It’s been a while since I’ve written, my apologies. I’m in the final semester of my last two graduate degrees and it’s been quite the challenge!
Today is a very unexpected day in the Strauss household. Five months ago, Olivia and I were staring into the face of a huge, fluffy dog and wondering just what it was we had gotten ourselves in to. Will was still deployed to the desert and steadfastly refusing to acknowledge the newest member of the family. In some ways, it feels like just yesterday: Moomkin’s arrival was a high point in what had otherwise been a very, very challenging year. But most of the time, it’s difficult to remember a life that didn’t have Moomkin in it.
Moomkin has changed my life in ways that I am not sure any dog ever has. I have had a menagerie of critters my entire adult life: cats, dog, horses, bunnies, even chinchillas for a time. I have loved all of them, each for their own unique personalities. People always ask if at some point they just all blend in to one, but they never have for me: each has been special and has left a paw print on my heart. Despite that, I have never had that one dog who has changed everything: until now.
Moomkin failed as a Service Dog (he isn’t all that in to working). He drools after every drink and likes to spread it across the TV screen. His meals get stuck in his “mane” and have to be brushed out daily. When he doesn’t like what you are asking him to do, he slumps down and goes limp so that you are forced to literally drag him where you need him to go. He sits ONLY for hotdogs, and goes into a down ONLY when he gets too lazy to stay sitting. He refuses to get off the furniture no matter how often you tell him to, and every morning he wakes you up by jumping on top of you and smacking you across the face with a very heavy paw. He’s messy and hard headed and completely independent. He makes my heart smile so big I can feel it growing in my chest. His happy face lights up every room he enters. No matter how bad things are, he makes them better. Even Will has succumbed to his magic… Moomkin is the dog of a lifetime, and I am so grateful that he is mine.
I would say that Moomkin has come a long way since we brought him home, but that’s giving us far more credit then we deserve. He has gained twenty pounds since November, now weighing in at a healthy 102.5. He finishes all his meals now, and occasionally even swallows his joint supplement pills instead of spitting them back out. He doesn’t guard toys anymore, and is easily the most playful dog in the house. But to say that Moomkin has changed would imply that there had been a reason for him to do so, and the fact is, Moomkin is perfect exactly as he is. We are just lucky enough to get to walk besides him on his journey through life.
People tell me all the time how much they enjoy following Moomkin’s story. It’s hard not to agree, it’s an uplifting second chance for a life that seemed destined to end on the back of a Chinese meat truck. Unfortunately, not all of the Tibetan Mastiff’s rescued alongside Moomkin have been given the same chance, and that’s the story I want to share today.
Later tonight, Olivia and I will start another drive to Germany to pick up another Tibetan Mastiff rescued off that meat truck. The second part of Nibbles story is very similar to Moomkin’s. Rescued off the truck by angel Camilla, she was adopted by a family in Sweden and arrived there last August ready to start her new life. Unfortunately, Nibbles is nothing like her dark haired battle buddy. While it seems unlikely that Moomkin suffered any severe abuse prior to ending up on a meat truck, Nibbles had clearly lived a hard life. Her rescuers describe her as “damaged”, “traumatized”, and “the worst off of the eight.” Nibbles needed to go to an experienced new home that had the time and patience to help her feel safe enough to come out of her shell.
It was not to be. I’ve spoken to the couple that adopted Nibbles, and I believe that they love her. But they were not prepared for a dog with her past, and their own personal lives were in extreme upheaval. The dog who needed time, patience, and security instead got lost in the shuffle of moves and separations and strangers. Eventually, it caught up with her. Last week, Camilla contacted me, frantic because she had learned that Nibbles had bit a man and was scheduled to be destroyed the following morning (we learned later that the man had used an electric device on Nibbles, possibly a cattle prod or something similar… personally, that makes the bite more than justified!). Still in Beijing, she could see no way to prevent it from happening. Shocked, I pressed for more information. And then I called Will at work…
Anyone who has read Moomkin’s story knows that he got his name (which means ‘maybe’ in Arabic), because Will never actually agreed to his adoption, I just sort of, took maybe to mean yes. Now here I was, desperate to save another dog (who isn’t that fond of men), and wondering if my own marriage would survive the audacity of the request. Will was furious. We’ve got six dogs, all under the age of five, all coming in at 40 lbs or over (some, much over). The cost of feeding them, vetting them, and god forbid, one day having to ship them back to the States took up half our budget for a month. We want to travel, pay off bills, and do other things with our time and money. Adding another dog, a damaged, apparently man-hating dog, was just asking too much. I winced at his tone, and agreed sadly that he was, of course, right. I might be willing to sacrifice everything for a rescue, but it wasn’t fair to expect the same from him.
Four hours later, I received a text message. It read, “When are we going to Germany to pick up the new dog.” A lot of people tell me how wonderful I am for rescuing animals the way I do. They heap praise on me as if I am single handily saving the world. But the truth is, it’s the people like my husband who deserve the real praise. Because in the end, Will is the one who saved this dog, not me, he’s the one who said yes.
Tomorrow morning, Olivia and I will meet Nibbles in Germany and bring her home (Will got stuck at work). I’m nervous. Camilla and others who know Nibbles well have warned me that she won’t be anything like Moomkin. One rescuer reached out to me today to wish me luck. I will carry her words with me as we embark on this journey: “Nibbles broke my heart and Elvis (Moomkin) repaired it many times over, he was my saviour and she was my challenge.”
When you rescue a dog, you never really know what you are getting yourself in to. Sometimes, you end up with Moomkin, a dog who lights up every part of your soul. And sometimes you end up with Nibbles, a dog whose own soul is so dark and damaged that the way forward is truly frightening. What I do know, with every fiber of my being, is that Nibbles deserves a third chance to find that light. I don’t know how her story will end, there is no certainty this time. We have promised Camilla and her other rescuers that we will always put Nibbles well-being first, even if that means making hard choices. So we are prepared for the worst while we hope for the best. But whatever does happen, I believe that all of us who have shared in this journey will be able to rest a little easier knowing that we kept our promise not to leave her behind, even when it’s hard. Nibbles is getting her third chance and this time, we mean to give her her happy ending.