I’ve already mentioned that we don’t love celebrating Gremlin’s birthday. Each year is a reminder that he’s only mortal and that his time with us will be over one horrible day. Gremlin turns nine today and I can’t help but think about everything that makes him special.
He’s not the cuddly, fun-loving dog the internet loves. Instead, he’s grumpy and cynical. He doesn’t cuddle with our daughter or us for that matter. He HATES any form of delivery person and despises our neighbors. He’s taken years to come around to our extended family and still has to be put in our room when friends come over. We can’t vacation anywhere we can’t bring him since he can’t be boarded without reverting to his semi-feral ways. He also can’t have a pet sitter drop in without risking losing a toe (true story!). He’s afraid of loud noises, rainstorms, falling objects, and baking.
Clearly, he’s a special dog and clearly, we’re crazy about him, but for me, he’s more than just my beloved pet. He’s the reason I became interested in companion animal behavior. His issues made me think about dogs on a new level, as cognitive beings. He wasn’t just a scared dog who needed a little TLC. He was a dog whose past experiences have shaped his present. Even today, seven and a half years after being adopted, his life as a stray still has a grip on his life as an important member of our family. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wished for him to be able to talk, even if just for an hour. I want more than anything to know what his life was like before us. Maybe then I could finally help him to let it all go and just be happy.
What would I ask if I could interview him? I mean, I’d want to know if he’s happy with his life now, but selfishly I’d want to know all about his life before us. I’d want to know about the hardship that shaped who he is today. What was his family like? Was he scared on the streets? Was he more scared in the shelter?
Who were your parents? Was your mom the frenchie or the JRT?
Are there more of you? Did your siblings survive? – Just so you know I always check back with the shelter we got you from for a possible sibling of yours. We’d adopt them on the spot.
What was your mom like?
Did the people dump you or give you away to a family? Did you run away or get lost one day?
I know how much you love other dogs. How long did it take before you found other dogs to run with? Did you find life on the streets a little easier?
In the beginning, you slept like you were making up for lost time. Where did you sleep while you were out there? Did you ever find a place where you felt safe?
You were over ten pounds underweight when you came home, what did you eat? Did you scavenge for scraps from people or garbage cans?
Tell me about what fell on you that makes you so afraid now?
How scared were you when animal control finally caught you? Was it a relief to end up in a shelter with three hots and a cot?
Was it scary for you when we scooped you up and brought you home?
How long did it take you to see us as family?
Are you happy?
More than anything, I hope he’s happy.