Rescue Story #6 – Baron   12 comments

The lovely story of Baron, a Weimaraner, from Maggie Miller.


You should know: I didn’t rescue Baron so much as he rescued me.

I’d wanted a Weimaraner for years. Initially taken with their eerie beauty, my attraction developed into full-blown obsession. I read about the breed, talked with breeders, and consulted the national Weimaraner rescue organization. Over and over, I read and was told the same thing: the breed wasn’t a good match for me, a twenty-something apartment-dwelling corporate PR flack. They need lots of training, attention, exercise and space, I was told. They’re beautiful, but they’re not for you.

While I accepted that acquiring a puppy from a breeder and trying to raise it on nights and weekends wasn’t any good for anyone – and that no responsible breeder would place a puppy with me – I was resolved to have a Weimaraner in my life somehow, some way.

Enter Friends For Pets, the local Weimaraner rescue. They needed volunteers to handle dogs at weekend adoption showcases, and Big Sisters and Brothers to take dogs for occasional outings and weekends. Sold!

When I began handling dogs at the adoption showcases, I didn’t know how to hold a leash properly, let alone manage big dogs that were bewildered and wounded by the circumstances that brought them to the rescue, and rowdy from being cooped up in kennels all week. But I quickly found my footing, and as my relationship with the dogs and the rescue grew, I was approved to be a Big Sister and take dogs home on weekends.

Diane, Friends For Pets’ compassionate founder and director, has an innate skill for matching the dogs she rescues with volunteers, foster families and forever homes. She knew I was licking wounds of my own – the recent death of my father and the slow, creaking end to a five-year relationship with my then boyfriend – and that the right dog could heal me as much as I could heal it.

I was lonely and isolated. I’d moved to Los Angeles from San Francisco mostly for a job and partly to be with the one person I knew in all of Southern California: my soon to be ex-boyfriend. I lived in a tiny but cute apartment where my neighbors rarely made eye contact, let alone said hello. I drove an hour each way to and from a stressful corporate job where I was 15 to 20 years younger than my colleagues.

Baron, an adult male Weimaraner of unknown age and little-known origin, was so depressed when he came to Friends For Pets, he was at risk of starving to death. He’d come to the rescue via a Riverside County animal shelter, where he’d been left in the middle of the night. At 90 pounds, Baron was passed over by families looking for younger, smaller dogs. On the day he was to be euthanized, a shelter worker alerted Diane, who drove out to Riverside and bought him out of the shelter. Back at Friends For Pets, bereft at the sudden and inexplicable loss of everything he had ever known, Baron curled up in the corner of his crate, cried incessantly, and refused to eat.

A phone call from Diane changed both of our lives for the better. “Maggie, I have a very sad male Weim who needs you. He’s beautiful and heartbroken and has obviously been a house dog. Can you take him this weekend?”

I began picking up Baron from the Friends For Pets kennels after work on Fridays and returning him on Sunday evenings. In our 48 hours together, we’d lie on the floor and watch movies, snuggle in my bed, and walk around my neighborhood. He was terrified by the sounds of traffic, cars backfiring and the people coming and going in my apartment building. His paws, unaccustomed to walking on concrete sidewalks, would blister and bleed if we walked more than a few blocks.

Weekend by weekend, Baron’s paws developed calluses, he regained a healthy appetite, and he became confident and interested in the world around him. And as he took up residence in my heart, Baron formed a supple callus where it had been broken. I became his person, and knew he couldn’t ever go back to the kennels. So he didn’t. It took six months, but I moved us to a little house with a fenced yard in a beach community where I made friends and talked to my neighbors and ran races. I got a job with less stress and more flexibility. And I let go of my dying relationship with the boyfriend.

By then Baron had ceased to be afraid of most things, but he was still spooked by the sound of waves crashing at the beach. Determined that Baron should know the joy of running on sand and feeling the foam wash up between his paws, I took him to a cove in Malibu where dogs were allowed off leash. A long path led down to the beach, and I spent two days getting him down it, tugging at his collar, cooing reassurances, and coaxing him with treats when he cowered at a crashing wave. Finally, just before sunset on the second day, I got him onto the sand. I removed his leash and let go of his collar. He took off across the beach, bucking and kicking his back legs like a horse and running a series of goofy figure eights before flinging himself into the frothy water. I was awestruck at the sight of such pure and utter joy in an animal in which so much pain and fear had once lived. Baron and I played together well past dark, and I thought, this is what people mean when they talk about being made whole again. This is what it feels like to let go and just…be.

Three and a half years later, I had to let go of Baron forever.

Unbeknownst to anyone, he’d had a brain stem tumor. Extremely slow growing, the tumors are silent until they reach the size at which they press on the spinal cord and interrupt the flow of fluid. One morning Baron became disoriented and stumbled, and by the end of the day he was unable to eat, drink or walk. The next few days were a blur of hospital stays, neurological consults, an MRI and a spinal tap. The conclusion: the tumor was inoperable, and Baron had no chance of making a meaningful recovery. Moreover, he was in agony — hungry, scared, immobile.

Hefty doses of steroids and painkillers bought us another 24 hours together, enough time to say goodbye and arrange for his usual vet, Dr. L, to come in on her day off to euthanize him. I brought him home from the hospital for one last night, where he slept with me in bed under the covers. On the way to the vet the next day we stopped at our favorite walking trail, where I helped Baron onto a sun speckled patch of flowers. We lay there for a good hour, him smiling ear to ear and me memorizing the image in my mind and the feeling in my heart.

And then we went to see Dr. L, and I held Baron in my arms and buried my tear-streaked face in his soft fur and thanked him for rescuing me while Dr. L administered the drugs that allowed him to peacefully slip away.

In the years since Baron’s passing, I’ve continued to foster and adopt Weimaraners, mostly the “senior” dogs who get left behind. Every time I walk them past the spot on the trail where I took Baron that last day, I call up the memory of him lying in the flowers with that goofy smile on his face, and I silently thank him for giving me this new life of mine.

People often ask me how I can bear to foster and adopt older dogs, knowing I’ll have to say goodbye. My answer is always the same: what they add to my heart is far greater than what I leave with them when they go.
-Maggie Miller

Posted November 20, 2010 by julieklam in Rescue Stories

12 responses to “Rescue Story #6 – Baron

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  1. So sweet. What a kind person she is.

  2. beautiful!

  3. so sorry for your loss of Baron. . . thank you for sharing your beautiful story.

  4. Thank you for sharing this wonderful story.

  5. such a beautiful story. dogs are the secret to happiness.

  6. I have a weimaraner, who is sitting next to me at the moment, and this beautiful story just brought me to tears. Thank you.

  7. Hauntingly Beautiful – Each paw etches a place on out heart. Thanks for sharing that part of your life.

  8. I have recently adopted/rescued my second “senior” dog. I have been asked the same question, “How can you adopt them when you know you may not have much time with them?” She has answered it so eloquently….

  9. Seniors are wonderful life and love testimonies – we have treasured our senior adoptions, and will always select a senior first.
    Over time, we have adopted at ages 5, 7, 9.5, and 17, and NEVER regretted any of the adoptions (and they were a LOT easier to integrate into the household than younger adoptions!)

    I’ve always had a ready answer to the ‘you may not have them for long, so why adopt the senior?’.
    As a CVT, I can assure you-based on personal and professional experiences: a younger adoptee can be felled early in their lives by congenital issues, diseases (such as parvo) that poach the young, or by trauma (hit by car, etc.).
    There are NO GUARANTEES just because they are young.
    Point being- time with either end of the life spectrum (or in the middle!) simply is NOT guaranteed.
    In the words of Julia Cameron: Leap and the net will appear!
    You will not regret adopting a senior pet!

  10. Thank you for your beautiful story. I used to get my dogs from breeders, but my most recent guy is a rescue. The work that goes into helping them regain their confidence is paid back 1000 times with the love and appreciation they give.

  11. I’m so touched by the comments and brightened by stories of other Weimaraners and rescues. We currently have a 12 year old rescue Weim I adopted (after fostering) when she was 8, shortly before Baron died. She is amazing, and saw me through the loss.

    Last month we added a Weim puppy to the family. A puppy is infinitely more challenging — and different — from adult (and usually trained) rescue dogs!

    True, there are no guarantees as to how long a dog of any age will be with us. Every moment is a treasure.

  12. Having a weimaraner of my own, I can relate to the joys of such a breed. And having had far too many dogs for my young age, I can relate to your loss. Truly a touching story that had me at tears at the end. Best wishes to your continued good work! Have fun with the puppy!

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