4 am comes early for anybody that’s not used to getting up at that insane hour of day. Okay, so back in the “golden-olden days” people would rise before dawn to tend to chores and farm work. Some old people still get up that early, I know this. But damnit, 4 in the morning is WAY too early for this girl. Surprisingly enough, I was excited to get up that early today.
I got a call a few days ago from my friend Ryan Westward (for those of you Kansas Citian’s, he’s a kick ass DJ for 98.9 “The Rock”). Ryan is a pilot for an amazing animal transport group called Pilots N Paws. PNP transports dogs all over the U.S. out of shelters and to awaiting rescues and adoptive families, saving the lives of countless animals every year. Ryan called to ask me for help because he had a dog coming in to KC on a flight from Alabama and he needed an “overnight” for the dog while he waited for the flight to his final destination in Omaha. I asked around for some help but I couldn’t find anyone that could meet the qualifications of fostering a dog that was not recommended to be around kids or other animals. Of course all of my people (friends and family) have kids or dogs or both. Since my own kids went to their dads that morning, I agreed to take the dog on.
At 1:00 yesterday, I pulled in to hangar 6B at the downtown airport and awaited my passenger. All I knew was that he was a male Pitbull who was known to be really sweet. If you know me at all, you know that my very favorite breed of dog is the Pitbull so I was really excited to have one to babysit. A few minutes after 1, I saw Ryan pull up next to my car and I caught my first glimpse of the dog. As I watched Ryan unload the dog, I saw fear and sadness in the pooches eyes. Ryan extended the leash to me and the dog cowered and leaned in to Ryan’s leg, hesitant to come to me. After some coaxing, he finally let me take his leash and pet him. I looked down at the skinny fella and mentioned to Ryan how thin he was. Ryan then told me, “Ironically, his name is Fatboy.”. Poor Fatboy was so scared that I couldn’t get him to move and he was frozen in place. I picked him up and carried him to my car and gently placed him in the back seat and on to the pillows and blankets I had ready and waiting for him. Ryan then handed me a white sheet that he referred to as “The Woobie” and he said that the sheet had traveled with Fatboy all the way from Alabama. Ryan and I said our “goodbye’s” and I got in the car and dug down in my floorboard for the little Ziplock bag I had ready, full of treats. As an introduction, I bribed the adorable guy with yummy goodness. Soon, he was my best friend. During the ride home he alternated munching on treats and napping.
When we arrived at my house and after a lot of bribing, Fatboy finally came out of the car. I took him outside directly and from there, I attempted to get him inside the house. That’s when I learned that he really didn’t do stairs. At all. After a few minutes, I finally had him up the stairs and in to the house. He proceeded to walk over to Larry and climb in his lap. And when I say “climb in his lap” what I really mean is, be as close to him as possible without actually being inside of him. Okay, that sounds gross but you catch my drift.
While Larry sat there petting Fatboy, we discovered that he was completely infested in fleas. He had so many fleas that it looked like he had black spots under his skin. We decided that we would go and buy him some flea shampoo and we’d try to bathe him and make him more comfortable. After giving Fatboy a scoop of what I assume was his first grain-free, high protein food, we loaded him up in our Yukon and headed to Petsmart. I ran in and bought him some medicated flea shampoo, some all natural flea and insect spray, some bones and a stuffed animal. During our outing, Fatboy basically passed out in the very back of the Yukon so I snapped the picture below. It’s probably one of the cutest sleeping dog pictures ever.
After our trip to Petsmart, we got home and I immediately put Fatboy in the bathtub. By his reaction, I am assuming it was the first bath he ever had. He was so scared that he laid in the floor of the tub as I washed him over and over. After 3 washes, LOTS of soaking and a drain completely clogged with only fleas, I got him out of the tub, dried him off and then sprayed him with the Peppermint and Clove Oil mixture I had bought from Petsmart. I turned him loose into the house and he proceeded to head straight for Larry’s lap, soaking wet dog and all! I got him another bowl of food and just as he did the first, it was gone in seconds. Once he scarfed his food, he then proceeded to climb on top of me to be held. For the next hour or so he moved from me to Larry, Larry to me. He didn’t want to lay next to us, he wanted to be on top of us and held. During all of this, I wondered how someone could (a) leave the dog at the shelter and (b) label him as “aggressive” and not safe for children or other pets. I also found it curious that he had so many scars for being such a young dog (maybe 1-2 tops). I mentioned to Larry how he seemed like he was a bait dog but I didn’t think too much of it because I thought he was an owner surrender. Still, it all struck me as odd.
Because my house already has a crabby old Pitbull mix and an annoying as hell cat, I felt bad that they had been trapped in my bedroom all day so I agreed to stay downstairs and sleep in my teenagers bed. Something about Fatboy told me that I shouldn’t stick him in a crate overnight. At about 8:15 and after a nice walk, Fatboy and I went downstairs. I climbed on to the bed with my iPad in my hand and the next thing I knew, Fatboy was on my iPad… and it wasn’t a picture, it was the actual dog. I laid the iPad down and extended my arm out to the side. Fatboy lay against my side and put his head on my arm and instantly fell asleep. The funny thing is, that is where he remained until 4 am this morning when I woke him up. During the night I was the anxious mom who kept checking to see if he was breathing. I couldn’t believe that he didn’t move and that he had me hold him all night, just as if he was a child.
We woke up at 4, went for a walk and then I got ready for work and to take him back to hangar 6B. I tossed him some more food and ran to shower. Periodically, I would open the door to downstairs and there he would be, sitting at the bottom of the stairs looking up at me. A few times he was perched on the very top stair, leaning on the door. Again, I asked myself how this dog could be a danger to anything but a couch. I became discouraged when I thought of another dog, mislabeled because of his breed.
Fatboy and I made it to the airport early and we sat there for nearly 30 minutes. He would lay down and then the next minute he was up, resting his head on my shoulder. This went on for the entire time we sat there. I idly stroked his head and spoke softly to him, reassuring him that he would be going to his “forever home” today and that his travels would finally come to an end. He finally would have a home of his own. Occasionally, a tear would escape and slide down my face and Fatboy always noticed and he would lick it away and then act as if it never happened. I bonded with this dog so quickly and easily. The thought of sending him off to parts unknown left me feeling uneasy and unsettled. Try as I may, I couldn’t kick the emotion.
Ryan showed up and I handed off Fatboy, his “Woobie” and his stuffed animal. I tried my best to be brave and to not make a fool of myself by bawling hysterically. I’m pretty proud that I managed to hold myself together. After one last pat on his head, I told Fatboy I loved him and I walked away, got in my car and drove away. As soon as I was in my office, I sat staring out the window to the airport directly in front of me and in perfect view. I wondered when his plane would take off and when he would arrive “home”. I wondered if his new home would be a good home, one that deserved a dog so special. Sadly, I won’t ever really know the answer. I would rest my head on my hands and catch the faint scent of Clove and Peppermint left lingering from Fatboy’s flea spray, look out the window of my office and on to the tarmac at the airport, all with tears staining my face.
A few hours ago, Ryan called me and told me that he had landed with Fatboy and that he had some news to tell me. My response was “Uh oh”. Ryan then told me that he found out more about Fatboy and that the poor guy was used as a “bait dog” in a dog-fighting ring. Him and his brother were confiscated and his brother was adopted right away but Fatboy took some extra time and work in getting to a home. Now it all made sense… the reason why he was covered in fleas, why he was neglected, why he never answered to his name, why he wasn’t recommended to be around kids or other animals and where all of the scars came from.
This beautiful, sweet and loving soul was the product of stereotypes, abuse and neglect. After I got off the phone with Ryan, I cried as I imagined all of the pain Fatboy experienced at the hands of people. I couldn’t believe that after everything people put him through that he still was so willing to love and be loved. And then I remembered that I already knew the answer…
Dogs are the most forgiving of all of God’s creatures. No matter what hand they are dealt, they win with love and devotion. Dogs will always forgive you, they will always stick by your side and they always know just what to do to make you feel better. While I looked at my time with Fatboy as me comforting him, really he was the one providing comfort. He felt my questions, my behavior and me and he responded in the only way a dog knows how. With love. Fatboy, I hope you have the best family a dog could ever have. You deserve it and so much more.
*I want to extend a HUGE “thank you” to Jim Bordoni, Ryan Westward and all of the other pilots with Pilots N Paws, who so generously donate their time and money to the cause and who helped Fatboy along his way. Please visit their website and donate to their cause, it’s truly a great one.*