Sierra makes the ideal gift for anyone who has ever loved or lost a dog, and the kindhearted among us who still believe in the miracle of second chances.

The author, Liz Brooking, also a Muttville volunteer, tells us about her life before and after Sierra.

Before Sierra, what was your life like growing up or raising dogs?
I had an idyllic childhood. My early years were spent on a 50-acre, retired horse farm in Massachusetts. We spent quite a bit of time out of doors with four ponies, a horse, and a series of yellow labs. The most memorable of these lovely dogs was our first. His name was Flash.

Flash really wasn’t ours, however; I think it’s more appropriate to say that, while he was my brother’s dog, he actually belonged to the neighborhood. Flash would often disappear for days on end. He’d apparently taken up residence half way across town with a family who was only too happy to keep him.

He always returned home on foot or in the back of our wood-paneled station wagon, sometimes sporting newly acquired lipstick and a bonnet.

Senior dogs we know hold a special place in your heart. How was Sierra a part of that awareness and appreciation for older dogs?
Liz: When Sierra came into my life, he was at death’s door. At 14 years of age, he didn’t have much life ahead of him—but his was a life worth living nonetheless. He had been dining on carcasses and manure for weeks, I imagine, and he was in a very compromised state. This beautiful dog was riddled with worms, malnourished, arthritic, tired and disoriented. Can you imagine being old – with limited ability to take care of yourself and nobody to love and care for you? My heart bled for him.

Whether it was intuition or sheer desperation I will never know, but Sierra sat outside my door and beckoned me. It was as if he knew that when he asked me I would say yes. “Yes. You can stay with me.”

I have always assumed he was simply a victim of financial hardship because the timing of his arrival was coincidental with the downturn in the stock and job markets. I imagine that he was driven far from home and dumped by the roadside—something I can’t understand when there are no-kill shelters that will take the unwanted.

It was his good fortune that he came to my door, and mine that no one ever came to claim him. I nursed him back to health and, frankly, he did the same for me. He came to me at a very difficult time in my life and his presence was buoying. He taught me to live in the present and to enjoy each moment we are granted. At his age his time was short, but I like to think those last eight months were as rich and wonderful for him as they were for me.

How did you discover Muttville?
Liz: Like most good things that happen to us in life, my discovery of Muttville was totally random. I was at the dentist’s office in a waiting room filled with Highlights Magazines. There were only two adult publications to browse through and the magazine I picked up had a feature story about Sherri and Muttville. I was three thousand miles away, missing San Francisco, and my beloved Sierra. I knew when I returned to my city by the Bay, I had to get involved. I sent Sherri a check and my book, Walks with Sierra , and a year later I was volunteering.

What’s your favorite memory of Sierra?
Liz:I have so many wonderful memories of Sierra. I loved our morning rituals. Walking the farm together before sunrise and hearing the hoot owl. How he would perk his ears and sit expectantly while I prepared his breakfast and sang our special song. The way he sniffed at the wind and the majesty of his stance. Most of all though, I loved his warm welcome home each time I returned to our house on the farm.

What do you think Sierra would say about all the wonderful work you are doing now with Muttville?
Liz: “Thank you, Momma. To the ends of the earth, I love you.”

As a Muttville volunteer, Liz began as one of our much needed dog walkers, and now also contributes her talent as a writer. It’s hard to be surrounded by the mutts and not be tempted to take one home. Liz’s heart was captured by one named Rex. Read her article contributed for Muttville and first published in Bay Woof Magazine

mariem3 | 06.29.11 | 0 comments

Muttville and SF SPCA March in Pride 2011

Muttville and SF SPCA March in Pride 2011

Muttville filled the streets with our largest crew to date! Over 30 people came to march with Muttville for the senior dog cause! Thank you Pet Food Express for joining Muttville this year. Not only did they arrive with over 15 volunteers, they provided us with a new banner, special Muttville/Pet Food Express tees that commemorated our 1000th rescue, Maxwell, and hand fans we passed out to the crowd. The weather was beautiful and perfect for our senior mutts Lola, Napoleon, Millie, Dante, Zorrito, Winston, and Maxwell, who joined us for the fun. Some enjoyed the walk while others preferred a cozy ride in our doggy strollers.
Many thanks to all of our great, dedicated Muttville volunteers who joined us!

Thanks to Ruffles Art Studio for the great photos capturing our fun, and to Switchblade Creative Studios for designing our tees, banner, and hand fans promoting Muttville and Pet Food Express’ My Mutts.
See lots of great pics on Muttville’s Facebook Page and photos courtesy Ruffles Art Studio’s Lauren.

Also, thanks to PFE, we have a behind-the-scenes video!

mariem3 | 06.27.11 | 2 comments

Muttville Gals Speak Their Mind on "7 Live"

Muttville Gals Speak Their Mind on "7 Live"

Muttville was proudly represented by Patty, Kay, Anne, Ali, Holly, Caroline, and Marie on ABC’s 7 Live, aired Tuesday, June 21. Sitting in the “Voice Box”, Patty spoke her mind against Michael Vick. GO MUTTVILLE!! Thanks to host Brian Copeland for the special shout out to Muttville. And hopefully we can help him find a new dachshund to join his family!

A very big THANK YOU to Christine from Wag Hotels for inviting us to participate, and giving us the opportunity to promote our June 23 event at Wag Hotels in San Francisco, Summer Solstice Party.

Click here to watch the episode!

mariem3 | 06.22.11 | 0 comments

Tuki

Tuki

Thank you for this touching tribute from her loving companion, Evan:

Tuki, my beloved wiener dog mystery mutt, died last night around midnight. I stroked her fur, looked into her gorgeous brown eyes and listened to her heartbeats wane as she went.

She was brave and tough to the end, holding on like the true fighter she was.

And everyone who knew her knew that what made her truly extraordinary was not her extremely odd and mutant beauty, her snowshoe paws, her divoted head, or her olive-loaf shape wrapped in a tuxedo wolf-coat, but that she was possessed of an untarnished spirit.

Though she was left behind and neglected for so much of her life, she was always ready to show devotion, to be a faithful dog, to love and be loved. I always had the feeling she knew she was a queen, and that all the things she was denied in those years of sadness and abandonment were hers by right. I was only too lucky and privileged to provide those things for the last years of her life, and in return she repaid me with endless silliness and grace and the kind of unexpected warmth that surprises you every time a furry snout nuzzles your hand as it dangles over the couch.

She was a marvelous companion, and I dont think Ive ever known a dog that so clearly spoke to me, so ringingly supplied the silent end of a conversation that took place entirely in my head. The voice behind those eyes was at times that of a cranky old lady, and at times that of a newborn pup, but always let me know that I was not alone, and that I belonged to her as much as she belonged to me.

In short, she effortlessly waddled into my heart and rekindled in me a love I hadn’t felt since I sat with my arm around my dog as a little boy, and in those days, I had a child’s acceptance of it; unexamined, taken for granted, and though no less deep, less consciously a source of lessons and of connection to the deep well of universal life.

And so I shall always be grateful to Tuki, to Sherri, Ali, and to Muttville, for bringing Tuki into my life. I learned a lot from her, and she brought me so many happy hours of snuggling, of slow rambles through streets and forests and gardens, or simply digging my fingers and burying my face into the earthy scented curls of her incredible coat.

But most of all I’m grateful to her, and to you, for rekindling that childhood love, and for making me feel like a little boy with the dog that made him complete again.

For giving us both a second chance.

mariem3 | 06.20.11 | 0 comments

"At Muttville, Senior Dogs Get a Fresh Start" by Liz Brooking

"At Muttville, Senior Dogs Get a Fresh Start" by Liz Brooking

Originally published in Bay Woof May 2011 issue. Thank you Mindy and Rocket for giving special love to Muttville’s Liz and Rex!

At Muttville, Senior Dogs Get a Fresh Start

By Liz Brooking

Snuggled up beside me on my couch is a Poodle named Rex. At eleven years old, he’s a sweet and intelligent dog that is fond of giving and getting kisses. He loves to look at himself in the mirror (it so happens that he is rather dashing), and he turns to putty at the mere suggestion of a belly rub. Rex is extremely good at catch — and, like most sensible adults, he enjoys an afternoon nap or two.

I watch him as he lets out a deep sigh and his breath settles into that steady rhythm of sleep, and I am reminded of why I came to volunteer at Muttville, recently named Best Cause and Best Rescue Group by this newspaper’s dog-loving readers.

Muttville is a safe haven that provides a second chance for senior dogs like Rex that, through no fault of their own, have been abandoned. They come to Muttville for a variety of reasons, often victims of an owner’s financial hardship, relocation, ill health, or even death. They come from families who can no longer care for them or they are rescued from another shelter to save them from being euthanized. Muttville is quite literally their last resort; it is also a place of hope and renewal.

Rex’s story is hardly unique. There are thousands of adoptable dogs like him in Northern California shelters and rescues — but few are like Muttville, the wonderful house in which Rex found a temporary home before he came to live with me at his forever home. Muttville is different; its special focus on senior dogs, seven years and older, fills a niche that is not being addressed by others.

Older dogs, says Sherri Franklin, Muttville’s executive director, are typically passed over for adoption in favor of the young. So many wonderful dogs are overlooked despite the fact that they’re often the best fit for some families because they’ve already passed the destructive puppy stage, they’re house trained, and their size and personalities are fully developed. “You know exactly what you’re getting with an older dog,” Franklin says.

It’s also true that older dogs need companionship more than they need a long run in the park. All of these characteristics are exactly what make Muttville dogs an ideal choice for many older adults and that’s why Franklin created the organization’s successful Seniors for Seniors program.

Ivan, an 83-year old widowed and retired teacher, is one of the program’s participants. The mini Schnauzer with whom Ivan shared a full life passed away two years ago. Losing his special and steadfast companion left a great gap. Fortunately, Ivan found a new best friend at Muttville. MacKenzie, an eleven-year old mini Schnauzer is now settled into her forever home and Ivan is delighted. He reports that she commands all of his attention, and that makes them both very happy.

From week to week at Muttville, an eclectic and ever-changing collection of senior dogs come and go. While they await adoption, a virtual army of veterinarians, groomers, trainers, volunteers, foster parents, friends, and supporters meet the unique emotional and physical needs of every dog. Each receives any needed medical attention — from dental work and vaccinations, to neutering, spaying, and other operative procedures.

What makes Muttville even more special for volunteers and dogs alike is the environment. The dogs are housed in a mult-story home where they can roam freely, interacting at will with humans and other canines. The camaraderie of a group of dogs who have found a warm bed, a good meal, and a makeshift family after suffering great hardship is a very special bond.

Muttville’s success is actually the success of the community that supports it. Its value is measured by the sheer number of dogs it has cared for and placed (coming up on 1,000 in just a few short years of operation.) But more importantly, its success is reflected in the hopeful wag of a tail, a dog’s renewed trust in human companionship, andthe healthy, happy life ahead of him.

As a volunteer, I watch these dogs go through a total transformation in the few weeks they call Muttville home and every time I see that I, too, am transformed. That’s the real value of Muttville.

So I’m not at all surprised that this wonderful shelter can now boast of the city’s proclamation declaring a special day in its honor. That’s right. San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee recently named May 10th “Muttville Senior Dog Rescue Day.”

You, too, can help Muttville continue its life-saving work. A modest monthly donation will make you a Mutt Guardian and will help them go on to rescue the next 1,000 dogs. Of course, you could also adopt a senior canine companion from Muttvile. Rex and I assure you, you’ll get back far more than you’ll ever give.

Ed Note: For more information about how you can be a part of Muttville’s continued succes, and to meet adoptable dogs, visit www.muttville.org.

Liz Brooking is a volunteer at Muttville and author of the award-winning book, Walks With Sierra

mariem3 | 06.18.11 | 0 comments

Muttville's Maggie Gives Special Thank You to SFVS

Muttville's Maggie Gives Special Thank You to SFVS

Originally shared on Yelp, thanks To Maggie’s mom Ann, here are words of gratitude on behalf of Maggie. Many thanks to Josie for Maggie’s beautiful photos

My name is Maggie and I am a very sweet German Shorthair Pointer. I owe my life to the caring and highly-skilled people at SFVS.

For the first ten years of my life, I lived in a city backyard until I was dumped at SF Animal Care & Control, a bundle of skin & bones. Luckily, Muttville, a senior dog rescue group, saved me. SFVS treats Muttville’s difficult medical cases, often at generous discounts. I was in their ICU twice via the ER; once for four days, hardly eating or moving, but Dr. Maretzki and the staff did not give up on me. Dr. Maretzki would call my foster Mom every morning & night with updates -which obviously meant he was working very long shifts, like most everyone there does. What dedication.

I really love to run and explore, even though I have a pinched nerve and arthritis. It’s the most exciting thing in the world to me, which I can do thanks to Dr. Watt. He did a shoulder joint tap to diagnose and flush my septic arthritis in the ICU and later injected hyaluronic acid into my leg joints for lubrication. Almost everyone who sees me out & about comments on how I look like I am smiling, I am so happy. I am, thanks to him.

I also have Inflammatory Bowel Disease, which is a tricky condition to diagnose and treat but Dr. Maretzki and Dr. Stewart have done just that. Dr. Stewart has spent hours formulating recipes for me. But who could eat enough food with cracked teeth and abscessed gums? I couldn’t until Dr. Anderson fixed all that. Thru it all, there was Dr. Woods, the acupuncturist, literally by my side. She came in on her day off to see me in the ICU and also made herself available to give me acupuncture treatments after almost every one of my procedures in addition to my regular appointments with her.

None of the Drs could do what they do without the amazing staff at SFVS, from the front desk to the back hospital rooms. I think they have the most difficult jobs in some ways. They support the Drs but who supports them? I can see that it takes an inner fortitude for everyone there to deal with all of the anguished owners, ungrateful owners, unreasonable owners, careless owners, impatient owners, obsessive owners, and, of course, the stressed or very ill pets. There are also the many grateful owners and animals, of which I am one. I live with three other dogs of varying ages who ALL owe their lives to SFVS as well, but this was just my story.

mariem3 | 06.15.11 | 0 comments

Success Story Phoebe

Success Story Phoebe

Here is a hilarious look at the new life of Phoebe as told by her proud papa, Norm:

Well, I’ve created a brat. A cute brat, but a brat just the same.

It was obvious when I got Phoebe that she had never, in her entire life, had anything to look forward to. I decided I was going to fix that. It took a while but I have her now where she loves to share my breakfast bacon. I even get her her own, the turkey bacon is only $2 a pound and I wouldn’t eat the stuff but she loves it.

Well, one morning I was late getting her her first piece and she could smell it cooking. She stood on the porch; she can see me in the kitchen and BARKED at me with an indignant look on her face no less. She barked twice – like “you’re tardy with the bacon dude.” It was too funny. But what makes it funnier is that I had never heard her bark before that, I didn’t think she knew how. She’ll stand on the porch and watch rabbits hop by and ducks waddle by and not make a sound.

Also, when I first got her she didn’t know what dog treats were. I left four different types right by the door she uses to go in and out and she never looked at them. I finally found some chicken strips that are kind of like bacon and she LOVES them. She’s become a pest about them too. The only time I’ve see her tail up is when she snatches treat off of the porch and scampers into the back yard to eat it.

Of course, she won’t take the bacon or treats from my fingers; I can’t be trusted don’t ya know…

What a cutie.

Phoebe has come a long way since her first day at Muttville. We are so proud of her, and so thankful that Norm has given her the new beginning she deserves!

mariem3 | 06.13.11 | 1 comment

Fostering A Dog

Fostering A Dog

A great article written by Muttville foster mom and behavior/training volunteer, Vicki Ronchette of Brave Heart Dog Training

I foster dogs. Over the years I have fostered a slew of different dogs, mostly Dachshunds and Pekingese but also several mixed breeds, some Chihuahuas, a few Rottweilers and even a Boxer, a Doberman and a Belgian Sheepdog along the way. I find my rescue work to be among the most rewarding in my life. I have stepped back several times and taken breaks, but I always find my way back to it.

People sometimes ask me, “How do you do it? I could never do that”. The truth is, they could do it! Rescue work can be difficult, but believe it or not, it’s not the fostering that is difficult, it is the having to say “no” that is so hard. The reason most groups have to say “no” is because there are simply not enough foster homes. I know that for every dog that I foster a second chance at life is offered to a homeless dog. This is a huge deal to me and more important than almost anything else I can offer to someone. Saving a life, that’s a biggie.

People often feel that they wouldn’t be able to handle giving the dog up. The truth is that several of my dogs are “foster failures” which means that they came here to be fostered and I ended up adopting them myself. Part of the beauty of fostering dogs is that you generally have the option of adopting your foster dog yourself! Of course, it is great if you can continue fostering, but if you can’t, you have still saved a dog. For me, I have mostly ended up adopting dogs that for whatever reason were not highly adoptable. Of course, the plan is that your foster dog is coming to you so that you can care for him or her while an appropriate home is found. When the perfect home is found, the dog will move on with his or her life and go into their new, permanent, loving, forever home. This isn’t sad, it’s wonderful! Are there ever tears? Yes, sometimes there are, but they are generally tears of joy because you get the satisfaction of knowing that you helped that dog and that family to find one another. You have made it possible for this dog to live. Until you have done it, you have no idea how rewarding this feeling is.

There is a big misconception that all rescue dogs have either health or behavioral problems, but this just isn’t the case. Many of the dogs are misplaced because their owners lost their home, or their elderly caretakers passed away. The majority of dogs that I have fostered have been well adjusted, social dogs that had no issues. Most of them came into my home and lived side by side with my own group of dogs easily and without issue. Sometimes we do get rescue dogs that require some veterinary care and those dogs need foster homes too, it’s just a matter of finding the right dog for your situation.

I work with multiple rescue groups and generally the rescue group pays for all the dogs veterinary care and anything else you would need to care for the dog. Typically you work with a Foster Coordinator or some other person within the group who will match you with the appropriate dog for your family and lifestyle. In my experience, there is a lot of support offered to the fosters so you don’t have to feel on your own. With some groups you may be asked and in some cases required to bring your foster dog to events or “showcases” where foster dogs go to meet the public and potential adopters.

Contrary to popular belief, you can foster just a certain breed of dog. There are many purebred rescue dog groups that rescue specific breeds of dogs, so if you already have a breed you love, you may want to work with a breed rescue group. Or, do you feel like you would like to foster but you need a less active or dog that is set in his or her ways? There are rescue groups that rescue only senior dogs. If you like puppies, there are rescue groups that only work with puppies. There are also rescue groups that work with only small dogs or only giant dogs. Whatever type of dog you want to help, there is a rescue group out there for you.

Hospice care is also an option. Offering hospice care to a terminally ill animal can be emotionally challenging, but I have done it and still consider it one of the most rewarding fostering experiences I have had. To be able to offer a home to a sweet, friendly, outgoing terminally ill senior dog and allowing her to live out the end of her life treated like a princess instead of dying in a shelter was extremely rewarding to me. And, my short time with her in no way minimized the experience for me. She needed us and we were there and we would do it again in a heartbeat. However, admittedly, hospice care is certainly not for everyone.

So, are you cut out for this work? Check below to see if you you meet some of the criteria below:

You you love dogs

You own a home or rent where you can have dogs

You have no dogs of your own or you have one or multiple of your own dog friendly dogs

You have the time to care for a dog

You are thinking about adopting a dog, but not sure if you are ready for a long term commitment

You want to save a life

Fostering a dog is a commitment, but it is easier than you may think. Please consider fostering a dog. Most of my foster dogs stay with me for an average of two weeks. The seniors can be slightly longer, but generally under a month.

Finally, if you want to help, but really feel like fostering is not for you, please know that most rescue groups have many other volunteer positions available. I took on the position of a Foster Coordinator for a rescue group so that I could still be involved but not with fostering. There is always a need for people to transport dogs, come to events, walk rescue dogs, work on fundraisers, work on the website, work on mailings, take pictures of dogs and so much more. There is a job out there! Please consider helping out.

mariem3 | 06.10.11 | 1 comment

Success Story: Mister Rufus

Success Story: Mister Rufus

Thank you to wonderful parents Anthony and Lori. In their own words, here is their happy life with Mister Rufus:

When we first saw Mister Rufus (his name was Rusty at the time) coming down the street with his foster Susan we were hooked. It was literally love at first sight for us. Sherri had suggested we meet him and from his pictures we thought he might be bigger than we were looking for. But he was just twenty pounds of sweetness that we could not resist.

We met Rufus on a Saturday and by Sunday afternoon he was home with us. He might be a senior dog but he doesn’t show it. He has the spirit and curiosity of a puppy. Mister Rufus suffers from pollen and grain allergies but that doesn’t get him down. He loves to go for walks and hikes and sniffs what seems like every single flower, leaf and blade of grass that crosses his path. Rufus loves to go in the car and we bring him just about everywhere we can including road trips to L.A. He’ll be going camping in Big Sur with us this summer too.

Although I grew up with dogs, Rufus is the first dog that my wife and I have had together and her first dog ever. He’s just about the best dog anyone could hope for and we consider ourselves the lucky ones to have him in our lives. We’re so happy he chose us to be his forever home. He’s the best!

Thank you Muttville!!!

mariem3 | 06.06.11 | 0 comments

Little Prince William's Long Road to Muttville

Little Prince William's Long Road to Muttville

This little prince who hailed from Kern County took an unbearably long path to finally arrive at Muttville. we can’t imagine the poor conditions he was living in before he was seized by the county, nor can we believe he how he held on for dear life a whole month at the shelter. His tiny frail body shows the level of neglect he endured most of his 10 years of life. Now safe at Muttville, he was cheered on by dozens of supporters who posted over 200 comments on Facebook in hopes of saving his life. We are so glad that we could give him the royal life he deserves. Prince Willy may be blind, hairless, and have no muscles, but he has a huge heart and an even bigger will to live! What an example of true courage and bravery you are, Prince William!

Stay tuned, we’ll have video and his profile soon. Prince Willy is looking forward to being strong enough to join us in his first Muttville event. We hope you will be there to welcome him!

mariem3 | 06.05.11 | 3 comments

Muttville had a great time at the 3rd Annual Pacifica Dog Daze!!!

Muttville had a great time at the 3rd Annual Pacifica Dog Daze!!!

Thanks Kristin for the great recap on our day at “Pacifica Dog Daze” on May 14th:

Daisy, Juniper, Dorrit, Zoe, Smokey, and Bubba and Sister were all in attendance to represent Muttville at this fun event. The 5 volunteers had all of the dogs out and about so they could really charm the Dog Daze crowd. When Daisy arrived she instantly began giving out kisses, Juniper and Dorrit were quick friends with anyone who shared a treat, Zoe batted her lashes to try and cuddle with as many people as possible, and Bubba, Sister and Smokey were all very well behaved chihuahuas who caught the sights of many people.

This event was great exposure for Muttville and a wonderful way to introduce us to people living on the peninsula. There was a multitude of other rescue and dog friendly organizations set up in a circle configuration around the edge of the field. The center field provided a wide open space for all the dogs to socialize and Pacifica Pooch provided entertainment through a variety of demonstrations and contests. The goat and duck herding demonstration and the best kisser contest really stick out in my mind!

This is a great event that I can’t wait to be a part of next year…hope to see you there!!

mariem3 | 06.04.11 | 0 comments

How One of Our Newest Volunteers Found Muttville From Across The Seas

How One of Our Newest Volunteers Found Muttville From Across The Seas

Our new volunteer, Holly, discovered Muttville online while she was still in her home country of England. She barely arrived in San Francisco when she excitedly came knocking on our door to join our cause to help senior dogs.

Her inspiration? Read Holly’s story:

Dogs. I know I am preaching to the converted when I say that a house is not a home without one but it is true.

I am currently without a hound, having recently immigrated to the United States to get married. Although I still have part shares in a red German Shepherd, a greedy Lurcher, a three-legged Collie and a clinically insane Terrier cross, they have all remained with their rightful owners in the UK. Having never gone longer than a month without a waggy tailed mutt of some description, I am finding it hugely disorientating. But it won’t last forever. Indeed, I started the search for a waif and stray I could call my own back in Blighty, cup of tea in hand. It was not long before I stumbled across Muttville and set my heart on rehoming one of their worthy pooches.

Muttville won me over with their commitment to the over-looked and under-loved. They are motivated by a truth self-evident to all of us who have ever truly known a dog; that their faculty for love and devotion does not diminish with age. They know that to have an older dog is not to be inconvenienced; it is to be honored with the companionship of a wise and furry ally. They know that an old dog can be taught new tricks.

It is for all of these reasons that I now have Muttville’s number on speed dial, ready for the day I am able to take one of their hounds home. It is also why I have started to volunteer my time to the organization. But there is one other doggie shaped motivator, and if I can, I would like to tell you about her.

When I decided to immigrate to the States, it was not the fine British weather that made me think twice about coming. It wasn’t the impending national obsession with an ill-fitting wedding ring. It wasn’t even my family, beloved as they are. No, it was a mentally deficient German Shepherd named Rufi.

Rufi was our family mutt. She was a great galloping mess of black and ginger fur that would wail like a lost child in a supermarket when she greeted you. She liked to ‘play stick’, but only if it meant she could tear up a living sapling or covertly knock your feet from under you running past with a six-foot log hanging from her chops. She was Queen Bee to all doggy disciples who happened to cross her path, keeping all lesser hounds in line with a bark and a swish of her magnificent corkscrew tail. She was mouthy and silly and embarrassingly aloof to all that were not in her ‘pack’. More than all that though, she was the doggy love of my life.

Rufi bound into my world when I was 14. She came to us as a puppy after the sad loss of a gentle German Shepherd rescue named Bruno, and a Collie cross with velvet ears named Bear. She was a family remedy, brought into our home to heal old wounds. It was a task she took to with great enthusiasm from the get go.

She was my Dad’s dog really, but my little brother and I loved her as much as you could ever love any dog. We would play ball with her and take her out on our bikes, treating her to sneaky cheese and scrambled egg when we arrived home. She was unashamedly spoilt. In fact, after her first Christmas with us that she refused to ever eat her expensive Eukanuba biscuits again because she had been given too much salmon and honey roast ham over the festive period. She was the furry epicenter of our world, and as we got older and that world started to unravel, she was the one thing that remained constant.

Over the coming years my parents got divorced, we moved from our family home and I left for University. I would come back every few weeks or so to visit my then boyfriend and family, but more than anything to visit Rufi. I would walk for hours with her trotting along beside me, nose to the ground and donkey ears to the sky. Finding myself in the middle of the forest alone with her was to find myself at home. When I began contemplating a move to America it was that feeling, and the fur-faced reason behind it of course, that I knew would be the hardest to leave. I didn’t realize I would never get the chance to find out.

Our loving loon of a Fox was taken from us quickly at the age of 10. She had a form of blood cancer that crept up and took her within a day. Just 24 hours before she had been bounding around the woods so excitably a passer by had asked my Dad if she was an over-sized pup. I was visiting my partner in California at the time. She died two days before I was due home. My Dad didn’t tell me as he could not bring himself to do it over the phone, and he didn’t want me to be upset on the plane. It was the worst home coming news of my life.

I sometimes think how Rufi would have faired if she had been unfortunate enough to end up without a home. The last few years of her life were no different from those of her youth; she would still leap over fences and chase balls for hours on end given the chance. To many however, she would have been an undesirable senior, with her snooty nature making her awkward to rehome. She may well have ended up needing rescuing by an organization like Muttville; capable of seeing how devoted a companion she could be, despite her faults.

So I guess that is the real reason I came a ‘knocking at Muttville’s door; to honor a daft old fur bag with a big black nose called Rufi, and all the love she gave me. I know my girl will be waiting for me someplace, someday, but until that time comes I think she would like it if I helped out a few lost Fido’s in need of a pat and a place to call home. Well, actually she would probably sulk, but I’m sure she would understand!

mariem3 | 06.01.11 | 1 comment