He needed a foster home. I wasn’t really set up for it, living in a rented basement bachelor suite with a Great Dane and two cats, but he needed a safe haven. Those are hard to come by in small, remote, northern Canadian towns that are overrun with hungry stray dogs and where the local rescue agency volunteers’ homes are continually filled to the rafters with pups and cats. I called the rescue agency and let them know that I’d found him and that I’d hang onto the little guy until they had room.
His coat was brown and scruffy and a fat belly protruded around skinny legs. I’d later learn that was because he was full of worms, but initially, I looked at him and thought that with an orange sweater on he’d look just like the A&W Root Bear. I christened him Rooty Root Bear.
My Great Dane, Piper, was just shy of her first birthday when I brought Rooty Root Bear home. I had adopted her as a puppy from a humane society in British Columbia before moving back to Saskatchewan. When I showed her Rooty, she acted as if I’d brought her a new teddy bear. She loved him up and laid on the ground so he could romp all over her, acting tough and chewing on her cheeks and ears.
It was a couple of days before one of the rescue volunteers could meet up with me at the local youth centre to check the puppy out and give him his first set of vaccinations. The first thing she diagnosed was lice. It was all I could do not to vomit on the spot once she showed them to me in the thick of his coat crawling about. If he wasn’t so dang cute, I’m not sure I would have taken him back home with me that night. There still wasn’t any room for him within the rescue shelter homes so back I trodded with Rooty Root Bear under one arm and a bottle of delousing shampoo in the other.
I bathed Rooty, the wee guy, in the kitchen sink and then bleached it. I trashed the floor rugs and started washing the dog beds. But how to bathe Piper? A Great Dane and late autumn. Too cold to wash her under the garden hose.
The bachelor suite had only a mini shower stall. Lift your arms to scrub the shampoo on your head and you’d take the skin off your elbows. It was so tight. There was only one way about it. I stripped down to my underwear, got in with her and shut the door. Every time I turned her to scrub another spot her nose went squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeak as it smeared across the plexiglass and made me laugh. The situation was so absurd.
Piper turned one. I bought party hats.
It lasted a whole 30 seconds before Rooty Root Bear ripped it off Piper’s head. I put another on her head and then strapped one onto Rooty which he pulled over his face and proceeded to attack.
Rooty Root Bear was a lovely little guy and he mimicked everything his big buddy Piper did. He didn’t have accidents in the house because he went outside just like her. He quit crying at night in his kennel because she put her nose to him at the kennel door and calmed him. He learned to climb the stairs one by one because he wanted to follow her up and outside. He learned to wait patiently for his food because Piper sat and waited for hers.
I thought about keeping him. I really did. They got along so well and the cats accepted Rooty too
but, I realized, in the town that was my new home there was an ongoing need for short-term crisis housing for strays and I couldn’t keep him and continue to help other needy animals. I sent Rooty south to a long-term foster home in Saskatoon where he was quickly adopted by a loving couple with a young German shepherd who needed a friend. And Piper and I went on to foster several more pups and an adult dog. Always the friend, the social butterfly, the one to calm and play with and cuddle too, Piper has been a fantastic friend to many frightened, lonely, scared, sick dogs in her first three years of life. She is truly a Great Dane with a Great Heart and a lot of Love to share.
And when I was in my new house with a big back yard… I caved in and kept two of the fosters so now Piper, 4, has a pack to belong to and she’s never short on someone to play or cuddle with.
Charlie and True.