Becoming a Dog Person

January 18, 2012  

A loving Elderbull named Daddy converts a former cat person into a lifelong dog lover

By Renata Tweedy

It was plain and simple – I was a cat person. I had two cats and had fostered more 50 (but had never adopted, as I was strong in my conviction that each one adopted meant a space for one more!).

As an adult, having a dog had never crossed my mind. Dogs were nice, sure. I didn’t fear them, and I enjoyed being near them. But the thought of enduring smelly wet fur and their need for exercise even in bad weather didn’t interest me one bit. I didn’t want to even think about having to schedule my time around a dog’s bladder capacity!

His owners never came forward. And, except to visit, he never went back to the shelter.

But when I started working at our local animal shelter, I was bitten not by a dog, but by the love of dogs. My husband and I had caught the bug, and we began to foster as many as we could.

I took dogs home from work with me every night, learning as much about them as I could so that I’d be better equipped to help potential adopters meet their match. I didn’t think of actually adopting a dog, however, until I met “The Governor.” I still remember clearly how he looked that day as he lay in the kennel of the stray area after animal control had picked him up alongside the highway. The image is still vivid now, almost a year later.

Suffice to say, he didn’t stay there long. He wasn’t one of our usual guests; my husband and I would generally take home long-term, high-energy, young dogs that needed a break from the shelter before we could learn what they were really like. But “The Governor” was old and gray, unneutered and not even ours yet, as he came home with us before the time to reclaim him had passed. Surely his owners would come forward. A stately gentleman such as he deserved better accommodations than a concrete kennel while he awaited them.

His owners never came forward. And, except to visit, he never went back to the shelter.

Daddy the Gentle Heart

When people heard he was a pit bull and saw his bulky frame, many were terrified – until they saw him move. His graying muzzle wasn’t the only thing that identified him as an elderly and non-threatening soul: The fact that he didn’t have many teeth helped too.

He became “Daddy,” not after the famous pit of that name on TV, but due to his behavior the first time his new home was invaded with orphaned kittens. I will never forget watching him calmly resting on our bed with these tiny felines crawling on his back, sprawling on his nose and chewing on his ears, as another foster dog came into the room, eager to play with – or eat – the little creatures. Daddy never even lifted his face from the comforter, but his lips quivered, showing his teeth, and his low growl sent the other dog quickly out of the room.

Daddy’s fathering skills came in handy on several occasions. When my pregnant foster pit bull had eight beautiful pups, my husband and I brought home babies to bottle feed. We placed them on the floor of the living room, and Daddy would clean, keep warm, carry, and keep them safe from our pesky puppy Cavil!

Daddy of Adventure

The old man could barely walk some days, but he could sure swim! Our property is on the ocean, and while he struggled with his age getting there, once we hit the shore he forgot his creaky joints and sore hips almost completely. He would plow into the water like a pup – such a beautiful sight!

Daddy loved the car and often travelled with us. His age and slow pace, his low energy and his way of putting other dogs at ease made him a welcome guest in canine-friendly homes. He attended board meetings with me and went to work with my husband too from time to time. At outdoor events, he was always in tow; he especially loved a barbecue, for obvious reasons. He was also a great addition to presentations for the shelter and another animal rescue with which I worked, teaching adults about prejudice and children about dog safety.

Another image that will always be with me is from a summer day camp: Our presentation was about to end, and while I told the kids that crowding a dog is never a good idea and can be very unsafe, this one time Daddy would be happy to say goodbye to them all at once. About 20 little bodies gathered around, patting and scratching, while Daddy just stood in the middle of it all, tail wagging and tongue licking the closest faces.

My favorite times of all with Daddy, though, were when he would haul his old body up onto the couch or bed and collapse with a sigh, resting his huge head in my lap or on my shoulder. I won’t forget his eyes.

Bidding Farewell

The end came unexpectedly. A new medication had him practically prancing, and he had several delightful days of swimming and fun at the end of that summer. Then one day he woke up like his old self again, slow and wobbly. On our way home from the water after his last swim, he lay down and never got back up. He could no longer walk or stand.
I’d watched “Marley and Me” many months before, alone with Daddy. And when the lead character asked the old dog in the movie an important question, I asked Daddy for the same favor through my sobs – to let me know when it was time. That day, I asked him again. And he told me it was.

It was the holiday weekend, and our vet was away for the weekend. I was so thankful that Daddy didn’t seem to be in any pain. He was still eating, drinking and going to the bathroom, so we spent our last days with him spoiling him rotten and carrying him onto the lawn to enjoy the beautiful weather. Another image that I am so blessed to have caught on camera: Our puppy, who was not so much a puppy any more, had been a pest to Daddy every day since he was born, but when Daddy took his downturn, Cavil’s behavior changed. He became attentive and kind. He brought things to Daddy’s blanket on the floor and lay down with him. On Daddy’s last full day on the earth, Cavil joined him on the lawn in the sunshine. (photo below)

The final image that I will remember always is of Daddy when I said goodbye. The vet and the staff were so caring and respectful. They knew him, and they knew me. If it hadn’t been so horrendously heartbreaking, I would have called it beautiful. The way he was just there, and then he was gone. Not even a sigh. The way the vet laid her forehead against his soft fur for a long moment. The way he was still warm when I kissed him –before I stood and left his shell behind. Yeah, I guess I’m a dog person now.

« « Service Pit Bulls Get a Reprieve | Harvey » »


62 Responses to “Becoming a Dog Person”
  1. OMG this such a love story!! I’m balling, Daddy seemed like a great dad & dog. Your pictures are beautiful. It amazes me how dogs know how to act & when to slow down. God bless you & your family for opening your heart and home to all creatures including dogs 🙂

  2. joaniehoffman says:

    We should all be so lucky to have a Daddy in our lives. Thank you for this beautiful story.

  3. IlseSinger says:

    tears streaming down my face …

  4. Arleen J Rutten says:

    *gasp* sobbing uncontrollably. as I knew I would. so beautiful and bittersweet. true love never dies.

  5. millermorgan says:

    Thank you for giving an elderbull the best days of his life.

  6. MonicaCurry says:

    Oh WOW!!!!! As my heart is broken for you in your loss of Daddy. I also rejoice that you gave this precious soul a great ending. Thank you so much for sharing.

  7. LisaWizClague says:

    I’m just crying and crying. My old Miniature Schnauzer Josh did the same thing. He waited until after the last, and most difficult exam at the end of my MBA. It was a bright, sunny day on the morning of the exam, I took Josh with me as he loved to sleep in my big car (with the windows open, in the shade). He had been on his last legs for a couple of days, but I couldn’t bear to part with him, as I knew I would not be able to sit my exam. And I knew he didn’t want to go. After the exam, Josh and I went to our park. I carried him to the grass and he just sat there in the sunshine. then he just turned and looked at me, his little face told me it was time. When I asked him the question I knew his answer was “Yes”. Our vet was a wonderful woman. We sat with Josh in the park out the front of the vet hospital for a while and then she took Josh inside and prepped him. She gave him the injection outside in the sunshine whilst he was in my arms. We both cried, a lot. Josh had lost his little brother exactly one year before, at the same vet. Unfortunately I wasn’t with him. It is the only regret I have in my life.

    The unconditional love of my dogs got me through 15 years of my Life. Good, bad and ordinary. They are a gift from the universe to us.

    Thank you for your story. You are an angel.


  8. fox81j says:

    I have always been a dog person, and I’m crying from reading this piece. Thank you for doing all you’ve done for the animals, even before you “changed”, and for giving Daddy what was possibly the best years of his life. You allowed him dignity during the back stretch of his life and at the end of it, and that is as beautiful a thing as any creature can provide to any other on this planet. Thank you.

  9. smith1948 says:

    I can relate to this story. I, too, have always been a cat person. Not that I disliked dogs because I love animals but I preferred the self-sufficiency of cats my whole life. Then I found Lady, on the side of the road, drenched and frightened. We wrapped her in one of my young sons sheets, that I carried in the car in case he wanted to nap, and took her home. We had her for 5 years. She was always guarding my youngest son; playful; loving and simply awesome. I’d like to say she had an ending like The Governor but cruely reined its head instead. It haunts me to this day. We left her with a neighbor while we got situated in a new place. Our ex-landlord, Jared, lied to the dog warden and Lady was picked up and put down before we even had a chance to contact them to let them know she was NOT vicious and she had all her shots. No one was there with her and I still ache over a year later to think that my wonderful Lady did nothing wrong and died without her family near her. She was a brindle pit and we will get another when we are able. Honestly, the pain is still so deep it’s hard to even think of another dog at this point.

    • Arleen J Rutten says:

      @smith1948 Can so relate. Love dogs so much my heart hurts. Have two beloved rescues right now that have allowed me to live in their hearts. Swear my little Maggie has a bit of “pit” in her. *grins* My heart breaks for you and your precious Lady. I die a 1000 times just thinking of my precious dog angels that have gone to the Bridge. And my Maggie and Rosie that will probably “leave before me.” So I empathize. Understand. I only hope you are able to find a spot in your heart for another. There are so many that need the loving heart you have to offer, “smith.” I carry you and Lady in my heart.

    • fox81j says:

      @smith1948 I’m so sorry you (and she) had to go through that.

    • StubbyDog says:

      @smith1948 We are so sorry that you went through this when you only wanted to give Lady a good life and lots of love. So sad the situation pit bulls are put in by many authorities and your landlord because of discrimination. Our thoughts are with you and when you are ready, you will save another life in Lady’s honor.

  10. PeggyJennings says:

    All I know is that you can never forget how lucky you were to have known him.

  11. JessMarlow says:

    I am so very glad that Daddy found you as well. Thank you for this beautiful story. Thank you very much for your compassion and love of rescues. It matters.

  12. Judithg says:

    omg, Ive been there. Tears for you and your precious Daddy.

  13. blazer says:

    oh dear, that was a tear jerker. I’m happy to have read about such a beautiful dog and his owners though.

  14. lilpenny_21 says:

    wow, what a moving story…thank you for giving daddy a good life and for all the other animals’ lives you have touched. truly, truly a beautiful story.

  15. mausbuilder says:

    Thank you for that Beautiful story, now I know that I am not the only person to have had such a loving friend.

    Your Daddy looks ALOT like my “grandson” Cujo.

    he was such a LOVING and CARING addition to my life., I hesitate to call him a dog because he was SO MUCH like a 5 or 6 yr. old child that it was’nt funny.

    He, much like your friend, was a Great protector of my granddaughters and of myself and DEARLY loved his pool time.

    As time went by he became seizure prone and on his last days with us he had too many to even think of living a comfortable life and we had to put him to sleep.

    He may have been my daughters dog but he was GOD’S GIFT to me.


  16. holmsa says:

    I was so moved by this story that I cried and cried and could barely see what I was reading, It brought back memories of my own dog that had to be put down b/c of illness. I am a true animal person especially dogs. They have my heart. I wouldn’t trade in my :Sofia” for anything in the world. She brings such joy every day of my life and I sense I do the same for her.

    Thank you so much for your loving, compeling, honest story. It really touched me in a good way.

  17. jennmartinelli says:

    What a wonderful story, and how lucky you are to have those wonderful last times in the sun with him and his baby brother. Animals are so wise sometimes – like Cavil taking special care of Daddy at the end.

    Daddy was lucky to find his way to you but I know from personal experience that you will always feel like you were really the lucky ones to have known this gentle soul.

  18. Reddogg63 says:

    What a beautifully told story- great photos & wonderful memories! How blessed you all were to have each other!

  19. GreggBarnes says:

    Fantastic story! Brought many tears to my eye. I really love the picture with the litte kitten! Im glad General had a loving home for the end of his life. Thank you for sharing!

  20. NuriaRodriguez says:

    What a beautiful story a testament to the true nature of these dogs. Your boy sounded like an amazing soul.

  21. bakercon says:

    When I think what this breed suffers and what I know they provide in terms of joy and love to those who take the time like you did to know them, my heart breaks. What a lovely, lovely story, so beautifully written.

  22. JacqueAvant says:

    What a wonderful story. What a beautiful dog. You and everyone else who came in contact him were so blessed. makes me cry and sad but in a good way. These are a good breed. Its because people who have mistreated them and bred them for the wrong reason is why so many people are afraid of them.

  23. RenataTweedy says:

    Thank you so much, everyone! When we said goodbye to “Daddy” back in September, I felt like my heart was being ripped out. Now, I can read those words I wrote and see all of your kind comments, and just rejoice that he was a part of my life. Thank you for honoring him by celebrating his life.

    • StubbyDog says:

      @RenataTweedy thank you Renata for sharing him with all of us. While we mourn with you we also rejoice in his life with you too.

    • fmarie says:

      @RenataTweedy Hi, I don’t know you, but I just read the story of your dog Daddy, I cannot stop the tears running down my face. Precious animals that bless our lives with wonderful memories. I was on Heart warming story, thank you.

      Faith Smith, Delray Beach,FL

  24. nursy50 says:

    I had an old Rottweiler that had to be put down due to his hips. The meds we had him on allowed him to run and play with the other dogs and even jump up on the counter. He was feeling so good one day he ran out to the yard and both his back legs crossed. After I helped him up I knew it was time. He got a nice steak dinner and a good nites sleep. My vet knew him as well and I had brought from home. He lay done and knew it was time. The vet was great to make sure that she had more than enough meds since he was so big. Its so hard to lose our babies but Im glad he had company at the end.

  25. JenFortin says:

    I balled my eyes out reading this story. I have an old man in my life too, he is 13 and his name is Budda, he even looks like Daddy. He is starting to really slow down too, and I know we will be making the same decision in the coming months. Thanks for sharing what awsome dogs pitties are, especially the seniors.

  26. WilliamAustinHowe says:

    Cyn, It is way too early in the day for me to be crying like this. What a beautiful and moving tribute to Daddy. I want you to do me a favor and share this with my other group. It is called Austin’s Bloggers. You are a very talented writer.

  27. sleepswithpitbulls says:

    Thank you SO much for sharing your story and your boy with us, I’m sorry for your loss. We lost our staffie bull, Winnie, one year ago this past November and it still hurts as much today as it did then. Because of Winnie, many minds were changed about the breed, and many lives were saved through rescue. Your Daddy left the same legacy, I hope they’re playing together in the sunshine right now.

  28. shores811 says:

    Renata… I am so happy this little lost soul found you to care for him in his twilight years. You were a beautiful gift from the universe sent to heal and love a little dog. And it brings joy to my soul to know he passed within the arms of trust and love. You will have my blessings this evening.

  29. KathyReitinger says:

    He reminds me of my bullie, Rocky, named for the movie when I first laid eyes on the breed-Bullmastiffs. Rocky came into my life as a plump puppy that I had driven over 300 miles to pick up at the breeder’s house. I will never forget the size of his mother, she was huge and was so gentle, I passed her inspection of me and I petted her. As I brought Rocky home, little did I know how much I could love a dog. I had many dogs since childhood but none like him. He was my constant companion and when my younger daughter was born , he became her pal, guardian and seat. He was gentle but huge. His snores would rattle the windows. When he reached about 10 years old he started to stare into space, was hard of hearing and would sleep for long periods of time. I came home one day from work and he was not at the door to greet me. There was a silence in the house that was terrible. I knew that something was wrong. As I went down stairs to his crate, there he was, lying in the door way on his favorite blanket. He was gone. I cried, like I am now after reading the story of Daddy and recalling Rocky. We buried him in the country and wished him well in his next life. To this day I can still see him walking with my toddler and letting her sit on him. Sometimes we have dogs or other animals in our life that just leave an impression that never fades even with time. I am so glad that you had the chance to spend time with Daddy. Bless you for what you do for the animals at the shelter.

  30. PeggyJennings says:

    While I have cried many times over the stories here, I believe this is the first time I have found myself crying over a comment. God bless you for telling us about Rocky – I have a 14 year old mutt that drives me nuts but I can’t imagine life without him. God bless you and Godspeed.

  31. tphillips61 says:

    This reminded me of my Toby. Like “Daddy” He went swimming the day before I had to put him down…and like she did with “Daddy” I ask him if it was time for me to let him go. Toby had cancer and was only two years old. When I took him to the vet and they gave him that shot. I laid on the floor with him and held him…he raised his head and licked me over and over…as if to say, “Goodbye Mom” and he laid his head back down and I felt the last beat of his heart…and like her I remember getting up off the floor and looking back at his shell laying on the floor…because his heart and his spirit was with me.

    • StubbyDog says:

      @tphillips61 So beautiful, Toby lives within you always.

    • Arleen J Rutten says:

      …and this made my tears flow, “tphillips.” ‘cuz I too have done exactly that. With my Bucky (black lab/7-6-06). These precious angels are always in our hearts. Forever. Never replaced. Yet there is always room for another……..

  32. Judithg says:

    I am crying over Toby right now. I have two 2 year old pibble rescues, Berry and Joan Jett. Along with my other family of pets including 5 other dogs, 2 cats and a horse! I cannot imagine life without any of them. Two of my old girls 12 and 11 were brought home with me after both my parents passed within a year of one another. It’s a big household but I wouldn’t give up one minute of my life with them. I can’t fathom having to lose Toby at two. Thank you for sharing that heartfelt story of your boy. He’s in your heart now and always.

  33. lepine1 says:

    Thank you Rennata for sharing Daddy’s story. We always adopt senior pitties. They are so laid back and fit right in when we bring them home. Love their grey muzzles. It’s soooo hard to loose them but their time with us is always so very fulfilling. Keep up the good work, love what you have done for Daddy!

  34. JohnHautzinger says:

    Ok I’ve been a dog person all of my life and I currently work in rescue and have rescued fostered a senior chihuahua while she healed from surgery and got ready to fly with me across the country to her eagerly waiting adoptive parents. I currently have 2 MinPins and a Chihuahua mix (failed foster) in my home. Not one of my dogs or the dog I rescued have weighed over 17 pounds soaking wet. You do great things and this story made me ball like a baby.Did I mention I’m 6’9″ , weigh around 300lbs and have tattoos on both my arms. Yea, I’m a big, softy dog person.

  35. jhearn1970 says:

    Well, I’m reading this and sobbing. We lost our senior rescue (a scruffy old mutt named Griffin) just a few months ago. Our pit bull (Gilly) is much younger, and like the pup in your story, she became so gentle with old Griffin when he got sick. And as I sit here trying to type this comment (crying my eyes out) Gilly is by my side, putting her head in my lap, telling me it’s ok.

    We’re so lucky to know the love of rescue dogs, senior dogs, and pit bulls.

  36. Kelseysanti says:

    The last pic did me in. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I know what it’s like. Four years ago my mom went to a kill shelter in Brooklyn to see this male Pitt on death row. When she went she passes by a lonely two year old that they called pearl ( bc of how rare her love was for a stray). She had given birth to pups two weeks before. Thy were never found. But the moment it met her ( we name her Lucy pearl), I new I was in love. We loved her and she loved us. To this day I can’t fathom such a good dog to be on death row twice. An then saved. Now my Lucy is 6 and she’s not doing too well. She is having trouble walking and is getting sick. She’s my best friend. Please pray for her.

  37. PeggyJennings says:

    Thoughts and prayers go to you for Lucy’s recovery. I am so sorry that she is ill and I hate that any of us have to go through the agony of a beloved pet in bad health. Hand in there, Lucy!

  38. rn4pitbulls says:

    OMG, I’m trying to type through the crying. Pitbulls are angels from God and if people let them, they show us love like no other. Thank you for caring for all those shelter animals and becoming not only a dog lady but a Pitbull Lady <3.

  39. Kelseysanti says:

    If anybody has a twitter, follow me @kelseysantiago to keep up with news about Lucy. Thanks for caring.

  40. wings1 says:

    Sweet beyond words…

  41. lesamiller says:

    Bittersweet account of your transition into dog-dom. He was fortunate to have you & you him. The next one will be equally fortunate….

  42. Roberts Sister says:

    What a lovely story of such a sweetie. It is so hard to lose our animals yet you provided such love and comfort to this “gentleman.” We had our own genteman who we called Mr. Wiz once he became a senior (he was a terrior and lhasa apso mix). It was such a difficult time when we had to say goodbye to him. Your post brought back wonderful memories of Mr. Wiz in his stately blue sweater. 🙂 Thank you for sharing Daddy with us.


    caregiving. family. advocacy.

  43. BrendaPonce says:

    Sweet story. Thank you for sharing and for caring! I, too, was raised a cat person, and now I have 7 dogs. 5 are rescues, 2 I raised from pups. I now take in seniors or ones with injuries/illnesses. I lost an old JRT boy one year ago who was left by his lifetime family to move to Hawaii. He turned 16 right before he passed. I only had him 8 months, but he was a very sweet lover boy!! Your story brought back vivid memories………… Bless you!

  44. WandaTitman says:

    Beautiful and sweet!