My name is Pat Jimenez and I have a dog story for you.
The first dog I owned as an adult was a purebred Boxer named Milo. He was my buddy, my partner in crime. He loved it when I made the house special for dinner (mac and cheese with hamburger). He was the best dog. He was six years old when I got married and he became my husband’s best buddy, too. Milo developed cancer and passed in February 2005. We were so despondent. We did not think we would ever get another dog. We stayed dog-less for almost a year.
During that year of grieving, I saw one of our neighbors walking a little white dog named Gia. I thought it was a Jack Russell Terrier. Fast forward to January 2006 and that same neighbor, who had moved away to get a larger yard for the puppy came to my door. She was crying and told me that her children were allergic to the dog and she needed to get rid of it. She knew I liked the puppy and didn’t want to see it go to the pound. I spoke to my husband and he agreed. Turns out that in Spanish (the neighbor’s primary language) “my children were allergic” translates to “we can’t housebreak this dog” in English (joke). Incidentally, that family got more dogs.
Gia was a Boxer/Pitbull mix. We had her housebroken in a few days. She was a good dog, but she did not like other dogs. She also had Isolation Distress. Isolation Distress is an anxiety disorder. It is not Separation Anxiety. With Separation Anxiety a pet attaches itself to ONE person. When that person is not around, the pet experiences stress. It does not matter that anyone else is with him/her. Isolation Distress is when the pet does not like to be alone. I could have brought a stranger into the house to stay with her and she would have been fine. Unfortunately, I had a lot of woodwork and furniture that bore the brunt of that anxiety!
Gia liked going on walks and road trips. She was good off leash. My husband used to walk her in the park and then hide behind one of the large trees there. Gia would have fun tracking him down in a game of hide-and-go seek. When she found him, she would give him a scolding look for hiding on her.
Gia suffered three bouts with cancer. The last one was when she was 10-1/2 years old. It was aggressive–the tumor was growing inwards and affecting her organs. We found the tumor just before Labor Day 2015. The vet oncologist said they could do a cat scan, perform surgery and chemotherapy. It would cost us $12,000 out-of-pocket and maybe she’d get three more months– if she survived the anesthesia. If she’d been five years old and they could have given her five more years, I would have handed over my credit card in a minute. We decided that it was not fair to her. We kept her comfortable with pain medication. Ultimately, she crossed The Rainbow Bridge October 2015.
After losing Gia, my husband and I weren’t sure if we wanted another dog right away. I was starting a class online in January and would finish in August. We decided that we would get a dog when my class finished and I had more time to take care of it. Getting a dog in August soon became getting a dog in early summer, which then became getting a dog after the New Year to getting a dog as my Christmas present.
While having Thanksgiving dinner at my aunt’s house, my cousin told me about a nearby rescue organization. When I got home, I went online to their website and fell in love with a Boxer/American Staffordshire three-year boy named Clifford. Clifford was a single guy living the high life on the streets of Georgia. He was rescued by a woman who usually only rescues Pit bulls because of their short lives in shelters but she felt a connection to Clifford. Clifford was being transported from Georgia to a new foster here in New Jersey. He was only here three days when I met him (maybe stalked is a better word) at an adoption event and we adopted him.
Clifford had been fostered on a horse farm. He loves big animals. When we go to any place where there are other dogs, like rescue events, he gravitates towards the Danes, Greyhounds, and Newfies. Maybe they make him feel petite. He is a charmer. Everyone who meets him falls in love with him. This guy and my other guy, Milo, were the easiest dogs I have ever known. Clifford has such a sweet temperament–except he does have a high prey drive. I chalk that up to his survival on the streets of Georgia. Here in New Jersey, groundhogs, birds, squirrels have lost to the Cliff-man. I was able to save one groundhog and one cat. The skunks handled their own business…three times. Ugh!
My husband and I thought that maybe Clifford could use a companion. We have never had 2 dogs at the same time, but we figured, why not? Cue the theme music from Jaws!
We found Gia on Petfinder in early March 2016. Yes, her name was Gia, too. Both girls came to me with the same name. I do not believe in changing a dog’s given name (Clifford came with his, too, and I loved it!). Gia #1 was white with a tan patch (aka white Gia) and Gia #2 is black with a white nose, white feet, and a white patch on her chest (aka black Gia). We felt it was kismet and had to get her. My boys were easy, my girls, not so much! My experiences with my first Gia were a warmup for my trials and tribulations with my second Gia. Nothing could have fully prepared me for what I would endure with Gia#2…(to be continued !)
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).