The first night Franklin stayed with us we spent most of the night searching the neighborhood for him. We never figured out how he got out of our fenced-in yard, but after a few hours of searching it was dark, so we placed our last sign on the telephone pole furthest from our house and biked home. Turning the final corner, we noticed Franklin patiently sitting on the back porch waiting for us to come home.

We didn’t know much about his life. Dumped at the Zanesville animal shelter, no one knew his story. We were told that he was a three-year-old basset-pointer mix. A low-rider who came to my knees when standing, there was definitely some basset in him. He was a good looking boy despite evidence of a difficult prior life. His fur was yellowish and rough and so was his demeanor. With his front teeth worn to nubs and a broken canine to match it was as if he’d been chewing a chain for most of his life. And he had no idea how to play with our other dog, Daisy.

For the first few months, Franklin would sit on the other side of the room and not look at us unless we were offering love, usually in the form of food or a walk. He was so cute we wanted to hug and kiss him, but he wasn’t ready. As we learned more about dogs and dog behavior we came to understand that hugging is a human activity that isn’t always welcome from dogs, so we backed off until there was more trust.

After a while Franklin started to adjust to his new life. He carried a toy football with him wherever he went, and he learned how to play with Daisy. He started to sit on the same side of the room with us, slowly making his way next onto the couch with us. Over the years he’d move closer and closer until he was making physical contact. Our patience was paying off for him, and for us.

On walks through the neighborhood he’d growl and bark at other people and dogs. Initially we were scared by this, but soon we realized he was all bark. We liked to think that he wanted to protect us, perhaps making sure that his new family was safe. Others desperately wanted to pet him, but he never let anyone other than us, our niece, and his grandparents, touch him. He seemed to instinctively know who was family.

Franklin came to us through a rescue group, Dog SOS, that worked with shelters to help get dogs adopted. Often shelters become too full and overcrowded and work with rescue groups to find homes for dogs. Through Franklin we started volunteering with Dog SOS. We didn’t know much about the challenges facing companion animals in Ohio until Franklin entered our lives, but as we got more involved we came to better understand puppy mills and pet stores and the inherent flaws in the idea that an animal is a product to be bought and sold rather than a sentient being with a life to live.

One dog, a basset hound named Sadie, came through our group and made an immediate impression upon us. We found a home we thought was perfect, but a couple of years later her adoptive family called to tell us they could no longer care for her. So, we started working with them to find a third home for Sadie. On a whim, following a Mingle With Our Mutts event, we stopped at home with Sadie to see if she and Franklin would get along.

Franklin always growled and was standoffish with other dogs, but not with Sadie. It was as though Franklin knew that Sadie needed a home she could count on. We’d always felt that Franklin was grateful for his new life, and with his blessing our family grew.

We lived with three dogs for several years with Franklin as the rock of the group. He made sure we took a walk each day and he learned to tolerate hugs. On rare occasions he’d give us a kiss, or a smackaroo as we called it (Daisy gives smoochies, Sadie smackies).

A little over two years ago, sandwiched between his two humans, Franklin peacefully passed away. Our walks had shortened from miles to the end of the block, he was showing signs of dementia, and one morning he told us it was his time to go.

As we look back on our time with Franklin, we realize that he taught us patience and trust. We learned to be grateful for the good in our lives and to not focus on the bad things that happened in the past. There will be times when we are scared. Change will come our way and we’ll be thrown into situations we didn’t plan for, but if we approach these opportunities with caution, a pure heart, and we trust our instincts, we can improve lives for ourselves and for others.

If you’re interested in adding a new member to your family, please adopt from a local shelter or rescue group. Hundreds of dogs (and cats!) are waiting to find their families at Central Ohio shelters and rescue groups, including:

If you’re not able to bring a pet into your life but want to bring to joy to a companion animal’s life, and let them bring joy to you, please consider volunteering your time and skills with one of the organizations listed above, or with Ohio Animal Companion. – Chris Niehoff

Chris Niehoff is a Central Ohio animal lover who wants to see the lives of non-human animals, and human animals, improve individually and collectively. He believes this will happen only when human animals recognize the interconnection of all life and begin to act accordingly. He knows he has a lot to learn and hopes to connect with others on a similar journey.