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Porches, Part 2: A Porch for Dogs


When we had two dogs instead of one, our American foxhound Kaffir and Golden retriever Utah spent many of their days in a large kennel at one end of the porch, where they could watch traffic on the road – – whether it be foot, bicycle, car, truck, motorcycle, horse or ATV. They kept each other company while keeping an eye out for the birds, squirrels, rabbits and other daytime yard creatures. They had their baths on the porch, fulfilled their roles as watch dogs when Tom and I were gone and generally kept track of the outdoor goings-on, none of which they could relate to us. They also did time out on the porch for getting skunked or running after animals in the woods.

Happy dog, just back from burying her feet and nose in swampy ground while chasing goodness knows what!

If Tom or I was out on the porch for a time, the dogs were there with us, outside of the kennel. Kaffir loved to lie in front of the screen door, keeping an eye out for the squirrels or rabbits that she wasn’t allowed to chase, but the green anole lizards were too small for her to bother with.

For a good while after Kaffir said her final goodbye to us partway through the pandemic, we were too sad to consider getting another dog, and Utah seemed just as depressed as we were. Three months later the topic of a new dog was broached. When Tom asked the question: Is it time to look for another dog? We agreed on our criteria for a new dog: a female, at least two or three years old, no more than 50 pounds, house broken and certified to be free of heartworm, kennel cough, and other pesky illnesses.

Around midmorning the next day Utah began to bark the way he barks when someone is at the front door, except we couldn’t see anyone at the door. I opened the door, and there he was, sitting quietly on the flagstones with his back to the front door as if he were a doorman: a beautiful male dog, taller than Kaffir had been but with very similar coloring, although darker around the mouth and eyes. Startled by our opening of the door, he ran a few steps and jumped onto the trailer that was parked next to the house, then sat down and looked at us expectantly.

Over the next 24 hours I posted “Found Dog” notices on several Facebook pages and invited people to re-post them. The next day a neighbor sent me a message that he’d seen this dog running down the road the previous day, following a pickup truck whose driver was watching the dog in his rearview mirror as he drove away.

This was exactly NOT the dog that Tom and I had postulated the day before. But, because the timing was such a profound coincidence, and the dog had clearly been abandoned, we decided to give him a trial run. Naming him Pharaoh because of the beautifully dark outlines around his eyes, we fed him, treated him for a respiratory infection and started him on regular heartworm, flea and tick medications. We introduced him to Utah, who wanted nothing to do with him. After an initial quarantine period in the porch kennel we tried bringing him into the house, but – – at barely a year old, according to the vet – – the dog had clearly never been trained to be inside. He was rowdy, disrespectful, and, worst of all, he wasn’t housebroken. Back onto the porch he went.

Pharaoh lived with us for six months, during which Tom worked diligently to train him to a leash, along with basic commands, and I took him on regular trips to the dog park where he could brazenly show off his wondrous feats of athleticism. From a sit position he could leap in one bound over a picnic table and he ran the pants off every other dog he ever met, always reluctant to get into his harness for the ride back home. Multiple attempts to have Utah befriend him failed miserably, as did every chance we gave him to act civil when inside the house. Through the winter and early spring Pharaoh stayed on the porch. Fortunately, it was a warm winter, but when the temps got lower than we thought were acceptable, we either put a heater just outside the kennel and a covered crate inside the kennel with a thick layer of blankets, or we put him in the crate and brought him inside for the night. And then our house got flooded.

The generator goes under water.

Some extremely generous friends, who were on an extended visit with family in another city, invited us to come live in their empty house until they were due to return in another six weeks, including in their invitation permission for us to bring Utah and Pharaoh. For a few days we wondered if Utah might see this as an opportunity to warm up to Pharaoh – – perhaps Pharaoh could offer him some canine comfort from the disruption?

Nope. Didn’t happen.

Barely three days into our temporary housing we knew we couldn’t host Pharaoh any longer. The strain of being flooded and all the uncertainties that went with it was too much, on top of Pharaoh’s disruptive behavior and Utah’s intolerance. With tremendous sadness, regret and disappointment we surrendered Pharaoh to our parish animal shelter (a no-kill shelter, thankfully). The woman who accepted him from us found him so beautiful and with such a pleasing personality (he was very affectionate!) that she had high confidence he would be adopted quickly, but this was little comfort to us.

We will always wonder what became of Pharaoh, hoping he found a family who could offer him more attention and better accommodations than we could. The happy and completely unexpected silver lining to this story is that Utah finally came into his own. This wonderful, mellow, patient and sweet-natured dog had for 11 years been subservient to Kaffir’s very domineering personality and for the previous six months quietly resentful of Pharaoh’s demands on our attention. Since Pharaoh went away Utah, now going on 14 years old, has been more expressive, interactive and boldly affectionate than we ever knew he could be.

Our favorite golden retriever

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