As you sometimes walk on an early morning in Oklahoma, the sun peeks through the clouds and begins to paint the sky with blues, yellows, reds and oranges. Your reflective silence is broken only by the birds and crickets chirping in harmony or a breeze crackling the leaves in the trees above your head.
Then come the anxious sounds, followed by loud barking. You forget about the colors and start reflecting on ending the noise.
Your focus becomes the growing volume of the barking.
Thatâ€™s the life of walking rescue dogs.
Nan and I have figured out the best times to walk Blazer and Benny are at certain early morning intervals between when the runners who are already out and before the walkers begin their strolls through our neighborhood. And, most importantly, before people start walking their dogs. Weâ€™ve found our neighbors move in cycles, almost as if someone had scheduled their times at perfect 30-minute intervals. Except for the friendly neighbor who carries a cup of coffee while taking her dog on a leisurely stroll. She always smiles and laughs when she sees our dogs.
Blazer is a pit-bull-bird-dog-something-other-type that my oldest daughter, Elena, found through the Latino animal rescue in Oklahoma City. Heâ€™s white with tan spots and floppy ears with these eyes that penetrate your heart. He apparently had been with a homeless family for more than six months. He adores Elena and then is loyal to Nan and me. Heâ€™s suspicious of anyone he first meets, especially men. He growled at me several times before deciding I was among his best friends.
Benny is a Doxie, a mix of dachshund and beagle, with a shiny dark brown coat with tan markings. He has soft eyes similar to Blazerâ€™s and bays when anxious. Nan found him in a Facebook post from friends who needed to adopt him out because he couldnâ€™t get along with their dogs. They found him at a lake where apparently he had been on his own for more than six months. One of his paws was broken when he was out on his own and turns in like heâ€™s a ballerina. He adores my youngest daughter, Elyse, Nan and sometimes me. Heâ€™ll bark at me continuously when Iâ€™m wearing a suit coat and wonâ€™t stop until I take it off, probably because of a past experience before we adopted him.
Because of their pasts, itâ€™s an adventure to take them outside. They are particularly distrustful of people with dogs. Especially those with perfectly trained purebred dogs. Itâ€™s funny what these people will do, too. Theyâ€™ll stop, tell their dogs to sit and watch as if we are a dog circus parade. Benny and Blazer roar and tug on their harnesses even more.
â€śThey should have those dogs trained,â€ť Nan overheard a woman with two purebred dogs sitting on each side of her say one morning.
Nan stopped, turned toward her and said while Benny continued barking, â€śThey both have had training.â€ť And they have. But we were told both also have difficulty overcoming their pasts before being adopted.
Rescues may have issues. They may bark loudly at times. They are not perfect. But they love, trust and are loyal unconditionally.
We try to avoid breaking the morningâ€™s silence whenever possible, say â€śquietâ€ť continuously and carry dog treats. But Iâ€™ve decided not to let the barks, the purebred dogs or their ownersâ€™ comments ruin the beauty of the early mornings. Or, the joy I see in our two rescue dogsâ€™ eyes during those walks.
Joe Hight is a Pulitzer Prize-winning and Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame editor who is the journalism ethics chair at the University of Central Oklahoma, director of the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame and president of Best of Books.