Source: Justyne MooreEventually we discovered the key, Ray passed his Canine Good Citizenship test, and we applied to adopt him. The court had placed some stringent requirements for adopting a Vicktory dog. Kevin and I both had to have Federal background checks, our home had to have six-foot fencing, and we had to have liability insurance. Even more daunting was the fact that the sanctuary had an agreement not to adopt any of the VDogs into the county where we lived. If we wanted to adopt Ray, we were going to have to move. So we did, across the state border into Arizona.
Source: Justyne MooreWe took our little naughty brown dog home. After the court-ordered foster period of 6 months, we all signed adoption papers, including Ray who paw-printed the paperwork right along with us. Every day with Ray was a day of firsts. He had no idea what a home was like. He didn’t understand the dishwasher or the vacuum cleaner. As a matter of fact, he was downright destructive his first few weeks at home as he learned to navigate this new environment. I think the damage tally for the first month included one door, a set of blinds, several dog beds and the carpet. When Ray met someone, they became part of his family. And the longer he had known them, the more excited he would get to see them. He would spy a former caregiver or good friend, and his whole body would wag, his tongue would hang out, his ears would be flat against his head, and he would sport the biggest Pittie grin ever seen. If I had to leave him for any reason, he would greet me this way every time I came back……as if we’d been parted for eons. It is an amazing feeling to be loved like that. I never felt as if I was half as good a person as my dog thought I was. Whenever Ray would become frightened, which was usually because of a sound like thunder, or beeping, he would scale to the highest point he could reach. Once, when our smoke detectors went off, he burst through the door, into the garage, and scaled the built in shelving to the ceiling. It took me 20 minutes to figure out how to get him down. Ray was a champion killer of stuffies. He would get his BarkBox toy each month and have it “destuffed” before I could even leave the room. He took such pleasure in pulling out every last piece of fluff. He made sure to wrest every ounce of pleasure out of every monthly box. Ray only had a couple of years at home with us, but in that time he changed who I am as a person. I went from being someone who was somewhat skeptical about Pit Bull Terrier-type dogs to a fierce advocate. Ray taught me patience, and that sometimes routine is the fastest way to earn a dog’s trust. His lessons have helped us teach other dogs how to become loving companions, conquering the demons of their past. I never felt as if Ray were just our dog. From the very beginning he showed that he was more than just a pet. It was as if he felt he had a mission to meet and touch as many people as he could. When we would be having lunch on the deck at the sanctuary, he would watch intently for people coming out to take a seat. He’d stand, his ears would fold back, and his tail would start tentatively wagging side to side. His yearning expression pulled people in again and again. I am eternally grateful for all the people who set down their plates to come over and give him a pat and a kind word. Ray suffered from Babesia, which is a blood parasite that fighting dogs commonly pass through deep puncture wounds. It can be managed and treated, but never cured. Many affected dogs end up having problems with their spleen, as it filters out the Babesia cells in the bloodstream. Ray’s spleen had become misshapen and dysfunctional, causing severe anemia. The only recommendation his vets could make was to remove the offending organ to help him have a chance at a higher quality of life. We made the decision to have his spleen removed in May of 2015. Ray made it through surgery like a champ. His doctor called me and said he had done incredibly well under anesthesia, and his anemia was already improving. She sounded happy that he was recovering so quickly. I was instructed to go home, get a good night’s sleep, and come pick him up in the morning. At about 11:00 that night, our phone rang. When I looked at the caller ID and saw it was the clinic, I knew it wasn’t going to be good. Ray had thrown a blood-clot and died almost instantly. My sense of loss was immediate and overwhelming. I can understand the Native American tradition of cutting ones hair when a loved one dies. There is a need for a gesture that physically displays your pain to the world. Ray's placement service was attended by more people than I could count. Our little brown dog had made an impact on so many people, and they wanted to help us honor his passing. Even today people are stopping to visit his resting spot. I may not see them, but I know they've been there because there are new memory stones on his marker. One of our traditions is to lay a small rock or other memento every time we visit a departed companion. I can never repay what that little brown dog did for me. Ray brought me out of my shell, and introduced countless people into my life. He gave me a purpose and helped me find my voice. He inspired me to start writing again, something I hadn't done since college. Ray's legacy was to show the world that he was a victim, not a perpetrator. Given the choice, he would have always opted for comfort over combat. His short life helped to forever improve life for Pit Bulls, and especially fighting dogs, across the country. In Ray's honor, a CafePress store has been set-up to help fund-raise for other Pit Bull Terrier dog-type rescues. All profits will be evenly split between Best Friends Animal Society where Ray first found love and a gentle hand, Lucas County Pit Crew, the organization responsible for saving his sister Turtle and brother Bosco, Jasmine's House Rescue, which actually pulled and networked Turtle, ColoRADogs, where his brother Bubba was adopted from, and Dogs Deserve Better, the group which has honored all the Vicktory Dogs by planting memorial trees. My year of mourning is over. It is time to move on. RIP my naughty little boy. Wait for me at the bridge. I know I will see you, ears folded back, tail swinging madly, grinning that incredible smile, so happy to see me once again.
Featured image via Sylvia Elzafon