This Side Up

A dog’s ticket to Rhode Island


Life is good. It’s that simple.

And how would I know Oliver thinks that? Easy. His tail never stops wagging. It’s perpetually in motion, like a metronome back and forth and then like a fan, round and round.

Of course he wouldn’t be doing that when he sleeps, although it probably wouldn’t stop when he’s lying down.

Carol and I didn’t get to see him lie down and, come to think of it, we didn’t see him sitting either during our first face-to-face encounter Sunday.

Oliver is a hound – a street dog – rescued from North Carolina and now under the care of the East Greenwich Animal Protection League. We saw him behind bars, so to speak, two weeks ago and had the feeling from his kind eyes and whiskered snout that perhaps he would be our next dog.

But we couldn’t meet him, not then. He was on quarantine and would need to spend at least a week in a foster home before he would be eligible for adoption.

Sunday was the moment. Tammy Flanagan, who runs the league, made a call to Josh and Danielle, where Oliver has been on his foster sojourn. We agreed to meet at the Greenwich Animal Hospital, where the league houses dogs and cats for adoption.

We arrived first, giving us some time with Tammy, who shared that Oliver had some medical issues, that treatment has started and that, from her experience with other dogs, she didn’t imagine any problems adopting him. It is guess work as to how old he is or why he was abandoned. When he arrived in Rhode Island, he was skin and bones and barely more than 30 pounds. In the pictures, his ribs were easily identifiable and his haunches looked like plates above his back. That wasn’t the dog that jumped out of Josh and Danielle’s car.

Light on his feet and perky, Oliver sauntered into the office, his tail wagging to declare, “Here I am! Let the show begin!”

He greeted us with a gentle nosing. Karen Kalunian, who volunteers at the league, gave him a grand welcome with a hug and kiss to the head. This southern boy was just beginning to get a taste of northern hospitality and loving it. The tail went into high speed.

Then his attention focused on Fenway, a black and white cat, the most trusting and attention-seeking feline I’ve ever seen. Fenway had his paws through the bars of his cage, anxious for anyone to play with him. Oliver and Fenway locked eyes. There wasn’t any hissing or extended claws from Fenway; just a lot of reaching from behind the bars, like “Let’s have some fun.”

Oliver was interested, but had things figured out.

“What? You want to play. And you’re in there and I’m out here? You’re a crazy cat!”

Carol and I went into a room where we would get some time alone with Oliver. He went along, sniffed us over, didn’t pee on anything, looked us in the face and then cocked his head as soon as he heard someone at the door.

So far, he was putting on a star performance.

Danielle and Josh entered.

I watched Oliver. There were signs of recognition, but it wasn’t like he had to overcome any separation anxiety. It was if he was confidently saying, “Just wait ’till you hear what they have to say!”

Foster care before adoption makes much sense, especially if Josh and Danielle are the foster parents. They love animals and have fostered five dogs since they started with the league about eight months ago.

They provided marvelous insight into Oliver’s demeanor while he kept rotating between us for scratches behind the ears and on the rump. Oliver has no problem sleeping in a crate at night, loves lying in the sun [Josh had pictures] and has a remarkable appetite. He’s put on about 10 pounds in his foster home and has filled out nicely.

He doesn’t have a problem traveling in a car and let’s you know when he needs to go out. In fact, that’s the only time he’s barked, said Josh.

“How am I doing?” Oliver seemed to be thinking as he glanced between us.

“What about water, would you know if he’s a swimmer?” I asked.

“The bath doesn’t bother him. He doesn’t try to fight it. He just stands there in the tub,” Josh reported.

It looked to me that Oliver had a case of dandruff.

“It was like snow when we fist got him, must be dry skin,” said Josh. But that condition has improved with a change in diet.

Tammy came into the room. She wanted to know if we were going to adopt him. Carol and I looked at each other. Everything seemed right.

“Do you want to take him now?” Tammy asked.

With a houseguest through part of this week, it didn’t seem like the best time to acclimate a new family member, but Carol was prepared if it meant Oliver would spend time in a kennel. Danielle and Josh came to the rescue. He would go home with them. We got their contact information and we said they would have to visit us and Oliver assuming that’s the way it all works out, which it certainly looks like it will.

Oliver didn’t utter as much as a peep the entire visit.

Josh speculated that could be the reason his former owner abandoned him. Hounds that don’t bark don’t make good hunters.

But Oliver is a good listener. He was following the conversation, directing his attention from one of us to the next.

And he was thinking.

“I knew that was my ticket to Rhode Island.”


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