I’m a person who likes a plan. I’m not naturally inclined to waste time or wander. (Obviously, the dogs have much to teach me.)
With Gala, alas, I have no plan. The simple plan was always that we would foster her and she would get adopted. That plan, to date, is not panning out.
I’ve spent more hours running Gala’s situation through my head and heart than any dog to date. But then again Gala’s been with us much longer than any other dog. 10 months.
And Gala, like any other dog, is an individual—made up of good and bad, like all of us.
Even Frankie, who Nick and Ian are both convinced has me wrapped around his little dew claw, has a few faults. He tends to eat first, evaluate later, which I’m convinced will lead us on numerous runs to the Doggie ER in the years ahead. And occasionally, but not often, he does not come immediately when called, but he’s still a puppy, so this is only a temporary fault. (The boys also say I make excuses for Frankie.)
Most of us fixate on faults instead of redeeming features. I don’t know how to reorient myself, much less the world, to see the good before the bad. After all, the bad is what makes headlines and click-bait; it makes plots more riveting and characters more interesting. Perhaps, life wouldn’t be half as interesting if only good stuff and perfect characters populated it.
Gala is gorgeous. No debating here. She is a beautiful dog. She is long-limbed and muscular with sparkling, curious eyes, adorable white paws and bib, and an endearingly lopsided white line down her nose. Her forehead wrinkles with intelligence and deep thought.
One of her ears flops over, belying a labradorish ancestor, and the other ear sticks out sideways, unevenly, in classic-mutt style. The two together make her look as if she is always asking a question, trying to solve some mystery.
When she moves she is even more striking. Watching Gala run, always catches my breath. She is made to run.
She uses her front paws like hands grabbing items to pull through the baby gate, pinning Frankie down, patting the cat on her head, and resting a paw on my leg when she believes I have been at my computer too long.
This dog is the definition of beautiful.
And Gala is smart—spooky smart. She knows what I will do before I do it, what I am thinking before I say it. She sees me glance towards her crate or the door and she reacts before I make a move.
My cat, Hermoine, likes to snooze beside me when I write. Gala will approach her and begin snuffling her belly, checking to see if maybe today Hermoine wants to play (never mind that for nine months, the answer to that question has been an emphatic, “NO.”), I shake my head at Gala and she retreats. No words are necessary.
I’ve never needed to teach Gala how to untangle a leash from her legs or remember to stay on the same side of the trees as me when we are walking the fenceline, hiking in the woods, or running down the road.
When she is overly excited and rough-housing with Frankie and I yell say forcefully, “ENOUGH!” she will turn and pounce on a toy, chewing excitedly instead of continuing the antics—I always marvel at how she can redirect herself. It’s as if she knows that sometimes she is too much, but she is trying.
Gala is happy and joyful. When she sees me approach with a food bowl, she jumps straight in the air and does a pirouette with a big grin on her face. When any of us say her name, her tail begins wagging before she even knows what you want.
When she hears my car come up the driveway, she whines and barks in joy, and if she isn’t crated, she waits at the door with her whole body on alert, quivering in anticipation of a glimpse of me.
She will play ALL day long with Frankie, if only Frankie had her stamina. When he retreats under my desk because he’s had enough, she will go find a toy and play just as happily with that.
If beautiful, smart, happy, and joyful were the only characteristics of Gala, I suppose she wouldn’t still be at my house.
I’ve wondered many hours, about Gala’s history – where her fear was born, why she is defensive. Those qualities are so contradictory to Gala’s nature. But they have been sewn in somewhere along the line. Rescue dogs so rarely come with an explanation. Their histories are a mystery to us. But if we knew, that wouldn’t change anything, would it?
Gala is fearful. She is afraid of new people, new dogs, loud noises, surprises. When she meets new people, she can be nervous. It is best to let her approach you. She will come to you in her time (which moves very quickly, I might add), and more times than not, cover you with kisses, wrap her arms around you (we’re working on this behavior), lean into your leg, spin a circle or two of excitement.
For reasons, known only to her (and possibly a few strangers in South Carolina), she is afraid of some people. She may growl at first. If you give her space, she always comes around. She growled at my college-age son when he moved home last May and met her for the first time. She growled for several days and I thought, “Oh, no, this won’t work.”
But three days later, they were fast friends. He is still to this day one of her favorite people. When he went to Cyprus for three months this fall, I was nervous about how she would react upon his return. There was no need. She spotted him through the window when he was unloading his suitcase and went into happy dance-overdrive. She hugs him every morning when she sees him and they dance around the kitchen, even though I’ve said many times that she should not be allowed to jump up like that. Neither of them can hear me.
Gala is aggressive towards other dogs that she feels are a threat to her (which is pretty much all dogs). She loves Frankie beyond reason, but she met him when he was only three months old and has served as a big sister. But my other dog, Gracie, is a dog who Gala has always perceived as a threat. It’s been many, many months and we’ve tried too many strategies. Gracie always growls at Gala and Gala responds in kind. They are entrenched in their opposition of each other so we keep them apart, much like we do with some relatives at holidays during election season.
When we meet dogs out while we are walking or running, Gala wags her tail, leaps in the air, strains to get near them. But I know that if they come too close, she will change her stance from one of joy to one of fear. She will lunge at them with her threats. At one time, I thought, she just needs time, she’s socially awkward, like Gracie; but now, after so many experiences, I know—Gala does not trust other dogs and they should not trust her.
Gala has enough energy for several dogs. She is busy. I can relate to this. I’ve always been a busy person. I don’t like to sit. I want to be the kind of person who lies in her hammock and contemplates the tree above, but I’m not. I can do that for about thirty seconds, then I’m out of the hammock and looking for the loppers so I can trim off that dead branch on the far side of the tree. So, I get Gala. She needs toys and activity and engagement.
Gala landed in a shelter in South Carolina on February 6, 2017. There was evidence she’d had puppies, she was thin, she was heartworm positive. Not surprisingly, her time at the shelter ran out. OPH agreed to rescue her, and she was spayed on February 22 and sent northward in early March on a transport. There was no available foster home, so Sue Alban, one of Gala’s angels, picked her up from transport and took her to a boarding facility in Hanover, PA.
Later that month, room opened up at our house and we agreed to foster her so she could have her heartworm treatment. You know what happened after that – if you don’t, you can scroll back through the last nine months of her time here filled with too many adventures and too many vet visits.
This girl needs a break. She needs another angel. She needs a family. She deserves one. Sure, she has a few issues, like the rest of us, but that shouldn’t cancel out all the good that is Gala – and there is much good.
Please help us spread the word. Tell the people you know who are dog-hearted people. People who are not looking for a perfect dog, but are looking for a real dog. A dog who will adore them beyond reason. A dog who will encourage them to get exercise. A dog who makes a great couch companion. A dog who will make their life interesting. A dog who is both good and bad, like the rest of us.
If you’d like to find out how you can adopt Gala, click here.
If you’d like to know how you can volunteer, foster, adopt or donate with OPH, click here. And if you’d like more regular updates of foster dogs past and present, be sure to join the Another Good Dog facebook group.