Can dogs love? Can a dog named Lance love? A dog can’t say “I love you” but isn’t love more about deeds than words? Recently, I presented the results of some scientific testing that indicates dogs are capable of loving. My experience boarding Lance is anecdotal—but perhaps more compelling—proof that dogs can love.
Back story: Lance was a ten-year-old border collie (semi-feral as it turned out) when I rescued him. He turned out to be a fear biter, even of his rescuers.
Four months after rescuing Lance, we had to drive to Maryland (a five or six hour ride) for my stepson’s wedding. We couldn’t take Lance with us due to his hyperactivity inside a car. Plus, what would we do with him when we got to Maryland? Because of Lance’s behavior, we also couldn’t hire a dog sitter. We decided to contact the local boarding kennel. On the phone, I outlined in detail the issues that we had with Lance. The person on the other end of the phone said, “Oh, we’re good with the hard-to-handle dogs. Not to worry.”
I had my doubts but a few days later we dropped Lance off at that kennel. An employee took Lance by the leash and led him back to his cage without incident. He would be housed in a decently sized caged area and the facility appeared clean and well run. Writing this today, I can’t believe we did this but again, before leaving, an employee of the kennel assured me they had great success boarding dogs of all kinds and temperaments.
Off we went to Maryland on a Friday morning. The following Monday, on our way back home we stopped by the kennel to pick Lance up. An employee greeted me with an anxious and relieved, “I’m so glad you came back! We didn’t know what to do.” She then told me that, since his arrival the previous Friday, Lance had refused to eat food or drink water. He had not left his cage the entire time and would not let anyone enter it. While in Maryland, neither Clara nor I had thought to call the kennel, assuming that all was well. The kennel only had our home phone number and had left numerous unanswered messages. I didn’t have a cell phone back then and I’m not sure whether Clara did either.
I went back to his cage to retrieve Lance. If I had to describe his appearance with one word it would be—haggard. He had been defecating and urinating inside his cage. If I had to describe my feelings at the time with three words they would be—relieved and guilty.
Had my wife and I spent a few more days in Maryland, I’m convinced Lance, refusing all help, would have starved himself to death. So, was it just about food and shelter for Lance? He had both of those but was missing something else far more valuable to him—his rescuers.
PLEASE SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS BY COMMENTING BELOW
Walter Stoffel is a substance abuse counselor and GED teacher in correctional facilities. When not behind bars, he likes to read, travel, work out and watch bad movies. Major accomplishment : He entered a 26.2-mile marathon following hip replacement surgery and finished—dead last. The author currently lives with his wife Clara, their dog Buddy (another rescue), and cat Winky (yet another rescue).