At the end of August, before Hurricane Irma, I received a text message from a dog park friend asking if I’d like to look at a couple of Golden Retriever puppies. She said they’d been bought by a couple in Boca Raton, who realized they couldn’t care for the pups properly because they worked so many hours. So on a Sunday afternoon, I met Caren Griffin at the home of local woman who was trying to find homes for the dogs.
I was instantly taken by Nigel’s cool, calm demeanor in a household with three rowdy dogs. He climbed into my lap and if he’d been able to purr, he would have. His name then was Winston – didn’t fit him. Caren, who owns three dogs, was looking for a dog for her grandchildren and chose the other dog, now named Sunny.
It’s been a long time since we’ve had a puppy. Nika was our last pup. We got her in 2011, when she was just six weeks old. Nigel, as we eventually named him, was 10 weeks when we brought him home. At first, Noah didn’t seem to understand who he was or what he was doing here.
During Nigel’s first week or two with us, we were hit by Hurricane Irma. Rob and I were able to watch some of the hurricane on our back porch, with the dogs. In between train bands, Nigel bounded outside to do his business and collected avocados that had flown off our tree and into the pool and the area around it. The wind scared him, but the rain didn’t bother him.
When we lost power for 36 hours, Noah and Nigel were miserable together. The heat and humidity were extreme and they were constantly panting and looking for cooler spots in the house. Once we got the generator going, they laid in front of the freezer, hoping we’d open the door, or sprawled in front of the floor fan.
In the days since then, Nigel follows Noah around, doing whatever he does. There does seem to be a teaching by example here. When Noah chases the Frisbee, so does Nigel. When Noah pees, Nigel mimics. When Noah follows Rob outside while he’s mending our broken yard fence, Nigel trails after him.
Noah now plays with him, chasing him around the front yard, knocking him down, running his teeth through Nigel’s fur.Here’s Noah, tryingf to tech Nigel about SQUIRRELS.
He’s still not fully house trained, but hey, he’s getting there. Meanwhile, Caren’s grandkids are ecstatic about Sunny coming into their lives and we’re going to get the two bros together for a catch up.
During all of this, we were trying to find a home for a neighbor’s German Shepherd who, for the eight months of his life, had been chained to a tree in her backyard or to an even shorter leash in the garage. The day that Irma approached us, the shepherd escaped and came tearing into our yard, so ecstatic to be free that she ran around in circles, lapped haphazardly at the bowl of water we put out, at the food, and then ran around in more circles. She was so starved for attention and affection that I kind of lost my mind and marched next door and told the owner off. I regret that.
But this was an ongoing issue. Neighbors have called Animal Care and Control on this man, the Humane Society, and he continued to keep this shepherd chained to a tree in his backyard. We threw the dog treats over the fence, she knew our voices, so the day she escaped, she knew where to come.
I’m delighted to say she has now been adopted by a family with two kids and another dog, where she’ll have a yard and the freedom to roam and sniff and be a dog. This evening, Noah and Nigel went outside and up to the fence and barked at the shepherd to respond – and heard only silence.
Look at this face, Nigel damp after getting hosed off at the dog park: