When my wife, then girlfriend, suggested we foster a dog, I was a bit reluctant to say the least.
I might not look it – I’m a 6’5” guy who yo-yos between 187 and 210 lbs and has the (self-proclaimed) second best chest hair mane in the world – but I’m pretty darn sensitive, especially when it comes to animals, and especially when it comes to dogs.
Before my wife and I adopted Guybrush Threepwood Schumacher-Moore, I hadn’t had a dog since I was ten. His name was Bo 2, he was a wiener-mutt, he loved doing “the bo dance” (he’d spin around in circles in an attempt to catch his own tail), and my family adopted him around the same time that I was born. So as far as I was aware, he was always just there – being adorable; being weird as hell; being my best friend.
When Bo 2 passed away at the age of ten, it was heartbreaking for me in a way I never knew possible. I remember my parents suggesting that they could get a new dog – to ease my pain or something – and I immediately shut that s*** down. I was too afraid of falling in love again. Terrified, really. The emotion that one associates with their beloved animal companions, their so-called “pets,” is sometimes so powerful that when it turns into grief it can be downright paralyzing.
So eighteen years passed before I could bring myself to take the plunge and give my heart to a dog again. Eighteen years of desensitizing myself to all forms of media (movies, TV shows, video games, et cetera). Eighteen years of watching shows depict animals in less-than-pleasant situations. Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior became one of my favorite movies when I was in high school. The scene where the dog dies protecting Max was not a happy one, but it also didn’t gnarl me up inside. It was just a sad scene like all the other sad scenes I’d watch.
That changed after Guybrush. Not immediately, but slowly and steadily until I was almost an entirely different person in that regard. We adopted Guybrush, or Brushy, or Brushums, or Brushface, in May of 2011. I remember watching Steven Spielberg’s War Horse in December of that year. Every time that Joey was in danger, I thought of Guybrush’s soulful eyes. Every time Joey was afraid, I thought of Guybrush’s bird-like whine. Every little thing that Joey did reminded me of Guybrush, and it was an emotional rollercoaster the likes of which I’d rarely experienced. One month later, I went to a screening of The Woman in Black – that terrible ghost movie starring Harry Potter – and literally all I cared about in the film was the well-being of the dog. (Spoiler alert: He lived. Daniel Radcliffe’s career…not so much.*)
And it only got worse after that. Commercials about beer dogs had me fighting back tears. A comic book backup story about Superman’s dog made me bawl my eyes right out of my skull. Tim Burton’s animated Frankenweenie film turned me into a blubbering mess in the middle of a theater packed full of far less sensitive children.
So when my wife, then girlfriend, tried to convince me to foster a dog – one week after the Frankenweenie fiasco, I might add – I was more than a little bit reluctant. Not because I didn’t want to help dogs, but because A) we technically weren’t allowed to have two dogs in our apartment, B) we’d previously agreed that our next adopted dog would be a young female Pit Bull, and C) I knew that I’d never be able to foster a dog without becoming a massive emotional mess in the process.
“No,” my wife said, “as long as we keep telling ourselves that he’s not staying, we won’t get attached. Besides, it’ll probably only be a week. How attached could we get in a week?”
See, my wife was the foster coordinator for Badass Brooklyn Animal Rescue at the time, and every weekend they put on a public adoption event where pre-screened adopters could come, meet dogs, and potentially go home with their new family member. The dog my wife wanted us to foster – a 1 1/2-year-old Dachshund mix who also kind of looked like a Pit Bull (we’re both suckers for Pit Bulls) – hadn’t had any interest from adopters at the event the day before. That tugged at the ol’ heartstrings enough, but there was more to the story – this adorable lowrider had an insane past: he’d been shot twice and left to die.
The very first photo we saw of “Ruger”
At the time, his name was “Ruger” for the gun that shot him. We don’t know much about his life before he was attacked, though an email we received from his original rescuer shed some light on the weeks immediately before and after. Apparently, he and another dog were dumped at an unnamed man’s house in Vidalia, Georgia. That man took pictures of both dogs, emailed them to SOAPS Animal Rescue, and demanded the dogs be taken off his hands immediately. When SOAPS “didn’t move quick [sic] enough,” he dumped the dogs again, this time at a nearby lake.
Sometime later, SOAPS got another call from a different man that a little dog had been shot and needed help. It was Ruger. Unfortunately, his canine buddy was nowhere to be found. We have no information about what happened to the guy (honestly, I don’t even know if he was a guy), though I occasionally think about where he might’ve ended up. Hopefully, he was as fortunate as Ruger and found some safety of his own.
Ruger had two bullet wounds when he was rescued; one in his neck and one in his back. He required immediate surgery to remove both bullets, which left him with two massive scars but little else in the way of a physical reminder. Indeed, he could walk and play and chase chimpmunks with the best of them.
It should be noted, we didn’t know many of these details when Ruger came to us. We mostly just knew that he’d been shot, he was from the south, and he’d arrived at Badass thanks to Eva Armstrong, whose profound love of lowriders led to one of the greatest rescue photos in the history of rescue photos (courtesy of Hilary Benas). For those who don’t know, Badass primarily pulls death row dogs from southern shelters where nearly 90% of the animals are euthanized. Since 2011, they’ve saved over 1300 dogs. While Ruger was not a death row dog, he was brought up north to Brooklyn because adopting out dogs in certain southern areas is just empirically more difficult than it is in, say, New York City.
Ruger was only in town for a weekend before my wife caught wind of him. He arrived in Brooklyn on Saturday, October 20th, 2012 and my wife – after guilting me into submission – picked him up and brought him to our apartment the following Sunday night.
You gonna…you gonna share summa that chicken?
A photo posted by Benjamin Andrew Moore (@benandrewmoore) on
As Official Dog Meeting Policy dictates, we introduced Ruger to Guybrush outside our apartment – on neutral ground – and they were immediately pretty cool with one another. As I recall, Guybrush sniffed Ruger’s crotch a couple times and then was all like, “OKAY, WHATEVER, LET’S GO TO THE PARK NOW PLEASE.” And so off we went to Prospect Park for Guybrush’s nightly off-leash fetch ritual.
As we walked, I started calling Ruger “Hans Gruber” – as in the villain from Die Hard played by the late great Alan Rickman (RIP) – because the two names sounded sort of similar. Ruger. Hans Gruber. Basically the same, right? My wife thought it was funny, but definitely didn’t take it seriously.
Hans Gruber the classic Die Hard villain (left); Hans Gruber the Doxbull (right)
When we got back to our apartment, we sat down to see how Ruger – or Hans Gruber, as far as I was concerned – would react to his new surroundings. First and foremost, he was glued to Guybrush’s side. Wherever Guybrush went, Hans Gruber went. Guybrush was in the dog bed? Hans Gruber was in the dog bed. Guybrush was in the kitchen? Hans Gruber was in the kitchen. And all the while there was never more than a few inches separating them.
Guybrush, on the other hand, was giving off a palpable “What the hell is this guy still doing here?” vibe. He started poking Hans with his nose, once, twice, five times. The Google search we did – “Why is my dog poking another dog with his nose?” – indicated that this was fairly normal (if slightly dominant) behavior. It didn’t become an issue because it subsided pretty quickly. It also helped that Hans was incredibly submissive at the time, flopping over onto his back whenever Guybrush gave him even the slightest of stink-eyes.
Just as an FYI: it’s immediately apparent to anyone who meets Hans Gruber that he’s a special dog. I mean that not only physically – because holy crap, this guy looks weird as hell (in the best way possible) – but also in terms of how he carries himself. He is, without a doubt, the calmest canine I’ve ever met. The best way to describe him would be to say he’s like Yoda meets Scrat meets Dobby the House elf meets Blankie from The Good Little Toaster in the body of a young Danny Devito (if Danny Devito were a dog).
His likes? Getting scratched really hard on the neck. Eating cheese. Laying his head in your lap. Eating peanut butter. Burrowing under blankets. Eating pieces of chicken. Digging through the trash. Eating food-based trash. Hanging out with his adoptive brother. Eating bread he finds on the street. Licking the insides of your mouth. Eating hamburger. Licking the outsides of your mouth. Eating the kibble his brother leaves behind in his bowl. Scratching uselessly at the ground before pooping on it. And, uh, well – you get where I’m going with this. Guy likes to eat.
Things moved pretty quickly over the next few days that Hans spent with us. On the first night, he slept in a crate – he’d been crated at boarding, so we assumed he might feel more comfortable that way – and had no issues. On the second night, we put him in a crate again, and about three minutes later, he started baying at the moon. We didn’t know if he was afraid, lonely, sick of his crate, whatever, but we d**** sure weren’t about to let this sad little gunshot victim live another night in fear or anguish. So I opened the crate, picked his ass up, and tossed him into bed alongside Guybrush, my wife, and myself. It was a packed house, but we made it work.
Meanwhile, Badass Brooklyn Animal Rescue wanted to give Hans – well, they still thought his name was Ruger – a new name to reflect his new life. My wife, as the foster coordinator and his foster mom, had some input and suggested Porkchop, even though Hans Gruber was clearly the best possible choice. And so it was that his name became Porkchop, at least officially. (For the record, I kept right on calling him Hans Gruber.)
On the third day, I remember my wife coming home from work and saying to me, “So, I was thinking. What if we…what if we kept him?”
The him, of course, being Hans Gruber.
Immediately, I was all: “I knew you were going to do this! I told you you were going to do this. You promised not to do this!” I explained the many reasons we couldn’t adopt Hans, primary among them being that we weren’t allowed to, according to our lease. She countered with something her best friend had told her – about how plans change, sometimes for the better, and when it’s right, it’s right, etc. – and something a park regular had said: “When your dog meets another dog he’s cool with, that’s a big deal.”
At the time, we left it up in the air (though I was secretly on the verge of relentment, if I’m being honest) and agreed to resolve the whole thing later. When I asked my wife the following day what her thoughts were on the matter, she said, “You’re right. I think I should take him to the next adoption event, get him adopted. We have a small apartment and we’re not supposed to have two dogs, so it’s probably for the best.”
I didn’t say anything. I bit my tongue. The truth is, I wanted her to say: “Let’s keep him! Screw our landlords! Screw what’s ‘for the best’! Let’s make this little pigdog our little pigdog, forever and always!” But I didn’t, at least not at the time.
I kept thinking about what might happen to Hans if we let him get adopted by another family. Chances are, his new family would’ve been great. A wonderful, loving group of humans who’d take care of him for the rest of his life. Sure, they’d probably name him something lame like Jeffrey or Lucky, but other than that, they’d be fine folk.
But there was also the smallest of chances – the minutest of possibilities – that he’d get adopted by a neglectful, jerky family that wouldn’t treat him in the delicate, devoted manner that he deserved. Maybe they wouldn’t pamper or cuddle him. Maybe they’d ignore his baying and let him bay himself to sleep at night, locked away in his kennel. Maybe they’d return him to the rescue, as some adopters do, and he’d have to go through the process of finding a home all over again. Or maybe they’d do much worse.
But that was all on the peripheral. Ultimately, my true motivation for wanting to keep Hans was much more selfish in nature – I just couldn’t bear to part with him. I wanted to know him and be with him and deep scratch him until he was a fat old man. I wanted to see what this weird, slightly timid dog would become after just a few short months of being “home.”
So on Friday morning – the day before the next Badass adoption event – I’d basically decided that Hans wasn’t leaving us. The only thing was, I hadn’t actually talked this over with my wife. And it’s not that I didn’t think she’d go for it – I absolutely knew she’d go for it. But I kept putting off the conversation because of how emotionally volatile I’d become as human being. I was absolutely certain that the moment I brought up my feelings about Hans to my wife, they’d jettison out of my body in the form of debilitating sobs and wails.
That night, we had a Halloween party to attend. I dressed as Mad Max from Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, which I researched – for costume-construction purposes – by watching the film…up until the part where the dog dies. (I’d watched Road Warrior in its entirety countless times. But post-Guybrush? I just couldn’t do it.) We went to my friend’s house, ate all manner of Halloween treats, joked around, and just generally had a grand old time. All in all, it was a pretty great night.
And yet, there wasn’t a single moment where I couldn’t stop thinking about Hans. About how I needed to tell my wife that we should keep him. I knew that I had to do it before the night was out, because in the morning, she intended to take him to the adoption event where he’d (very possibly) go home with another family. But I kept putting it off for fear of what might happen to me in my emotionally fragile state. Just a little bit longer, I’d say. The next time she’s by herself, I’d tell myself. As soon as we leave the apartment, I swore.
Nope, nope, and nope.
Then, on the way home – on a fairly packed subway train – I did it. I finally told my wife. But not before bursting into tears. And squealing at the top of my lungs. And heaving up and down. As a result, my wife didn’t really understand what I was saying.
“I can’t…I can’t really hear through all the…the crying,” she said. “What’re you trying to say?”
“I,” breath, “think,” gurgle, “we should,” choke, “adopt,” deep breath, “Hans!”
Keep in mind, I was doing all this dressed as Mad Max surrounded by 40 or so subway passengers. So basically, it was a normal New York night.
My wife tried to comfort me, make me feel better. She kept saying, “But it’s a good thing! There’s no reason to cry!” And of course, she was right – it was a good thing. Hans was our dog now, and he’d stay with us till the end of his days. But that was half the reason I was crying: I had more happy emotions than my body could contain and they were pouring out of my face. The other half being that I was just a big fat freaking baby.
I eventually stopped leaking, stopped squealing, stopped heaving up and down, and then all that was left was the happiness. The pure joy of knowing that this creature I loved unconditionally was now my permanent family member. When we finally got home that night, we hugged Hans like we’d never hugged him before. Why? Because now it was safe to get attached. Now, and for the rest of his life, he was home.
And that was the story of how we – my wife, Guybrush, Hans, and me – became a family (but also of how I cried like a baby in a very public place). Hans’ name officially changed for the third and final time to Hans Gruber Porkchop Schumacher-Moore, née Porkchop, née Ruger (or just Hansy for short).
In the three-plus years since, Hansy has had more milestones than I’ve had in my entire life. His story went viral on Reddit. He appeared on DogHeirs.com. He starred in his very own episode of a documentary series about rescue pets (in full disclosure, the series was co-created by my wife). As one of the BarkBox office dogs, he’s been in photo shoot after photo shoot, looking pretty as a peach.
But more important than any of that business, Hansy has done an astronomical amount of cuddling, especially with his best friend and adoptive brother, Guybrush. Not a single day goes by where I’m not deeply thankful that my wife brought these two wonderful weirdos into my life. They’re the best thing (collectively) that’s ever happened to me – after meeting my wife, of course.
Interested in fostering or helping save dogs’ lives? Get involved with your local rescue! Badass Brooklyn Animal Rescue, Foster Dogs NYC, Social Tees, Animal Haven, New York Bully Crew, and Second Chance Rescue are just a few great New York organizations, but there are countless wonderful rescues all across the country that would love your help.
*JK, Daniel Radcliffe. JK.
Follow Hans Gruber and Guybrush on Instagram @HansyandBrush