Cody was a stunningly handsome shepherd/collie mix who I was sure would make our life with three dogs absolutely wonderful. That happened eventually, but it took nearly a year to get there.
At first life seemed a lot like the movie 50 First Dates.
How Cody spent his puppyhood
Cody spent his first year living in a pen that was the size of an average dining room table. He wasn’t in an abusive home; the pen was built to protect him.
A dog rescuer in our area had become well-known for saving abandoned and abused Pitbull dogs. He lived on a ranch outside of town. He would accept these pups from rescue groups in exchange for dog food. It was a system that worked well for everyone.
On occasion, individuals who knew about his ranch would abandon a dog in the middle of the night.
That’s what happened to Cody. Someone dropped him off when he was just a couple of months old.
The man built a wire pen to protect Cody from the more aggressive dogs in the pack. Unfortunately, what was supposed to be a temporary solution turned into a year of isolation for Cody.
One day the rescue group I’m affiliated with, Heaven Can Wait Animal Society, agreed to take custody of Cody. He was two-years-old at the time.
Training at the women’s prison
Rescued dogs at Heaven Can Wait are housed and socialized at the women’s prison. The program’s called Pups on Parole and it’s wildly successful for getting dogs ready for life with a family of their own. The dogs live and train with inmates who are specially chosen for the program. Most of the women go on to find jobs working with animals after their release.
Cody did well in the program, but he bonded deeply with his female handler. It left him extremely nervous around men.
How our life looked like a bad movie
The movie, 50 First Dates, with Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler, is about a woman who has a form of amnesia that makes her forget everyone she met the previous day.
Cody was that character in the movie. Every morning he would wake up and look at my husband, Ken, as if he was seeing him for the first time.
He would shoot up in a state of panic, bolt through the house and run out doggie door to the safety of the backyard.
Then slowly throughout the day Ken would win his confidence with treats, walks, car rides and quality time spent together. By the evening Cody would be sitting next to Ken on the couch.
But somehow there was a disconnect during the night and we’d wake up to Cody’s panic and bolting out the door. It’s kind of funny now, but at the time we were worried if Cody would ever overcome his fears.
This is how we got through it
We solved our problem with regular daily walks around our 3-mile loop. Some dogs have a favorite toy or bone and other dogs live to chase a ball, but Cody’s number one activity was to go for a walk.
Maybe it had to do with being locked in a pen for a year, but he absolutely adored the exercise, the open spaces and checking out the multitude of smells along the path. It was his little slice of heaven.
Cody would walk on my left side and Shadow would walk on my right. Ken would carry supplies like a water bottle and treats in an army green canvas backpack while holding on tightly to Sophie’s leash.
Although Sophie was a smallest dog, her independent nature made her our worst leash walker. She’d see something interesting and want to head in that direction, even though the rest of us were walking another way. So, it was best for Ken to walk her by herself.
One little detour
Life was good once again for our family, but we had a small detour I need to share. In December 2007 I learned about a litter of feral kittens that needed help. The 10-week-old babies were fending for themselves and were in danger of freezing to death during the fast approaching winter.
So, one evening Ken and I loaded up our car with four cat traps. We set them up in the area where the kittens were seen and placed four small food bowls with tuna inside each trap. Much to our surprise we returned home that night with four howling little balls of fur in the back of our SUV.
To make a long story short, I spent the winter socializing this very wild foursome of kittens. I even had to get a tetanus shot after a nasty bite, but I didn’t give up. It was my goal to get them ready for adoption and into forever homes.
Only one of the kittens ever became adoptable and she found a home with a vet tech. The boys: Sport, Spike and Tiger stayed with me. They became the sweetest and most loving cats I’ve known. Today only Spike and Tiger are still with us. They’re wonderful little old felines.
The first signs that something was wrong with Sophie
From September 2005 until the summer of 2008, our family clocked hundreds of miles walking our 3-mile loop. Then one day, we noticed Sophie was having a hard time keeping up with the rest of us. We stopped several times to let her rest. We even teased her about being an old lady; after all she was 10-years-old.
During the next few weeks, Sophie began to slip on our tile floor. At first Ken and I thought something slippery must be on the floor, although we never found anything.
Later we would catch her pulling herself up from the ground. It appeared that her back legs were giving out on her as she turned a corner in the house. I would inspect her legs for any telltale signs of an injury or any information that would explain why she slipped. But I never found anything.
Ken and I were confused and we became increasingly worried. Her symptoms were growing worse by the day. She showed signs of weakness in her hind legs and yet her personality was the same. She was still boss of the family dogs. She still ate well and wanted to go for walks.
As with our previous dogs, Missy and Bear, our walks started to get shorter. By November we made our first appointment for Sophie to see the vet.