A year ago, today, Alex and I rescued the third member of our little family of three. Marty the Bull Terrier. He’s changed my life. He’s brought so much joy into our family – so much so that we oftentimes find ourselves longing for his presence when we’re away from him. He’s taught us patience…a lot of patience. He’s taught us kindness. He’s taught us to care less about the tangible stuff, and more about the good stuff. He’s taught us to look more closely at the simplicity of just being. The moments when he’s sitting in the yard, watching the butterflies fly by … that’s the good stuff.
I thought today of all days would be the best time to share a little more about Marty’s story for those who might have just assumed he showed up into our lives one day, unannounced. There’s your first mistake: Marty doesn’t show up anywhere unannounced. He comes in like a wrecking ball full of personality, and he won’t leave until he’s napped on your lap, completely and utterly passed out 😉
I’ve had three dogs prior to Marty in my life. A chocolate lab when I was growing up, a lab/shepard mix while I was in high school and some of college, and Biff, our Jack Russel/Beagle mix – Al’s first dog. One of the most difficult things to admit is that I lost the last two due to aggression towards people; in two rather painful incidences to talk about. Losing a dog long before they’re supposed to go is one of the toughest lessons of life I’ve been taught. But it’s because of these incidences that I pour so much of my heart and time into our new baby in bully form. I swore to myself that the next dog I got – my dog – I wouldn’t let it happen again.
When we lost Biff just over a year ago, living without a dog proved to be unbearable. I was working night shift at the time, so being home in an empty house wasn’t working for me. I remember crying every single day. Al had mentioned, long before, that the next dog he wanted to get was a Bull Terrier, or “a toddler in a dog suit.” The next dog I wanted, needed to be suitable as a Therapy Dog. He showed me video after video of bull terriers, and I have to admit, I thought they were the weirdest, ugliest dogs in the world. And then I met Marty.
I have always been an advocate for rescuing dogs. When you look at the number of animals in shelters and the number of spaces in said shelters, it just makes sense. But I understand that everyone has their reasons to adopt or not adopt, to breed or not to breed. To each their own. And maybe with two aggressive dogs in my past, people would call me crazy for adopting. I think I just had a hunch. I think I was meant to find Marty all along.
I began scouring the Internet for a bully rescue. They were all too old, too dog aggressive, too far away, too many people on the waiting list. And then I found Marty; posted in an ad on Craigslist. I gave the number a call: he was already claimed. I was bummed, but I put the thought out of my mind. A few days later, I got a call from the same number. He was available once again. When could I come by? “Immediately,” I said, “I’ll be there tomorrow.” Alex thought I was crazy.
The next day, Alex, my friend Caroline, and I drove about an hour inland to meet Marty. When we pulled up to the house, he darted through the screen door, barreling towards me. I was terrified. He burrowed his huge head into my knees, tail wagging furiously; I looked down at him and he had this gigantic smile on his face. I was in love.
We spent a good two hours at this house. It was small and filled with kids and a couple of cats. We learned that the landlord didn’t allow dogs. We learned that Marty was seven months old. We learned that he didn’t know much of anything, other than how to go pee outside. We learned that he didn’t even know his name. And we learned that everyone else who had been interested in him, wanted to keep him chained up outside for breeding purposes. The entire time, Marty is running around the place like a crazy man, puppy biting Al on his arms, nonstop. When I say “like a crazy man,” what I mean to say is, “like a bat out of hell.” I’d seen hyper puppies before, but nothing like this.
A little while into the conversation, we learned that the family used negative actions to discipline Marty; they hit him. Often with shoes, or whatever else they could grab around the house. I don’t doubt that they loved Marty – it’s apparent in the way he’s utterly patient with everyone he meets, adults and kids alike. I just think that they didn’t quite know how to take care of a dog; they didn’t understand the work that has to go into them. At that exact moment I knew we were taking Marty home. I didn’t know if we’d keep him, but I did know we would get him out of there, and we would ensure that he was set up for the best life possible. Just so happens that that best life was here with us.
I remember the first night with Marty vividly. He didn’t stop running “zoomies” around the apartment for hours. He barked incessantly at the front door, at every noise he heard. He knocked frame after frame off the wall. He kept us up all night, crying in his crate.
Our first year with Marty has been a roller coaster, to say the least. We’ve learned that with a puppy, there come a lot of battles. And of those battles, you win some and you lose some. We had every intention of keeping him off of the furniture, until we realized that taking a snooze on the couch was the only thing that would calm the beast. (He hates floors. He’ll find his way onto any chair, bench, or blanket, if it means not laying on the floor). We’ve learned that socializing takes time and energy and lots of trips to the dog park… and lots of apologies to other dog owners. But we’ve also learned to stand our ground; to stand up to the people who bully our breed and tell us to get out. Cus if those people would just give him a minute, they’d see that he is the embodiment of joy and energy and love. All he wants is love.
When we got Marty, he didn’t know his name. He didn’t know how to act around other dogs. He didn’t sleep past 4am. He didn’t know how to be in a crate, or how to be quiet and ask for things politely. He didn’t know how to go down stairs, or how to pee like a boy. Heck, he didn’t even know how to walk on a leash! But you can tell a good dog by looking in his eyes, and I knew that Marty was good through and through.
Puppies take a lot of patience – perhaps more than either Alex or I knew was possible – and I don’t think anyone would believe me if I said we never fought about it. Oh, we fought about it. There were times we both wanted to hand him over to someone else. We wanted sleep and peace and quiet. We wanted our free time back. We wanted our lives back. But man, looking back on those times, I’d say Al and I grew up a lot. We learned what it’s like to take care of and shape a real live, breathing being. We learned a lot about making sacrifices for the long run. I know neither of us regrets a minute of it now.
I remember the three of us driving aimlessly around our neighborhood. One of us at the drivers wheel, the other one feeding Marty treats one after the other, teaching him not to bark and scream in the car, because we knew that there would be many family trips in our future, and that he needed to be apart of them with us.
Today, Marty is just over a year and a half years old. Everyone who meets him thinks he’s the laziest dog in the world; I think he’s just comfortable in his skin, and knows he’s got a good thing going. He has to be dragged out of bed in the mornings, he goes to the dog park twice a week, he attends Doggy Daycare regularly. He flies down the stairs (not gracefully, but still, he flies). He takes naps out in the backyard, he’s a hell of a camping companion, and although leash walking still isn’t his forte, he’s managed a couple four mile walks, albeit at an extremely leisurely pace 😉 He’s pretty much an employee at our workplace by this point, and he can chew through bones like no other dog I’ve met before. He hasn’t come across a single food he dislikes. He loves to bury himself beneath all the blankets in bed and then work his way right up between Al and I in the mornings, resting his head on our pillows like a little human. He rolls around on the carpet, always on the sunny patches, and every night he finds himself curled up on the couch with Al or I, but preferably both of us. He is the definition of a class clown; he brings a smile to the faces of everyone he meets. Our little egghead.
But that’s not to say he’s perfect. He still finds his way into the clothes hamper sometimes. He knows that putting his mouth on the corner of the coffee table will have us jumping up quicker than anything else. He has the loudest bark in the world and uses it to greet the neighbors…multiple times per day 😉 Sometimes he lies down on walks and refuses to get up. He’s been known to chew on pillows a time or two. And he’ll snag your pizza quicker than it takes you to realize it’s gone. But he’s a work in progress, and he’s mine.
A lot of people ask me why I’m pouring so much time into this dog. And while some of it has to do with having aggressive dogs in the past, most of it has to do with the future.
My goal for Marty is turn him into a therapy dog — to visit sick patients at hospitals, addicts at recovery meetings, or veterans going through therapy. And I know it’s harder for the bully breed…
And isn’t that such a funny thing? That dogs don’t seem to really notice their difference in shapes, sizes, colors, and breeds…but that we as people can’t seem to get past it at all?
I see it all the time at dog parks. It’s the people who cringe when they see Marty bounding towards their dog with a wide grin on his face and ears flapping. It’s the people who quietly leash their dog and leave the park. It’s the dog who openly accepts the invitation to play; who assures their owner, “no he’s fine mom, don’t worry about it. Give him a chance.” And I think there’s a real lesson in that.
You can tell a good dog as soon as you meet it. Because they don’t hide their intentions — they’re physically not able to — and the minute I first met Marty, when he charged through the front door and burrowed his head into my knees, I knew he didn’t have a bad bone in his body. He just needed a family who could love him as fiercely as he could love us.
He’s taught me responsibility in a whole new way. Because I think especially in this world today, it’s so easy to get caught up in “me.” Doing things for yourself. But then you get this little ball of fur and energy who just demands all your attention solely because you’re their entire world. They have no hidden agenda. They aren’t gaining anything by spending time with you. They just LOVE you. And it just puts things into perspective.
So here’s to you, Marty Party, and the craziest first of many years to come together as a little family. I can’t wait to see how much more you grow and learn in the next 365 days; I can’t wait for all of the adventures yet to come. But until then, I’m insanely proud to be your dog mama.