I knew we needed to get a second dog when my husband and our German Shepherd kept overruling me. “We need to turn up the thermostat. The house is too cold,” I would say.
“Forte and I think it feels good, and that’s two against one,” my husband would say.
Over time I realized that Forte always voted the same as my husband…… on everything. “Forte and I are tired. We vote to stay home tonight,” my husband would say.
If anything was ever going to change, I needed to get a second dog that would vote with me. Tie votes would at least lead to a negotiation. I also wanted a dog that I could walk in the park. Forte is wonderful, but he is challenging and doesn’t do well parks because he wants to eat the children. You can click here if you want to read more about our ups and downs with Forte.
I found Carmen on Petfinder. Never open the Petfinder website if you are under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or prescription medication. Never open Petfinder if it is late at night, if you are in a weakened emotional state, or if you have just watched a Hallmark movie. You will want to adopt ALL the dogs. Carmen was in a foster home after being rescued from the Lewis County, Kentucky animal shelter. Lewis County is one of the poorest parts of our state. Dogs in the shelter are allowed to stay for a week, and then they are killed if they haven’t been adopted. I thank God on a regular basis that Carmen was rescued by a foster group.
The group named the dog Helga. “She doesn’t really know her name yet,” the foster mom said in an unspoken acknowledgement of how much that name didn’t fit the dog. The first time we met Carmen was at a local pet store. I was walking her through the aisles when a small child approached us. Carmen sat down as the child came closer and gently extended a paw in a sweet greeting. I fell in love with that dog at that moment. “You can take her home tonight if you want,” the foster mom said. I told her that we couldn’t because we had to let Forte meet the dog to see if they would be compatible. The foster mom said that Helga (soon to be Carmen) was scheduled to be at an adoption event the following Saturday. With great trepidation, we took our massive, anxiety ridden German Shepherd to Ohio to a pet store so the dogs could meet. The chihuahuas cowered as Forte was led down the aisle of dogs waiting to be adopted. Carmen and Forte immediately began to play bow and wag tails, and that’s when I knew Carmen was our dog.
The rescue group said she was a 2-year-old Australian Cattle Dog and Feist mix, but I think that description was purely for marketing purposes. “Don’t freak out, but I think she is part pit bull,” our vet said. My uncle, a Vietnam veteran, looked at her and said, “I haven’t seen dogs like that since I was in Vietnam.” We don’t know what Carmen is, and I don’t care.
A few months after Carmen came home with us, she was stricken with a parasite infection. She was so sick. She was also very tired because she had to go outside so many times in the night. “I’ll take her for the rest of the night,” I told my exhausted husband who needed to go to work the next day. I took Carmen downstairs to our unfinished basement where we had couches and rugs. I figured I would sleep on a couch and Carmen could stay in the dog bed beside me. Nothing of value would be ruined if Carmen had an accident. Carmen would not settle down, and she kept pawing at me. She would not relent until I let her get on the couch with me. I cradled her like a baby, and that’s how the two of us slept for the rest of the night. From that moment forward, I was Carmen’s human, and Carmen was the therapy dog that I didn’t know I needed.
When my beloved uncle died, Carmen slept on my feet because I was sad. When my anxiety peaked during the pandemic, petting Carmen was what calmed me. When I was in the depths of a depression unlike any I had ever known, Carmen was the reason I got out of bed every morning.
Carmen helped everyone in the house. Carmen has a habit of placing her paw on Doug’s head each morning and licking him. It is her way of bestowing a daily blessing upon Doug. Carmen made Forte a better behaved dog, and she helps ease his anxiety. She allows Forte to think he is in charge right up until he pushes her too far. Then she swings around, bites his neck fur, falls, and pulls Forte to the ground. She keeps him very much in check.
Some of the life lessons Carmen has taught me:
- Love is messy. – I said I would never let a dog get on the furniture, but what do you do when your sick dog wants to be cradled? Do my dogs dirty my house and mess up my schedule? Constantly. Is it worth it? Absolutely. Love always is.
- Circumstances can change overnight. – I think about Carmen in that animal shelter. Was she scared? Was she cold? Carmen is my daily reminder not be too consumed by daily situations that may seem bleak. Things can improve rapidly even though we may not be able to see that change coming.
- Enjoy every moment. – Carmen never lets a patch of sunshine go to waste. She will find any sunny spot outside and take a nap.
- People will love you if you will just be yourself. – Carmen looks like no other dog. Nobody knows what she is. We don’t know how old she is. When she runs, it looks like her legs don’t fit her body. Yet everyone loves her because she is a confident dog that insists upon loving you first.
When Carmen first came home with us, I considered taking her through training to be a therapy dog. She brought me so much joy that I wanted to share her with the world. The training was frustrating to Carmen. She is very food motivated, and she couldn’t learn commands because she was so obsessed with getting the treats. She would just keep sitting and laying down as fast as she could not understanding why she was not being given a treat. We never got past the sit and down commands. That’s when I decided that Carmen didn’t need to be maximized for efficiency and productivity. Carmen wasn’t meant to be a therapy dog for the masses. She was meant to be a therapy dog for me, and she didn’t need more training for that.
Our house now has a greater balance of power. Carmen frequently sides with me in household votes. No longer do Doug and Forte exclusively control the thermostat. In fact, sometimes Carmen and Forte gang up and vote against Doug and me. That’s why the TV is rarely on in our house. The dogs don’t like the sound, and they vote against us. Democracy can be messy especially when your constituents are canines.