Boomer and Nat:
The Extraordinary Pound Puppies
I first saw Boomer in October of 1989. I was suffering from the heartache of losing my beloved Gideon in September. Gideon was a beautiful Great Dane who had died when he was not yet two years old after a lifetime of medical problems. He suffered in pain all of his short life but remained a gentle, loving giant to the very end. After his death, I had haunted the S.P.C.A. wondering if I should risk becoming attached to another dog. Boomer attracted me right away because he looked as though he were a smaller version of Gideon. He was a Great Dane and Doberman mix with exactly the same coloring as Gideon - a black tuxedo with a white shirt.
Boomer's behavior was off-putting for me because he always barked wildly and appeared to be very aggressive whenever I was at his kennel. I kept leaving because I didn't want an aggressive dog after having such a gentle one, but I kept coming back because Boomer was so beautiful to me and reminded me so much of Gideon.
Finally, after about five separate visits, I asked about Boomer and was told that he was very loving and gentle outside his kennel. I went with him into the outside area, and he was a totally different dog. It was love at sixth sight, and I adopted him immediately.
Boomer was about three and a half years old and had had a checkered past. This was his third time at the S.P.C.A., but this was going to be the last.
Dr. Pam Drake at Greater Annapolis Veterinary Hospital had been Gideon's primary doctor but had been out of town when he died. Dr. James Reed was on duty the night that Gideon died, and he was so loving and caring to me that I began asking for him whenever Dr. Drake was not available. Ironically, a short time later Dr. Reed moved to a house just five houses down the street from me and became my neighbor as well as one of the two doctors I requested for my dogs.
When I took Boomer to Dr. Drake for his first checkup, she was duly impressed by his health and good looks. Gideon had had joint problems in his back legs and was never as steady on his feet as he should have been. Boomer was strong and healthy. I remember Dr. Drake making the statement as we were following Boomer to the exit, "Now that's a good looking rear end."
Boomer had some adjustment problems as might be expected. My greatest concern was that he would get very frightened whenever a broad-shouldered man would enter my house. He would stand stiff, bark wildly, and urinate on the floor. This would even happen if he saw a man on the sidewalk in front of my house. He was never frightened by women or by men who were not broad through the chest. I had to attribute such behaviors to traumatic experiences in his past. It took almost a year before he became secure enough to welcome anyone I invited into my house, but even from the very beginning, once he got to know my friends who were men, he would be just as open with them as anyone.
Boomer and I would so enjoy our walks. We would usually make a big circle through Truxtun Park in which he felt compelled to smell every smell and to mark all trails. I remember one evening when I stopped to get a drink from the fountain next to the ball field. There was a league game taking place, and there were about six young children playing in the area. Their mothers asked if it was all right for them to pet the dog. They were all just about the height of Boomer, and it was a humorous sight to see those little children circled around him patting him on the side and saying, "Doggy, Doggy, Doggy." Boomer just stood there as though it was his assigned duty to be The Petted One. Whenever Boomer was in "deep thought" or curious about something, his ears would go up and cross over the top of each other. While he was standing being petted, his ears were crossed as if to ask, "What am I doing here?"
Boomer always helped me drive. His driving position was to be in the middle of the back seat with his head sticking between the two front seats. In this way, he could be sure that I was driving correctly and on the right path, and he could give me kisses at the proper time. If I happened to have a passenger, he would share his kisses. Boomer was the greatest kisser ever! One time I was driving to Florida to visit my parents at Christmastime, and there had been a huge snow and ice storm as far south as central Florida. I had driven all day long on icy roads because the southern states did not have any way of salting the roads. It was a tense situation to be driving alone, but I really wasn't alone. For most of the trip, Boomer would be asleep on the back seat, but about every thirty minutes, he would stand up and lay his head on my right shoulder as I drove. It gave me a comfort that I cannot describe. Boomer really did help me drive.
Each morning as I left for work, I would feel guilty because I was leaving Boomer to be alone all day long. I soon began to scope out the S.P.C.A. for a companion for Boomer.
One day, I saw Nat. They thought that he was a German Short-haired Pointer mix and was about twelve weeks old. There was some story about his being found with a couple of brothers and no mother in a lumberyard. Nat was white with liver spots similar to the spots on a Dalmatian. I had thought that he would be a perfect match for Boomer because he would grow to be about the same height. Of course, with pound puppies, one can never be sure. Dr. Drake said that he was probably closer to six months old so he never did grow to be as tall as Boomer.
Boomer and Nat took to each other immediately. Boomer was the patient big brother, and Nat was the little brother who was a pest. Boomer would just lie there while Nat would walk and flop all over him. Nat would straddle Boomer and chew on the back of his neck, and Boomer would just turn his head and look at Nat with a "now what are you doing" expression. There was the one time when Boomer established himself as the alpha dog - or should I say beta dog because they thought I was the alpha dog. After their first angry "discussion," they never had any other harsh moments. They were the perfect pair.
Helping to Shovel Snow
Notice Boomer's crossed ears and his "good looking rear end"
Even though Nat weighed about forty-five pounds, he thought he was a lap dog. He would always be on top of Boomer or any human who happened to be handy. I have a good friend who said that Nat was so insecure because he never had a mother, and I believe that was so.
There were two things for which Nat showed ultimate fear - a flashlight and the sound of a fly. Whenever I would get out the flashlight or a fly would get into the house, Nat would run upstairs and hide in my closet. It was my duty to kill the fly and then go to the closet to convince Nat that all was safe. He would come out, look cautiously around, listen for the dreaded buzz, and finally rejoin the family.
Boomer and Nat were well trained - almost. They both attended Laurie Neomany's classes and did quite well - up to a point. Nat actually won first place in his basic class, but outside the class, he would always get so nervous that he couldn't remember what to do. Boomer was just the opposite. Outside of class, he was near perfect, but in class, he created some embarrassing moments for his "father" such as circling around to sit beside me but, instead of sitting on my left, he would stick his head between my legs and try to lift me up. The worst moment was in the advanced class during the final competition. He had done fairly well off-lead until it came time for me to call him to come and sit in front of me. I called, "Come," and he started right for me. Just as he got about two feet from me, he turned and took off into the nature area behind the main S.P.C.A. building. Needless-to-say, we were disqualified. They weren't stars in public, but they were well behaved at home.
The three of us fell in love with Quiet Waters Park. We would go for walks there often. We even ranked second for a couple of years in the Walk for the Animals. On sunny days, I would put the top down on the car, buckle the boys in their harnesses in the back seat, and we would head for the park. Have you ever noticed that dogs love to stick their heads out the window of the car if you let them, but they don't like to ride in a car with the top down? Maybe some dogs do, but mine didn't so the top was really down for me. They would always make me proud for they would wait in the down position while I bagged their "droppings" even if people and other dogs passed. They were always good citizens in the park.
Boomer died in 1998. He was about twelve years old. His health had really begun to decline about six months before he died. He had trouble with his spine, and his legs would sometimes "give out" on him. That beautiful strong rear end had weakened with age. He loved me so much that he would force himself every night to climb the stairs so that he could sleep with Nat and me. He began to lose control of his bladder and his bowels and would sometimes have "accidents" during the night. It was so heartbreaking to see that look of distress in his eyes whenever he was not able to control himself. One day, I arrived home and heard a whimpering coming from the dining room. Boomer had lost control of his bowels, fallen, and was not able to pick himself up. He had been lying for hours in his own waste in a state of distress. He finally developed bone cancer and was in constant pain. After talking with Dr. Reed, I made the horrible decision. Dr. Reed took care of him. I didn't have the courage to stay.
When I came home without Boomer, Nat was inconsolable. He wouldn't drink or eat. I managed to coax him to drink a little water each day, but he didn't eat for a week. I finally got him to start eating again by adding a small can of gourmet food to his regular dry food. He slowly got over his depression and became his old self again - at least partially himself because Boomer was a part of him.
It took me a while, but then I started taking Nat to Quiet Waters. He really loved going, but it always made me sad because Boomer wasn't with us. Nat loved to run but seldom got the opportunity because of the leash laws. One time we went to visit some friends who have acres of land in Calvert County. Nat was able to run and explore for hours. He had a grand time.
Whenever we would go anyplace, the routine would be the same. Nat would stand still while I set the alarm, and then we would go to the garage. Nat would wait for the garage door to open, step out onto the driveway, look around, and then return to be let into the car. One afternoon about four months after Boomer died, we were on our way to a friend's house. We followed our regular routine, but Nat was not there when I opened the door to the car. I walked around to the back of the car, and Nat was lying on the garage floor having some sort of seizure. I ran down the street to get Dr. Reed. I told Jim's wife that Nat was in trouble and then headed back to my house. Jim came right behind me. He worked on Nat for over thirty minutes but could never revive him. My wonderful little energetic dog, only eight years old, had died in a matter of minutes.
I will be eternally grateful to the S.P.C.A. for providing shelter for those extraordinary two dogs until they could come into my life. Their lives were made better through the loving care of Dr. Pam Drake and Dr. James Reed. There is a special place in my heart for Jim Reed because he was there at the death of my three wonderful dogs, and he provided supreme support.
I haven't been able to return to Quiet Waters - maybe someday. I haven't been able to think of getting another dog - maybe someday.