Five words we often use to explain away problems: “Sometimes these things just happen.”
For certain situations, those words do justice to what happened. Other times, if we were to be honest, they are really a dodge we use so we don’t have to face the fact that we screwed up. My ill-advised adoption of Nikki is a good example (see my last column, “I Adopted a Dog — and Then Gave Him Back,” for details). No matter how many times I ran out that defense, in my heart I knew the problem was with me, not Nikki.
Mistakes do have a useful purpose if we learn from them, so when Dufus Moran showed up on our doorstep, I knew adopting wasn’t going to work, for two reasons: 1) I wasn’t prepared to make the sacrifices necessary to have a dog in my life, and 2) Dufus Moran was way too big -– fills-up-the-entire-couch too big -– for our two-bedroom apartment.
He showed up one day looking sad and hungry, so we fed him, which, of course, led to him hanging around the apartments. Other residents also gave him food, but either we gave him more or he took a shine to us, because he started sleeping outside our door and happily greeting us when we came and went.
I wish I could find the pictures I took of Dufus, but despite searching high and low, it seems I have moved so many times since 1983 (the most recent being this month), that I can’t put my hands on those photos. All I can tell you is that he was big and had at least some amount of hound blood in him, along with maybe some Boxer or Great Dane.
Our cats, Pepper and Safron, were definitely shy around him at first, but they came to accept the big dufus (that’s how he came by his name), especially when we started letting him sleep inside during cold weather. In no time at all, Dufus had claimed our full-size couch as his own, and it was not uncommon to find the three of them sleeping on it together.
Nikki hadn’t lasted but a couple of weeks living with us, but almost before we knew it, a couple of months flew by and Dufus had become a fixture. Keep in mind, however, that Dufus mostly spent his days outside, and while our fostering efforts were making his life better, it was still less than ideal. We had to find Dufus a real home.
We were reluctant to take him to the shelter. Dufus was not the classically cute puppy people are usually looking for. We were afraid he might get passed by and spend the rest of his life at the shelter. So we kept asking around and talking about his good-natured character in hopes that someone would take an interest. We got lucky. One of the university media center techs asked to see him, and once he and Dufus met, it was done. Dufus Moran walked out our door for the last time and into his new life as Hickory.
Pepper and Safron mourned for Dufus. There is no other way to describe it. They looked for him every day, and instead of sleeping in their usual spots on the couch, they chose instead to sleep on the much larger part of the couch where Dufus had slept. We thought their behavior would change over time, but it was not until we moved from the apartment and also got a new couch that Pepper and Safron finally stopped looking for Dufus.
Hickory’s new life was so much better for him. He lost weight and looked fabulous. His new owner spent more time with him than we could ever have spent. They went everywhere together. In fact, Hickory was now living the life that I had imagined I could have with Nikki.
I guess this means we were successful as a foster family for Dufus Moran. He went from having no home to becoming a temporary part of our family to having a loving forever home. Somehow that’s never been much consolation for me. In my heart of hearts, I have always regretted letting one of the greatest dogs ever slip through my hands.
What about you? Have you ever let one get away? If so, try this little test and tell yourself, “Sometimes these things just happen.” Feel any better? I didn’t think so. Twenty-nine years after Dufus walked out of my life, it’s not working for me, either.