Kelly Patrice Collins, cpsa Colored Pencil Artist
My first glimpse of the dog that would become Preston was in an email my friend, Mary, sent me from the local no-kill humane society. He looked a lot like Filbert from the smiling picture. But, it was WAY too early. I couldn’t actually believe that she would send me something to suggest replacing Filbert so soon. I was a bit angry.
It devastated me when I had to put Filbert down after thousands of dollars of radiation and chemo-therapy. No, not the money. Just the fact that nothing would give him eternity. Filbert was the most perfect dog you could ever imagine, which is why this story isn’t about him. Yes, Filbert had his flaws, but don’t we all?
A few weeks went by and my husband at the time, Eric, said that he missed the “pitter-pat of paws” on the floor. I said I wasn’t ready. He continued pressing the issue for a few days. Finally, I went back to the email that my friend had sent and forwarded it to Eric with the subject line of “????”.
The next day was Sunday. I thought that the humane societies would be closed, but the one with the dog in the picture was open. We decided to go see if he was still there. A little part of me hoped he wasn’t and that we wouldn’t get another dog so soon.
We wandered into the cage room where the cute little puppies were barking and climbing all over each other to see us. We pet them and did the “awwss” that one does for puppies. Then we headed out the side door to the kennels. More barking and dogs throwing themselves against the kennel doors. Then I looked across the grounds to a kennel on the other side, the same kennel I had seen Filbert in eight years earlier. There was a black dog quietly eyeing us. It was the dog in the picture! I went directly over to him and he looked up with that big doggy-grin that says, “what took you so long?” We pet him through the chain link.
Eventually an employee, Hannah, wandered over and asked us if we would like to take him out to the play area. Of course we did. The dog was quite excited about this idea. In the fenced area, he went roaming around the yard: sniffing here, peeing there. Eric called him and got angry that he didn’t come right away.
“He doesn’t know you,” I said. “He probably doesn’t even know the name you are calling him.” So I asked Hannah if the name on the cage, “Joey”, had been a name that he had before he came to the shelter. No, it hadn’t. Eric and I were both happy about that because we both had unpleasant experiences with people named Joe or Joey. Eventually, Eric calmed down that “Joey” wasn’t responding to our calls and, for all intents and purposes, was ignoring us completely. Unbeknownst to us, this was a trait that would continue throughout his life.
We decided to take him.
With Eric at the other end of the leash, we took the dog to the front desk to fill out the paperwork and pay. Immediately when we got to the desk, Joey lifted his leg and peed on it. Hannah and the man behind the desk, who just happened to be named Joe, laughed and casually they both said simultaneously “they ALL do that.”
That should have been my first warning.
We found out what little was known of Joey’s story: he had been brought up from Yuba City, California by a local veterinarian. Joey had been brought to a shelter there because he had heartworms and his previous owners either wouldn’t or couldn’t afford to treat him. So, the veterinarian brought him and another dog “with the Don King hairdo” according to Hannah, up to Corvallis to cure them. I suppose he was practicing on them as heartworm was just starting to appear in Oregon.
To treat heartworms they had to give Joey a spinal port to inject ivermectin, so he had a spot on his back that had been shaved and was now growing fur back. From then on, that spot always had some white furs in it. They had to keep him tight in a cat cage and sedated, “which didn’t really do anything to him” according to Joe. I never did find out what that meant exactly. Although, after seeing how he reacts to food, I can imagine the timing of a sedative not working. If a dog moves too much, the dead nematodes (heartworms) can dislodge and enter the bloodstream.
Well, the poor dog had to live like that for a month. In the end, his heartworms were killed and he was in a clean bill of health. I had to promise that I would keep him on heartworm medication forever, however. They also mentioned that “Joey” was probably 4 or 5 years old.
While we were there, a woman came in with a Jack Russell terrier to leave for adoption. He was very cute. His name was “Rocket.” While we were signing papers and waiting as phone calls were answered, Rocket was taken in back by Joe for testing. The woman told us that she was a truck driver and that she had obtained Rocket at a truck stop from another truck driver. She soon learned why he had given him up.
“He shits all over the cab,” she said. I could only wonder if she ever actually stopped to let him shit somewhere else. I also thought of all the breeds of dogs that could actually be a truck driver’s dog. An energetic, intelligent and strong-willed Jack Russell would definitely not be the best choice.
Joe came from the back with Rocket in hand. “We can’t take this dog,” he said.
“What?!! Why not?!!” the woman asked.
“He bit me,” Joe answered.
“What? That dog has never bitten anyone!” She said.
“Well, he bit me,” insisted Joe.
“What the hell am I supposed to do with him?” the woman asked.
“I don’t know, but he can’t stay here if he’s aggressive.”
Our paperwork and payments had been completed by this time so we quietly exited stage left, out to our van with Joey.
“Wow,” we both said. We could only imagine the fate of poor Rocket. She would probably just dump him off by the side of the road somewhere.
But we had our own dog to worry about now. The dog seemed to like Eric better than me, or maybe it was just because I wasn’t ready. So, Eric manned the leash in the back seat and I drove back home. About half the way home, Eric announced, “His name is Preston.” I glanced up in the rearview mirror and saw Eric sitting with his arm around Preston and Preston looking like the happiest dog in the world.
“Okay,” I shrugged.
And so Joey became Preston.