Meet Gracie and Jiggs. They’re two black labs that we rescued from their previous abusive owner who was running a puppy mill. While we don’t know much about the actual condition in which they were found, we do know that it wasn’t a pleasant scene and it would probably make your skin cringe if you knew all the details.
When we adopted Gracie, I remember I was at some overnight Church retreat thing back in high school and when my Mom came to pick me up there was a small bag of dog food on the front seat. “What’s this?” I asked, and when my Mom smiled I knew we had adopted a dog. On the ride home when we drove on the opposite side of the lake past our house I looked across the water and saw some black animal running back and forth across our back yard. Holy crap my Mom wasn’t lying. When we got home I got a half-ass greeting by an insanely wild and energetic soon-to-be-named Gracie, who was more concerned with taking in all the smells of her new home than checking me out. I still got a brush from her cold, wet nose against my face and a pleasant little snort. What a spaz.
But I loved her. And I still do. Gracie is incredibly affectionate and if you give her the slightest bit of attention she’ll just keep coming back for more. Anytime you lay down on the floor in the living room to watch TV you’ll for sure soon hear the click-click-click of her toenails against the hardwood floors as she comes in to see if she can get in a good cuddle. She’ll sit down right next to you, paw at your arm, give you the sad eyes look, and wait for the almighty “okay.” Then she’ll awkwardly try and figure out how to manage to get in the perfect position, which usually ends with you forcing her to just lay down. But in a matter of minutes of her snuggling up next to you she’s passed out snoring and twitching in doggy dreamland.
Jiggs, on the other hand, is, well, a little different. I remember clearly when my Mom and I went down to the pet store in the shopping plaza down the street for a B.A.R.K.S. adoption day to check out Gracie’s brother that I was shocked and in disbelief that this was the dog we were thinking of adopting. Although just as energetic and excited as his sister, his fur was matte brown, his rib cage was showing, and he had the biggest ears out of any dog there. His pet name (no pun intended) became “spare parts dog” because we joked that when God was making him that He must’ve had a leftover short snout, long tongue, big ears, and googley eyes. While Jiggs may be made from spare parts, he’s unbelievably adorable and it’s just one reason why his weird and goofy name fits him perfectly. A funny name for a funny dog.
Regardless of Jiggs’ condition when we adopted him, we brought him home. We were going to make him all better and get him back to health. My Dad was waiting out on the front porch with Gracie, and when we pulled into the driveway and Jiggs got out Gracie was PISSED. Even though she’s a dog, I could tell her face dropped in disbelief as if she was saying to her brother, “And what are YOU doing here?!” She then went into a spaz attack as she tried to vie for all of our attentions, running back and forth between all of us with the occasional stop to give her brother a nudge as if to tell him to get the hell out of here. Jiggs, of course in typical Jiggs’ fashion, was just happy to be somewhere and didn’t really even recognize what Gracie was doing. Gracie of course gave her brother a nice little domination hump a few times to let him know she was the boss, but Jiggs couldn’t have cared less. He was just happy to have found a home.
Jiggs, we soon learned, was definitely severely abused by his previous owner. He was scared of everything. And I mean everything. I would come home from high school and pick up the mail from the mail box. When I walked in the front door to a welcoming Jiggs and Gracie duo, Jiggs would see the mail, cower down, scoot away into his crate, and shake. He would shake uncontrollably. All I could do was pet him, kiss him on the head, and let him sniff the mail and show him that I wasn’t going to do anything to him. Same thing with soda cans, ceiling fans, turning on the TV, or anything “different” for that matter. All we could do was love him, and love him we did. And only now that he and his sister are 13 (or 11? or 12? I don’t know how many) years old is he finally comfortable with everyday things.
And yes, Jiggs is in a doggy wheelchair. Think we’re crazy? I kind of thought so at first, too. I remember my Mom telling me that Jiggs was having trouble walking and thinking that it’d soon be time to put him down. But then we found out that he probably had some sort of blood clot in his spine that paralyzed his rear legs, and that since he wasn’t in any pain (which has always been our main concern) that he’d be a great candidate for a set of Eddie’s Wheels. I remember my Dad commented (in typical Dad fashion) to watch how we would spend the couple hundred bucks on Jiggs’ wheelchair and then he’d die a short month after. But Jiggs proved my Dad way wrong because Jiggs has been in his wheels for almost two years now and he’s loving life. His back legs have withered down, but his chest and upper body is honestly impressive. I even have some video of Jiggs in action from a while ago that you can check out here (video will be available whenever YouTube decides to let me upload).
Adopting these two hounds has taught my family and me a lot of lessons. For starters, old dogs really can learn new tricks. While sure, they kind of suck at playing fetch, they still learned all the key words like “walk,” “eat,” “outside,” “sit,” “stay,” “lay down,” and (of course) “treat.” But I think the most powerful lesson they taught us over the years is the power of love. We treat our dogs like members of the family and not merely as pets or accessories to our lives. We love them unconditionally, and with these guys coming from an abusive past we made sure to love them even more to make up for their years of abuse. Jiggs especially was timid and fearful of anything different or new, but Gracie too would cower and have a look a “please don’t beat me” on her face as she would obediently lay down on her back after doing something wrong. But we showed them we loved them everyday, and over time they’ve come to realize they’re safe.
Gracie and Jiggs are now two old dogs who finally got the love and life they deserve, growing old together back home on the lake.
(I’ll be updating my Flickr soon with plenty of full-sized pictures of these pups.)