August 25, 2011
White Dog had just finished her column for the upcoming http://www.allforoneclothing.com/ newsletter (a t-shirt shop that creates limited edition works and donates the profits to rescues). This column talked about socialization and we had a wonderful walk down memory lane as she recounted in print the process that formed her into a perfectly party-mannered, well adjusted diva who is comfortable (and appropriate) in every situation.
She looked at me. "It is sad momma that we do not have these photos and memories of Quinn or Nuka or Puffy or Yo," she said. "I wonder what they were like as pups and what kinds of things they did and enjoyed."
I, too, have often thought about the gaps in what we share with our rescue family. No baby pictures. No sweet stories of mischief or eurekas. No idea of what made them the pups they are. Yes, we know some of the bad parts that landed them in our lives but we'll never know if they had littermates to play with or a special person to give belly rubs.
We are lucky with Nuka Angel, Puff and YoYo. Their previous owners left behind some information so we know their ages and where they are from and why they were abandoned. We know these names are the ones they were given and have responded to their entire lives. They are not names we would necessarily have bestowed on a new puppy; you already know of the 8 pages of possibilities we considered before naming White Dog, "Siku." But the names are theirs and we decided that they had the right to keep their names when they came to us...they had earned that much respect and dignity.
Imagine if at age 35 or 50 (just the past 20 months of your life) suddenly you were being addressed by another name. If I woke one morning and without warning was no longer "Sue" but first a number and then "Liz"...I cannot imagine the confusion and learning curve or how I would respond.
And that was poor Quinn's situation. The Mighty Quinn came from death row where he was merely a string of numbers. He had been picked up as a stray and all previous information is answered as "unknown." I had long held the idea that if we ever had a boy Eskie child, that he would be named for the Dylan song, which the college band I sang with did a cover of and which has the perfect line, "When Quinn the Eskimo gets here..." So the boy with a number became our Mighty Quinn.
But who is he really? He HAD a name at some point and one that he probably happily responded to and was familiar with. Does he think in his head, "Why don't they call me, (Chuck or Snow or Gandalf or whatever he thinks of as his given name)?" A year and a half since joining us, Quinn still responds to "Quinn" tentatively, as if he has to stop and think, "Oh yeah, that is me!" He is becoming "Quinn" but it is a conscious and deliberate choice. It must be hard.
White Dog thought about our patchwork family and shook her head. "I used to think I was the unlucky one to suddenly have all these brothers and sisters but you know, I am the luckiest one of all. I have always known who I am and have been encouraged and supported to become that pup. The others had to wait until they became one of us, late in their lives. I hope here in the White Dog Army they have found a place to bloom." "Me, too." I silently added.