One calculating dog, and

… one unsuspecting human.

The title and sub-title are almost the complete sub-title to a book from Colin Chappell. As sub-titles so often do, they offer the flavor of the book to come.

OK! Let me start properly!

Some time ago, Colin and I agreed to do a book swap and then review each other’s book. We duly exchanged books and Colin held to his side of the agreement! I sent Colin Learning from Dogs and Colin sent me Who Said I Was Up For Adoption?

For reasons that now escape me first I gave the book to Jeannie and she read it and very much liked it. I was going to ask Jeannie to dictate a review for me but, oh I don’t know why not, that never happened. To add to me embarrassment, I still haven’t read the book myself plus Colin ages ago published his review of my book over on his blog Me and Ray.

So when author Deborah Taylor-French reviewed the book on her blog Dog Leader Mysteries I held my breath very tightly and asked Deborah and Colin if I might republish her review here.

I am delighted to say that both were very happy for me to so do! Here it is.

ooOOoo

Overcoming challenges to adopting, Ray

By Colin Chappell, Guest Blogger

When Ray came to live with us, he brought with him many issues. We had been advised that he had no social skills. We had ascertained that he had no training relevant to living in a home, and we knew that he was very cautious around people and other dogs. It was not long before he displayed “Startle Response” (never touch a sleeping Ray!), and “Fear Aggression”. The “Fear Aggression” was Ray’s way of handling uncomfortable situations such as being close to other people and dogs. Ray was a fast learner at home with us and, while he made some mistakes, he was trying to adapt to his new life. He did seem to want to please us, just as we wanted him to be happy. The first thing we had to do however was to arrange for him to have a full medical. When the vet called us to discuss the results, we knew we had a problem.

His dog’s diagnosis? Read about a heartbreaking medical condition.

Medical professionals assess Heartworm status as Stage One to Stage Four. Stage Four, the most advanced, is considered terminal. They estimated Ray at Stage Two, which provided hope that treatment could be successful. Treating heartworm is very expensive and offers no guarantee that the dog will survive the treatment, and so we now had to make the difficult decision of how to proceed with a dog that had lived with us for only a short time. There were some theoretical options for consideration.

1. Commit a lot of money to a treatment program, which may kill Ray? – We were fortunate in that we could manage the estimated $3500.00 financial burden of the treatment program, but did we want to? Ray had not been with us very long and was carrying a lot of emotional “baggage” from his past. While it would be nice to believe that he would adapt to be a lovely family pet, nobody could offer us that guarantee so that we would be investing a considerable amount of money in a dog with unknown potential. Furthermore, treatment consisted of a series of deep muscle injections with an arsenic-based compound, which should kill all the heartworms, however, when heartworms die, the pieces of worm can cause restrictions or even a blockage.

There was a significant possibility that Ray could die from congestive heart failure. To reduce the risk of this potential outcome; a dog must be kept as calm as possible to maintain a very low heart rate. Life for Ray, and for us, would be complicated for the next six months or so.

2. Do nothing? – An option but, in reality, a cruel and irresponsible decision. His quality of life would have slowly deteriorated as the heartworms spread, causing damage to his lungs and other organs throughout his body. Death would have been his only escape.

3. Return Ray to the shelter? – We knew they would have taken him back, but that raised some issues. We would be avoiding making the difficult decision by transferring the responsibility to the shelter. This rationale is against my core belief of accepting one’s responsibilities. Returning him also had some very questionable ramifications in that they would probably not be able to adopt him out again.

Who would want to take on an unknown dog with a serious (and expensive) health issue? Would the shelter be prepared to finance the treatment of a single dog when they are dependent on voluntary financial contributions and are constantly fund-raising to maintain their day-to-day services?

Given our excellent relationship with the shelter, we presented them with our dilemma and asked what they would do if Ray were returned. The answer was, not too surprisingly, very diplomatic. They would not be able to make any decision until he had been reassessed as a possible candidate for future adoption. They also made it clear that whatever decision we made, they would support it wholeheartedly. While their support was appreciated, my feelings were that his future would probably not be too long if returned.

4. Euthanize Ray? – The thought of euthanizing Ray gave me a lot of problems because of Skeeta, my first cat in Canada. Skeeta always seemed to love the company of pretty much anybody and her original owners did not feel that they had the time for her any longer, and so were looking for an alternative home for her. She made a tremendous impact on us all but, after only three months she was distressed. The diagnosis came that she had feline leukemia. Her condition considered untreatable, so the medical staff recommended euthanasia. Looking back, I still struggle with Skeeta’s death. (Terms like “euthanize”, “put down”, and “put to sleep” are all gentle words that only mask the reality of killing.)

The issue with Skeeta was not that her life could not be saved, but that it was far too easy to euthanize her. To have an animal killed, regardless of the justification, should take far more than signing a piece of paper and handing over a relatively small amount of money. Such a simple process was somehow offensive to me in that it resulted in the death of a living creature that had displayed an unquestionable ability to connect with us on an emotional level.

The more I thought about Skeeta, the more I decided that Ray deserved an opportunity to live and it would be my goal to ensure that he had that opportunity. My decision, therefore, was to keep Ray with us and start treatment as soon as possible. Fortunately, Carol had come to the same conclusion, and so treatment was scheduled for the summer.

It did cross my mind that Carol may not be able to justify the cost of the treatment so while I was not anticipating an issue over this, I had made plans to cover the cost on myself. Less than three years old, Ray had not enjoyed a good start to his life. Now Ray worked hard to adapt to our family environment. This big dog had already made a niche for himself in our family. Ray showed signs of wanting to stay with us.

Most importantly to me, Ray was a dog who had invited me to be his friend**.

Friends for life, rare and welcome as love and kinship.

What sort of friend would I be to walk away from him, and leave him to whatever fate would await? Ray could well die during the heartworm treatment, but then he could also survive it. I committed to whatever became necessary to ensure that he had the best chance possible of a long and happy life. I suddenly realized just how important he was to me. I loved this guy!

** The details of this life-changing moment (for both of us) are in his book.

About Colin Chappell: Born in England, part of the post-war “baby boomers” Chappell moved to Canada in 1975 with a wife and two children. Through no planning, he happened to fall into a position that included a mandatory deduction for a pension plan. Less than 30 years later, he retired and pursued new interests. When his children had grown he chose a fresh start. Chappell explored music and, due to lack of finances, he bought a “fixer upper” for his new home.

All photos by Colin Chappell

A few years later, Chappell found himself in a new relationship. The question of owning a dog often came into their conversations. It resulted in him being adopted by Ray, and their lives have never been the same since.

Experiences and day-to-day incidents with Ray prompted starting a blog using Word Press, Please visit meandray.com Writing this blog he got the idea of writing a book about Ray. Find this book on Amazon at Who Said I Was Up for Adoption?

Chappell’s writings continued and, after experimenting with some poetry, decided to put together a book of simple, but hopefully thought-provoking, verse.

Just Thinking by Colin Chappell

ooOOoo

Colin, I do hope this makes up somewhat for me not sticking to our agreement!

In fact, me reading this post out aloud to Jeannie yesterday evening, and being most moved by your words (and photographs), makes it easy for me to read your book without delay!

40 thoughts on “One calculating dog, and

  1. What an excellent sounding book! I was getting teary eyed reading the synopsis. Sounds similar to Marley & Me which just about killed me, lol.
    Another wonderful share, Paul.

    1. Hi Susan – I hope that you will give it serious consideration. Unlike many dog books, Ray does not die in the last chapter. In fact, he is still very much alive! You may also be interested to know that all profits will be directed to the Humane Society that initially rescued him, and ultimately allowed us to adopt him.

  2. I follow Colin’s blog too… Ray is a very special dog indeed. And I think Colin has perhaps changed a lot of his thinking due to what he has learned from Ray. Dogs and Ray in particular can teach us how awful we can become if we do not respect each other and live in harmony, despite our differences.

    1. Every now and then one’s life takes a turn off the perceived main road and goes in the direction of “who knows where”. Ray was, without doubt, one of those turns to “who knows where”!

  3. The story of Skeeta and how it played into Ray’s life, and Collin’s choice, is heartwarming. We live. We learn. We don’t forget. We try to make amends.

      1. Hi John – There would appear to be some ongoing censorship issues between Brazil and Youtube, so the best I can do is copy “Skeeta’s Legacy” from my”Just Thinking” book. I hope you enjoy it (and I hope the verse and line spacing is handled here correctly!

        “Skeeta’s Legacy”

        Introduction: Skeeta was our first pet when we came to Canada. She was living
        with a professional couple who felt that they could not give her the
        time which she seemed to need, being a very people oriented cat,
        and so we adopted her. She made an enormous impact in the very
        short time that she was with us and, when a difficult decision had to
        be made concerning Ray over thirty years later, she was uppermost
        in my mind.

        Skeeta was a Siamese cat,
        Of distinction, so we thought.
        She was rather unlike her breed.
        Friendly… and quite large;
        I had known a few Siamese,
        But… none had traits like these.

        * * *

        She would travel in our car,
        On top of the front seats,
        And clearly enjoying the ride.
        Swaying forwards and backwards;
        Sideways on the turns;
        We would laugh at her… often until we cried!

        * * *

        Then one day, she clearly had changed.
        Her clean toilet habits had gone.
        Something was wrong we were sure.
        She used to be meticulously clean,
        But a test revealed leukemia,
        With no treatment… no cure.

        * * *

        After living with us
        For only three months,
        Dearest Skeeta was put to sleep.
        But she left her mark,
        Indelibly on my heart.
        Memories that I would keep.

        * * *

        She went to a better place,
        To join her kind and be without pain,
        Where cats are happy and free.
        To be as I’d want her to be,
        But Skeeta left a legacy behind,
        Unbeknown at the time to me.

        * * *

        Many years later when Ray moved in,
        He tested positive for heartworm.
        After only three months in our home,
        What were our options? What to do?
        A very serious condition,
        And he could not fight it alone.

        * * *

        We could return him, or put him to sleep.
        We could do nothing, which would eventually kill him.
        What would make the most sense?
        For such a short and unhappy life,
        An expensive course of treatment,
        But… could we justify the expense?

        * * *

        The treatment he may not even survive
        But… shouldn’t we at least try?
        For perhaps survive he would.
        Shouldn’t we give him a chance?
        A chance for his life to fulfill?
        To live out his life being loved?

        * * *

        Euthanizing would give him peace,
        But he was not even three years old,
        And his earlier life seemed hard and alone.
        Surely even a dog has a right
        To fight for his life,
        In a warm, loving and caring home.

        * * *

        To return him to the shelter
        Raised problems of another sort.
        Who would adopt a very sick Ray?
        Who would want his vet bills?
        Who would open up their home to him?
        Who would invite him to stay?

        * * *

        During these dilemmas, an inner voice
        Reminded me of Skeeta long ago.
        With no hope of a cure in sight;
        How she was put down;
        Her future sealed by a disease,
        Which cheated her out of her life!

        * * *

        But this time was different.
        Ray did have a chance
        If treatment was started right away.
        The decision just had to be made
        And then hope for the time,
        When once again… he could play.

        * * *

        Ray will never know
        What influenced his future,
        Or how it came to be…
        That a cat… of all creatures,
        May have saved his life.
        That was Skeeta’s legacy!

      2. Her job was certainly well done. It is interesting how these kinds of events can be linked together to produce “today”! If just one of any number of incidents in the past had happened differently, “today” would probably be quite different! 🙂

      3. Hi John – Let me look into it. I have had this before where a country and Youtube are having a problem! Will get back to you hopefully within a couple of hours. Regards. Colin.

  4. Hi Paul – Thank you for sharing your Blog to provide more exposure to “Who Said I was up for Adoption?” (and “Just Thinking”). Both books are “non-profit” ventures so this is really appreciated. Thanks again. Regards. Colin.

    1. Colin, you are most welcome. Indeed, having just read your responses to everyone else I’m minded to enquire if you would like to run the show for a while? 😊 Just kidding! The replies and comments confirm the widely held regard for this book.

      I just have one question for you. About your books being non-profit ventures. Are you saying some published books make a profit?? (Excuse my weird sense of humor! It’s a British thing!)

      1. Good question Paul. I am guided by a comment (origin unknown) ” If your goal is to make money, do not write and publish a book.” I am also guided by my own perspective on this in that I do not write for myself as I already have an intimate knowledge of me, and cannot seem to surprise myself. I write because I want to share my thoughts and experiences, so if I can sell one copy of a book… then I have been a little successful. If I can sell twice that (2!), then I am really smiling. As for the finances necessary to get a book published? I wrote them off as soon as I decided to go through with publishing! 🙂

      2. I spent many years living and working in East Angelia. Homes in Wivenhoe and, later, Great Horkesley both close to Colchester.

        But originally born in Acton in London in 1944. Interesting times then! My mother, who died just last November, is reputed to have looked down at tiny me, held in her arms, on May 8th, 1945 claiming that she thought I would live!

      3. Try this!

        Ten days ago Jean and I were having an evening meal in our local restaurant, just four miles from home, and I thought I heard English voices coming from a nearby booth.

        Couldn’t resist being nosy so wandered across to their table.

        Met with Cecily and Neil celebrating the fact that that same day they had closed on a house a mile away.

        Cecily was born in Texas to English parents and Neal was born in England; forget where he said.

        Anyway, Neal said he had been living and working in Plymouth, Devon before meeting Cecily. To put that into context before I left England to live with Jeannie I was living in the village of Harberton also in Devon about a 35-minute car drive East of Plymouth!

        It’s a bloody small world at times! (Jeannie and I were both born in London some 23 miles from each other!)

      4. Hmmm… when I worked for a company in Peterborough, I had a sales contact in Birmingham who emigrated to Canada. When I got my first job in Canada, I was chatting with my boss and he mentioned that his neighbor had emigrated from England a few months earlier. Yup! The same guy. Can be scary if you dwell on it too much!

  5. Paul what an excellent story, So pleased you shared that review and I can so understand the feelings expressed to with Skeeta the cat… Having had to make that choice my self with on of my own cats.. Wonderful that Ray was given this new lease of life by Colin… Beautiful

    1. Hi Sue – So glad that you could relate the mental turmoil over Skeeta, and as for Ray? He is still a work in progress, and probably always will be, but his impact on us in general (and me in particular) has been profound in so many areas.

      1. It is wonderful what you have done for him, and yes a work in progress, but I am sure he is progressing and the alternative too sad to think about, So well done Colin.. I keep trying to persuade my hubby to adopt a rescue dog.. I will keep working upon that area too 🙂

      2. Hi Sue, My book about Ray could well be the “push” necessary for “hubby” to agree. Whereas it covers positives and negatives of living with Ray, the book ends with the fact that Ray has been an amazing experience… and I would do it all again. The first 18 months was certainly an emotional roller-coaster, but the ride was worth it. We have close to 80lbs of German Shepherd/Rottweiler who clearly loves living with us and shows it regularly. I don’t know what else to add, other than he found his way into our hearts.

      3. Yes I showed him the pictures of Ray.. 🙂 Just.. We have been petless for so long but now we are retired no excuses, He had a dog when he was lad.. But we always had cats, and our cats manages to find us, then we rescued them.. One of 21 yrs, our last we had 7 yrs who was 14.. We said no more for a while, .. That while has now stretched into years, Yet he is a sucker for dog programmes about rescues, but I will keep on keeping on.. 😀 I am sure one is waiting for us. 🙂

      4. That’s what I was thinking. Plus, look down the telescope from the other end metaphorically speaking. In that there’s a dog thinking that out there you and ‘hubby’ are coming for him or her. (If we were closer Jean and I would come with you!)

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