Rescue Dogs Can Make Good Pets. Take One Home and Give A Dog Life.

Writer John J. Hohn with boyhood pet Toby.

Writer John J. Hohn with boyhood pet Toby.


Rescue dogs can make great companions. Most no-kill shelters allow the would-be owner to take a dog home on a trial basis. The same may hold true for county or city sponsored animal control kennels. You can save a dog’s life by looking at animal control kennels, but brace yourself for the encounter. Rescue dogs

Jessie May Love Hohn was a rescue dog. That’s right. We kept adding to her name as our affection for her grew during her days with us.  Rescue dog

Melinda and I had been talking about getting a dog for several months before I finally went out to the Brunswick County Animal Shelter, a well run facility managed by the sheriff’s office. I had never been in a shelter. The dogs housed there are all scheduled to be euthanized if unclaimed by a new owners. It is wrenching experience to walk through the rows of cages. At least 15 dogs were being held. Beautiful creatures. Friendly. Eager to greet me as I passed by, jumping up on the door of their cages and wagging their tails. Some seemed to smile in an eagerness to be recognized. Rescue dogs

Remembering my experience with my boyhood pet Toby, a Boston Bull Terrier, I wanted a lap dog.  Jessie was one of two small dogs available on the day I made my visit. She looked up at me. Our eyes met, and she wagged her tail tentatively. I asked the attendant to give me time with her in a room set aside for the purpose. I learned a lot about Jessie in those first few minutes we were together.

She was friendly. I petted her. She licked my hand. But she was independent. After going through the formalities of greeting one another, she stepped away from me and started exploring the room. Jessie was a sniffer. She was on the first day we met. She was on the last that we were together. She followed her nose everywhere. Rescue dogs

Jessie, shortly after she came to us.

Jessie, a rescue dog, shortly after she came to us.

I didn’t decide to take Jessie immediately. I had errands to run in a small town about seven miles away, so I got in my car and drove off. Jessie had made an impression on me, however. I could not get her out of my mind. When I reached my destination, I called my wife to tell what I had in mind. She needed to decide without seeing Jessie. She must have trusted my judgement because I added an extra errand to my trip. I bought a collapsible cage, a leash and a collar and returned to the shelter to announce that I wanted to take Jessie home. The shelter said I could bring her back within 30 days if things didn’t work out. I her adoption papers and we walked out to the car together.

As soon as I got her into the car, I realized the auto was no stranger to her. She loved going for a ride. She wasn’t one to stick her nose out into the wind the way some dogs do. She sat attentively on the seat next to me, looked about until she grew weary and then settled down to nap. I loved taking her with me on errands. I almost never took her into stores and offices. Except on hot days that would be uncomfortable for her, I made her wait in the car. She would bark at me as I walked away, but she never saw me return because she always napped during my absence, her head down and out of sight. She never saw my return approach.

My wife had never had a dog for a pet. My previous experience dated back more than 30 years. We were, as a result, somewhat unprepared to take Jessie into our home. As it turned out, Jessie had learned the house rules with her previous owner. She had only one accident on the first day with us. After that she took care of her biological imperatives when we were out walking together. At first, I didn’t know how frequently she needed to go outside. I kept taking her out every couple of hours or so until I realized she could get by with just two outdoor trips each day.

A Rescue Dog Can Be a Challenge to Classify . . .

Brunswick Count, NC, helps new owners defray the cost of neutering rescue dogs. In my first trip to the vet’s office, I found that Jessie was a Corgi mix, probably two years old and had already had a litter of pups. She actually presented a challenge to classify by breed. Her ears, snout, and splayed front feet shouted Corgi. But she had a beautiful short brindle black and brown coat, much like the Australian Dingo or a Great Dane. She had white feet, a white vest, and a white tip on her curled tail. Melinda had her DNA analyzed and the results turned up a wide spectrum of breeds, including Great Dane. The testing agency could not test for Corgi, so that side to her genealogy remained a mystery to us.

Jessie at Play

Jessie at Play

We found out that a Corgi was not the best choice for first-time dog owners because they are so energetic. We hadn’t done our research but it probably would not have made any difference. The last time I had a dog, I also had children at home. Our dog then was Clyde, a male mixed breed who got love and attention from everyone in the household. Now we had Jessie and Jessie had only the two of us for entertainment and affection. She lost no time in implementing her training program for us. She loved to play, loved it more than we did, but we found it best to stay active with her until fatigue took over and she was ready to settle.

Play consisted of throwing a ball or a toy down a flight of stairs and having Jessie retrieve it. She was a black belt in tug-o-war. Her rear haunches rippled with muscular definition. She’d growl and pull without let up. I could drag her around the house as she chomped down on a rope or strip of leather. When I retired to my recliner, she’d jump up into my lap with a rubber toy and look at me expectantly. Of course, I realized, I was supposed throw it across the room, and she would chase after it and bring it back to me. I missed a lot of replays watching sports on TV because of her. That game introduced a few hazards also as a miss directed toss often knocked display items off the mantle and the book shelf and on at least one occasion, fractured my wife’s composure as she sat close by with her needle work.

Recalling the Ancients . . .

Fall Road Jessie and I walked in the mountains

Fall Road Jessie and I walked in the mountains

I took Jessie for a walk twice a day; once shortly after she got up and again in the early afternoon. Melinda and I spend the summer months in Ashe County, NC, at our mountain cabin deep in the woods. While there, Jessie and I walked the narrow gravel roads. She was a wonderful companion. In the mornings we could look down at the lights in the countryside below us. I remarked on Facebook after one such occasion that seeing the lights take patterns in the darkness below reminded me of how the ancients must have felt as they looked up into the night sky and drew Orion and the other constellations from point to one twinkling point to the next.

Taking a dog for a walk is a shared experienced. It is entirely different from walking alone. Sojourns with a dog will always be recalled with the dog present in the memory. Sometimes Jessie and I could take off and go through the woods exploring together. We would see deer, wild turkey, cottontail rabbits by the score, ravens, woodchucks, chipmunks grew squirrels, and groundhogs. Jessie wanted to take off after everything. I couldn’t help but wonder if she resented the restraint of the leash. Her instincts would take over and she would charge the leash as if to run in harness and churn away for what seemed at least a minute. No wonder her hind quarters muscled up like a linebacker’s.

Winter Sunrise on the banks of the Cape Fear River.

Winter Sunrise on the banks of the Cape Fear River.

When we were at our winter home in Southport, Jessie and I walked about the village. After a few weeks, Jessie made friends everywhere. Others in town got to know her by name and called out to her when we passed or approached to greet us. Our morning walks were my favorite. We were out of the house before the sun was up. It was four blocks to the banks of the Cape Fear River where we could see the first light of the day – yellow, orange, purple and blue – glowing in the East and reflected on the water flowing to the sea. Farther out, beyond the barrier islands, clouds often scudded across the ocean offering a gray reminder of the retreating night.

In Mournful Anger . . .

Jessie all set in her sweater to take a winter walk.

Jessie all set in her sweater to take a winter walk.

The bond between us grew quickly. It was tested soon enough. Just a week or two after I brought Jessie home, Melinda and I were set to go out of town for a few days. We took Jessie to a well-run, clean kennel to await our return. We checked her in, gave instructions to the caretakers, and Jessie, unbeknownst to us, had been released out into an open fenced-in area with other small dogs. She was there when she saw us walking to the car. She howled! It wasn’t a bark. It was a protest. I saw her. She turned her head to the sky and bellowed in mournful anger. Her cry registered with my heart. It was not the first time that we would connect dog to man. She didn’t want us to go and she had no way of knowing that we would be back for her.

I had planned only two articles about Jessie. As I wrote this, which came so easily off my finger tips, I realized I had much more to write about her. Another posting will follow at a later date. Please watch for it.

Thanks for visiting my web site. While you are here, I invite you to look at the other pages and to consider posting a comment in the area provided below. My novel Deadly Portfolio: A Killing in Hedge Funds is available at Amazon in paperback and the Kindle version.

Watch for my sequel, a new mystery entitled Breached which will be released October 7, 2014.