Ken: Its, it seems funny because he was not really this way at all, but he seems so calm. And he was so shy and so tiny. I mean tiny at the time compared to his adult self, and I dont know. It seemed, I cant articulate how it felt, I guess. But it was one of those moments when our eyes met and everything else in the room stopped, which is why I called him my soul mate when I was interviewed on Fresh Air. Really, its because of everything thats happened since then, but when I think back it was kind of like, You and I are meant to be together.”
And yet for months afterwards I wasnt convinced that was true. There were so many difficulties with bringing him home and his anxiety, which was really extremely high. I was determined to try to do the right thing for him. That was one of the things when I look back I cant believe that I put up with all that. And my friends at the time really couldnt believe that I was putting up with it.
Joy: How come?
Ken: I was, Oh, its not that big a deal. Thats the way dogs are.”
Joy: What is it about what went on with Brando that made it such a thing that even your friends would even question it?
Ken: He immediately had extreme separation anxiety and became absolutely hysterical any time I left the apartment and would hurt himself. He would get out of any crate I bought. He started in an airline crate. He got out of that within a day. So I immediately thought, So, were not going to be traveling.”
He became absolutely hysterical. He ate razor blades, like several occasions. I made a point of trying to hide all the razor blades and then he got into my luggage and found more razor blades. It was really self-destructive behavior. Plus it was loud. It was noisy. It was my neighbors were complaining and there were times I would arrive home with friends and they would see the destruction that had occurred while I was gone. They had said, Whats wrong with this dog?” But of course I was, Hes just getting used to the fact.”
Joy: Help me with this. On one hand you have this life you had lived in New York before, which is dogless and probably not as messy and not as noisy and all the other things that come along with having dogs. On the other hand, here you are living with Brando. What is it about living with Brando that makes it worthwhile going through all this other the noise and the mess and all that?
Ken: I think for a while it was because I couldnt help the dog in Costa Rica. I wanted to help Brando. Also because he became so attached to me I thought returning him to the shelter and leaving him for somebody else to adopt is not going to make it any easier for him or whoever that person might be. Its only going to make him more hysterical because his issue is that he was abandoned before by somebody else and hes worried its going to happen again so Im not going to do that. And because I was freelancing and working at home so I thought I actually have the opportunity to help this dog that maybe no one else is going to help.
Joy: What does that do for you to help this dog?
Ken: Thats what I didnt know at the time and I think what I write about in the book, not just about Brando, but about all the other dogs is I started realizing that they started to occur or appear in my life around the time that many other major unfortunate things were going on. And, at least in writing the book, I dont think this was ever a conscious or even possibly unconscious thought on my part while I was rescuing these dogs, but there are so many things we cant control in our lives and yet we can so easily help someone else.
Its really easy, particularly, to save a dog. It might take a couple of hours or it might take you to clear some room in your house to put a crate and to walk the dog every day until you find a home for it or you find a rescue group that wants to take it. But its really not that much. Why not do it? Why not take that chance and change somebodys world. And youre not just changing the world of the dog, youre also changing the world of the person whos going to be lucky enough to actually get the dog on a permanent basis further down the road.
I think for me at least, part of why I do it is not just that I like the dogs, that I respect dogs in the way that Ive learned to but also that its something I can do. I can look at a dog and say, I can find a home for this dog.” I can make sure that this dog finds a place and is not put to sleep or get hit by a car or whatever else might happen to a dog on the street and so I do. At a certain point it seems like a really question to answer. Do I want to spend two hours taking this dog and finding a home for it or do I want to leave it on the street and always wonder what happened?
I guess we all know which Ken chooses to do. Come back tomorrow and hear more from this gentle soul, author of “The Dogs Who Found Me,” and “Dog Culture.” If you want to read more before then check out Ken’s site.