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Introducing Argus

Thursday 10/13/2005 12:11 PM

We got a new dog and, yes, his name is Argus.

Over the last few months, I've stopped by the animal shelter to check out the dogs. I've never had any real intention to adopt a dog before, during or after any of those visits, but I felt it was what I was supposed to be doing. Getting my feet wet.

We signed up to be a foster home for dogs abandoned as a result of Hurricane Katrina, but have yet to receive a single phone call. A couple weekends ago, there were supposed to be Hurrican Katrina dogs at St. Luis Mission when they did their annual Blessing of the Animals. Candy wasn't feeling good, so I wandered up there by myself sans Sheriff.

Well, there were no Katrina dogs and because I got there late, they were wrapping everything up. It wasn't a total bust though, because I discovered an awesome imported chocolate bar in the gift shop. Accoridng to at least one source, Blanxart "is a small artisanal chocolate company located in Sant Joan Despi, a town just outside Barcelona." I lucked out and just happened to pick up their flagship product, the wonderful Chocolate Negro con Almendras. It is a sweet not bitter dark chocolate bar with ground, roasted almonds. Highly recommended.

Anyway, when I left St. Luis, I decided to head over to the animal shelter. The day before, I had been perusing their online animal registry and I saw a dog I wanted to visit. When I was walking down dog row, another dog caught my attention. He was a large shepard mix and there was something about the look in his eyes and the way he just seemed to connect to me.

Well, the other dog was a bust. After I took her back to her cage, I asked about the big guy and got to spend some time with him in a run. He was a good dog and I thought there might be some potential. When I asked about him up at the front desk, I learned his history. He was heartworm positive, about 9 years old and had been found as a stray. For reasons that were never made clear to me, he had been assigned the name of Mandy. Yuk. I also asked if we could bring in our own dog to see how the two of them got along. The woman at the front desk was very pleased to hear me ask that and she immediately agreed and said she wished more people would do that.

As I drove home, I realized that I was seriously conisdering adopting this guy. I talked to Candy about him later that night and she wasn't opposed to the idea.

We went down the next day (Sunday) with Sheriff in tow and made plans for our friend Brian (the animal wrangler from our wedding and our perennial dog sitter) to meet us at the shelter as well. I had talked to our vet, Dr. Guhrt, and he gave me some tests to run on the dog to get a read on his disposition. It was likely that Candy was going to get emotional with all the animals at the shelter, so we agreed on a three-pronged strategy for the afternoon. First, I would go in by myself to check out the dog while Candy and Sheriff waited in the car. If everything looked good, I'd come get Candy so she could meet him. If she thought he was OK, then we'd bring Sheriff in so we could see how the two of them got along.

So I went in to see the big guy and took him into a private run again. The first thing I did was force him down and roll him over on his back to test his submissiveness. No problem. Next I reached into my pocket to pull out a couple meaty dog treats. I gave him one and he gobbled it up. The next I held in my hand in front of him. When he reached for it with his mouth in a wide open grab, I pushed him away and said, "No." He tried again but not as hard and I pushed him away once more. Then he sat there looking at it, anxious but mindful of my command. No problems with food agression. Time to get Candy.

Candy thought he was great. She helped me check his hips (we were worried about dysplasia). He didn't show any obvious discomfort and I couldn't feel any popping as I manipulated his legs one by one. Time to get Sheriff.

The shelter staff didn't want us to bring Sheriff back in the private run. Instead we brought the big guy up to a visiting room with big plate glass windows right next to the waiting area and foyer. When we brought the dog up there, we ran into Brian. He waited with Candy and the big guy in the visiting room while I went to get Sheriff.

Sheriff was happy to get out of the car and I led him into the shelter. I can't help wondering how many people saw me and pitied the black and beige German Shepard because they thought I was dropping him off there. I took Sheriff into the visiting room with Candy and Brian and the big guy. The two dogs checked each other out for a minute or two and then they promptly ignored each other.

Since my visit the day before, I had been wondering what I would call him. He surely had a name from his previous life, but no one knew what it was. When I was sitting with him that first time, only one name came to my lips: Argus. But I did not speak it then.

When Candy told me that the big guy watched me like a hawk when I left the visiting room to get Sheriff, I remembered the story of Odysseus's loyal hound. After their introduction, I kept calling them both to me there in the visiting room and time after time, the big guy would nudge his way in-between Sheriff and I. Seemingly oblivious to the fact that Sheriff was already ours, it was like the big guy was trying to tell Sheriff that I was already taken. Again, I was reminded of the tale that Homer told thousands of years ago.

I could tell you about how Candy and Brian stepped out of the room to leave me alone with the two dogs. I could tell you the stories the shelter staff shared with me about the big guy (one of them called him Bear). I could tell you about my indecision and how a part of me was painfully reminded that Chauncey was really gone and not coming back. The important thing, the only thing you need to know, is that we did it. We got him.

More tomorrow.

File Under: Argus; Chocolate; San Luis Mission
Music: Nine Horses "Snow Borne Sorrow"

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