Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Three Legged Wonder Wiener

So, I gathered from everyone's responses last week that the How I Met My Hubby story went over real well. Darn it all, I hate it when my sister Leah is so right all the time.

But I thought I'd keep the quirky story thing going this week by talking about my dog, Jake.

Jake the Three Legged Wonder Wiener.

That's right. Three legs.

This is Jake's story. Everyone has one, even the dog.

So Jason and I had gotten married and bought a house. And you know what that means for young professionals on the fence about starting a family right away - yup. A dog.

I grew up with wiener dogs and wanted to get one. Jason didn't care a whole lot one way or the other, but he wanted veto power. My mom's wieners were a handful back in the day (known as the terrorists from the family we adopted them from) and Jason didn't want to be sued by people who'd had their ankles broken by a tiny dog with an size complex. And being a frugal bleeding heart liberal, I didn't want to pay $500 for a purebred when there were plenty of perfectly good dogs in shelters.

Thus, the quest for a dog began. We lived in Chicago, which had a dedicated dachshund rescue organization. But for every wiener profile I brought home, Jason found problems. Not good with kids (pretty common for wieners). Antisocial. Kills bunnies in the yard. (Although, Jason fondly thinks of Red Fred, the dog who killed bunnies, when Jake sits 10 feet from a bunny and has no idea it's even there. What he wouldn't give for a bunny hunter these days.) Every dog was not right for our family.

So I broadened the scope of the search. Wisconsin wiener dogs. Indiana wiener dogs. Missouri wiener dogs. And Jason found problems with each and every one.

I kept searching. I enlisted the help of my sister Hannah. Hannah has the unique gift to find the most pitiful animal available and fall in love. So she started trolling, where she'd gotten her high-strung cat, Dulcie (Love you, Dulc!). And I got an email from her. "He's so cute!" she gushed. So I clicked on the link, and saw a cute little red wiener dog.

With no left front leg.

"He's missing a leg!" I wrote back.

"But he's so cute!" she repeated.

So I printed Jake off and took him home to show Jason. And the man went, (and I quote), "Awww."

Problem was, Jake was in Tennessee, and this was December. So I contacted Jake's keepers, Jerry's Rescues, and they agreed to hold him until April (our vacation) if we paid $125 to cover the two for one cost of leg amputation and neutering. Oh, and we had to have a home visit to make sure we were appropriate people for a wiener dog.

Jason still rolls his eyes at that. We had to be interviewed by other wiener dog lovers to make sure we we're some sort of deviant wiener dog fanatics. Although he did make them cookies. . . I love that man.


Vacation time approached. We planned our vacation around a trip to Tennessee. A few days in Nashville, then on to Lewisburg where Jake was at. We ate pralines and saw Little Jimmy Dickens do his thing at the Grand Ole Opry. And then we left the touristy parts behind and headed for the hills.

Literally. Lewisburg is a small burg, famous only for the Tennessee Walking Horse Hall of Fame, which is an actual Hall between the lobby of the National Tennessee Walking Horse Association building and the secretary's office. A hallway with pictures.

And we had a few more hours to kill. We spent them in the Piggly Wiggly. And then we drove out to The Middle of Nowhere.

Cue freaky banjos playing ominously in the background.

Jerry's house was way out in the hills, several miles from paved roads. No one but about 100 dogs were home when we got there, and they were all barking. Jerry apparently subscribes to the never-throw-stuff-away philosophy, popularized during the Great Depression, because there was stuff everywhere.

The banjos got a little louder.

We waited for an hour in our little car, rain pouring (of course rain was pouring). Finally, Jerry showed up. Picture Grizzly Adams holding a chihuahua, because that's what he was.

"I'll go get that Jake for you," he said after we exchanged nervous pleasantries. "You don't wanna come in the house . . ."

Somehow, I figured. I didn't even want to imagine the carpet stains.

So he directed us to what looked like an outhouse with a shower curtain. "You stay here, out of the rain."

I swear to all that is holy, there was a chainsaw in there. I knew we were agonna die, all for a three legged wiener dog.

But we didn't. Jerry came out with a mildly nervous 12 pound wiener dog and told us the story.

A church secretary had found him tearing into the garbage behind the church, his leg dangling useless. He was on the verge of starving. She kept him for the day, but then took him to the city pound. Now, I'm not saying the pound people are heartless, but they have a job to do, and a mangled, half-starved wiener is not high on that to-do list. He was going to be put down that night because he was in bad shape.

Enter Jerry. "I stop by the pound every night to see if there's someone who needs savin'" he explained as I only mildly quaked in terror in the shed with the chainsaw. "And, boy, did this one need savin'. Figure he only had another 15 minutes on that clock." As you might have gathered, Jerry is one big softy beneath that Grizzly exterior.

Yup. 15 minutes. That close.

Jerry's vet took off the leg - "jes' a dangling by a tendon," Jerry explained as my stomach turned - and tossed in the neutering, and three days later, put Jake's picture on the web. Hannah found him two days after that.

It seems that Jerry had found Jake's original people, but they didn't want him back. I'm not sure if they dumped him at the side of the road, or if he ran off after the UPS truck (because let me tell you, he's got it out for the UPS guy, bigtime), but he'd been hit by a car.

I like to tell the kids who say, "Hey! Did you know your dog's missing a leg?" that he forgot to look both ways before he crossed the street. For the younger ones, I toss in how he forgot to hold his mommy's hand.

Jason likes to respond by gasping dramatically and saying, "He is?? OH NO! Where'd it GO!" But he's funny like that.

Every year, we send Jerry's Rescues a Christmas Card and a check for saving our dog. They're good people doing good work.

Now some of you might think I have a predilection for those who might be termed "special." But it's not just me. My sisters have dogs (and a cat) that all belong on a far shorter bus than Jake does, but we love them anyway. And just because he's special doesn't mean he doesn't get tortured. Just look at the things I have done to my poor dog.

He drives.

I love his ears. The toddler does, too.

His ears get cold in the winter. I tried to keep them warmer. He hates it.

And this is my favorite picture of my dog. 12 inches of snow can be pretty daunting for a pup who's only 8 inches tall.

We love Jake. My son calls him "Jakey Wiener Dog" and will stop mid-stride to hug and kiss him. Jake's pretty okay with the kid, too, if only as a primary food source.

But there was one time he almost didn't make it. And this just drove home the fact that Jake was lucky to have us.

Being purebreds, wiener dogs are suseptible to a variety of genetic flaws. They have a lot of back problems, what with being long and low. And we accepted that Jake's problems might be worse after the accident and missing leg thing.

And true to form, he slipped two disks. Couldn't walk, couldn't stand, couldn't even pee. I was 3 months pregnant and not exactly rational, but I refused to let them kill my dog. He'd come so far, I just couldn't do it.

So we plunked down the $3,000+ smackers to have that dog fixed. So much for vacation that year. And you know you're screwed when the surgical center has a 10,000 aquarium tank and marble countertops.

But they fixed my dog. And left him with another scar.

Jake's probably about six, maybe seven now. He's mellowed as he's aged, unless someone rings the doorbell or the UPS guy drives by. (Nothing beats the UPS guy ringing the doorbell, in Jake's opinion.) I don't know how much time he's got left. Maybe he'll live to be 10, maybe 13. But I knew that going in - his time was shorter than a puppy's might have been.

But that's okay. Because he will have spent that time with us.


Blythe Gifford said...

Oh, you got me with this one! I had a "weiner dog" in high school, which my mother inherited when I went off to college. So your story and pictures brought back memories. Of course, Punkin had four legs, but who's counting?

Sarah M. Anderson said...

Nutty little dogs, aren't they? But addictive.

My sister Leah's dog likes to chew on his stump when they play. I think it's about the only time Jake realizes he doesn't have it.

Frankie's Mom said...

Sarah, I must commend you for all you have done for this sweet dog. I just came across your blog today. Jake is SO cute. he really looks alot like my Frankie, though she is a girl.
Jake is SO lUCKY to be in your family... it was meant to be. I could so relate with so much of what you said. Interestingly enough I am in the midwest also! My Frankie is in a dog cart cause she did not gain full use of her legs after her slipped disk. But, I looked for the blessing and turned her story into a children's book and now we visit our local schools sharing her inspirational story.
Jake is such an inspiration too... and so are you!!
Barbara & Frankie, the Walk 'N Roll Dog

Sarah M. Anderson said...

Thanks for stopping by! I checked out your website - we thought wheels might have been in Jake's future once. I'm glad Frankie has such a great mom! She and Jake could start a "special" wiener dog club!

Carolyn said...

Who would ever have thought Jakey would have such a wonderful home, and even get to sleep in an adoring Grandma's bed...........Love the story. MOM

Frankie's Mom said...

It would be kind of fun to start a wiener dog club of EXTRA SPECIAL ones. I just love that Jake of yours!! IF, and I say IF Jake ever needs wheels, they do make "front wheel drive ones." You can get them at Their story and how they started their company is so inspiring too.

Sarah M. Anderson said...

My toddler just loved watching Frankie's YouTube video - several times. He thinks the wheels are neat! (although he can't understand why I get all teary-eyed at the end there. Kids!)

I hope Jake doesn't need wheels - when he slipped his disks, his back legs didn't work, and that's a lot to ask of that one front leg. Thus far, though, his front leg seems to be holding up well. We keep his weight pretty low (or we try to, anyway) and make sure he gets regular exercise. Something about a ounce of prevention.

I've often thought about writing Jake's story as a children's book, just like you did with Frankie, but my style isn't really geared towards kids so much. Maybe one day . . .

Carolyn said...

Write the danged Kid's book......Go for it. Baby Steps. You can write well, and this one could be pulled together. Ha........ Love, MOM