Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Powerwalking with Alfred

I always love to watch the dogs walk when we're out and about. They each have their different quirks and gaits that say so much about their characters: Buster's old-man dignity, slightly stiff-legged yet sometimes prancing like a puppy; Billy, lithe and long, wiggling his big bottom and charging ahead to find the good smells; feisty foster Flower dances along on her toes, bouncing on her hind legs when we hit a street corner and chasing squirrels that are barely smaller than she is herself.

Alfred's walk exudes power with every step. He's wildly, frantically eager when he first steps out the door, barely containing his desire to charge through the world at full speed. But even on the calmer return home it's incredible to watch the muscles ripple along his back and see the spring in his powerful hind legs.

Spending time with Alfred is a forceful reminder of the animal in our beloved pets. It can be easy to forget that the dogs we smooch and dress up and talk to have big teeth and instincts that are often at odds with a confusing human world.

While it's fun to talk about Bruce's superhero role in gaining a brother, reading between the lines of even the most light-hearted version of the story, its not hard to recognize that Alfred didn't get the best start in life. Had he been tied to a different fence, Alfred simply would not be here today. Even if he'd fallen into other well-meaning hands, Alfred would have dismally failed any temperament test he was given at a shelter.

Watching this big lug with a clown-face, it's easy to see the dog that he perhaps could have been. You can see his capacity for tolerance in his play with his little brother. He simply gazed at me in bemusement this morning when I broke into laughter at the sight of him just standing around while Bruce paddled around on his back with his front paws.

Alfred is the dog humans have made, and so there are two of him. When the world overwhelms him, he may bark, growl and chew on your arm or he may be found in his crate sucking on his blanket and whimpering.

One moment I am a treacherous woman who has taken a few too many seconds to put his food bowl down and deserving of a serious warning. Another, I am the lovely lady with chicken treats who must be showered with slobbery kisses.

Perhaps leaning over too close to him to open a door is a dire threat and I must be scared away. Or maybe I have a snuggly lap that is the perfect fit for a giant head, nudged under my arm for a good cuddle.

I do not know how the first dog was created. I'm not sure I want to. The second comes from the perseverance and love of a wonderful couple. I doubt I can understand just how trying the past year must have been for the two of them. The trials of rescuing a big-headed dog even warranted a mention in the beautiful wedding vows they read yesterday. Alfred is not the easiest dog even now, however lovable, but he has come a very long way since landing on their doorstep. If anyone can bring out the best of him, they'll succeed. They didn't really choose to have Alfred on their hands, but, while any adopter can claim to have saved a life, few have done so in quite so immediate a fashion. He turned up, he needed them, and they answered that call.

One Tail at a Time is celebrating anti-heroes this month - all the three-legged, one-eyed, chewing, mangy, anxious, sickly, aggressive, garbage devouring monsters that we love anyway for all their amazing dogginess. The human world can be confusing and overwhelming for these underdogs and it is our job to teach them and lead them through it. But let's remember to make space for the animal in each of them, and reserve a little extra patience for the confused souls like Alfred who might never quite find their way. Its our fault they got lost in the first place.

Excuse any typos. I have a big-headed dog snuggling against my arm and that's his spot for as long as he likes.


  1. Great post! Thanks for sharing :)


  2. love this post. and not just because Maisie is a bit of an underdog herself (found on the streets then relinquished to a daycare facility by her first adopter after living in their home for three months). it's comforting to know I'm not the only person with a work-in-progress pup!


  3. We don't like to think of what makes certain dogs have split personalities. To this day Duncan still acts like he's STARVING when it comes to food. He'll still sometimes be weary of men in overalls and ballcaps...all this paints a bad past, but seeing the GOOD personality come after hours and years of love makes it all worth it! Quirks and all. :)

  4. What a lovely post. I just love to hear about people who take on the tough cases, because of course most people looking to adopt a dog will not.
    But the tough ones, the lifelong works in progress, are so often also the most rewarding. Sounds like Alfred is no exception.

  5. You did a great job describing the dual personalities many rescued dogs have. One of the saddest dogs I ever met while working at the shelter was a dog like Alfred. His sweet, sensitive nature was overshadowed by the intense and sudden fear he would experience at certain sights and sounds. Unfortunately, he couldn't go up for adoption and the world doesn't have enough amazing owners to save every big headed softy. Alfred is definitely a lucky boy.

  6. Beautiful post. That Alfred was rescued is a wonderful thing. That he needed to be rescued in the first place isn't.

  7. I love when I think I can read between the lines and understand what you're really dealing with. Having lived with and cared for a lot of dogs in my life, I believe I have met Alfred in different skin before. Good luck this week, and keep your sharpest of wits about you. I know just how sweet a split personality dog's love can be, but how trying, too.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...