My Best Friend... Dillon!

OK, this is more of a book than a story. But this is something I really wanted to share.

It was a Sunday afternoon in the spring of 1996 and out of nowhere a friend from Los Angeles knocked on my door. Casey was known for making unannounced trips to Las Vegas, so this was nothing new. As I got him settled in the guest bedroom I ask him what he wanted to do, he replied "go to the animal shelter and look at the cats. Within a few minutes we were off to the shelter.

The Animal Foundation was on the other side of town. We arrived and entered. I am allergic to cats. As much as I love all animals, cats make my throat close and I stop breathing, so going into the cat room was out of the question. I told Casey I was going to check out the dogs and would meet up with him. As I made my way past the cages and kennels I couldn't help but notice most were empty. The selection was poor, at best. At the end of the trail was a young girl behind a desk who asked if I saw any dogs I was interested in.

It had only been a few months since Nugget, my beloved Golden Retriever had died of cancer. I wasn't ready for a new dog, but I was polite. "Actually, no. It looks like you ran out of dogs". She smiled, ear to ear, and proudly told me about how they had a busy weekend and adopted out most of the dogs in the shelter. That was nice to hear. She asked me what kind of dog I was looking for, and waited for my reply.

I wasn't looking for a dog. My eyes still teared up thinking of Nugget. I told her I loved Golden's, but didn't see any, and she informed me they had one in the "back room". Just like when the guy at Best Buy finds the last TV in the back room, they were hiding a Golden Retriever. Well, not exactly. This dog had kennel cough, so it was isolated from the general population in a trailer. Think of it as the ICU wing of a hospital, but in a trailer.

According to the rules it would be necessary for me to get "misted" before entering the trailer, and when I left. This was for sterilizing and because of the hassle they only brought serious adopters back there. If I wanted to see the dog I would also need to fill out the adoption papers before going to the back. Again, I stress that I didn't want a dog, and I wasn't serious.

About the time I finished the papers Casey joined up with me. He too was misted as we entered. I was warned ahead of time that this dog had been badly neglected, and the moment I entered the trailer I could see how sick he really was. The cough was the least of the problems, as this poor dog had been starved almost to death.

He was filthy! He smelled bad! He was weak! He could barely move from weakness! I was in love! I leaned close to the cage and started talking to him, soft and sweet, "good boy" and all the baby talk that would make for a great viral YouTube video, and it took every ounce of energy this dog had to wag his tail and lift his head three inches off the ground. Getting down on all fours, I crawled into the kennel and sat next to him. Gently I stroked his head and rubbed his snout as his tail tried to wag. Meet my new dog.

As it turned out, the shelter required proof of ability to keep a dog. This involved a trip back to my place to get my lease, and the amendment showing I was permitted to have a large dog. I was lucky Casey drove, as I could not focus on anything except that sweet pup laying on the floor and unable to move. We got back to the shelter at 4:30 P.M. and I paid my $10 fee.

Since this dog was a "special needs" animal the adoption fee was waived. The $10 was for his dog license. I needed to select a name, and chose Dillon. Originally Nugget was to be named this, but he came with that name and it fit him so well there was no need to change it. Dillon was short for Marshall Matt Dillon; a bandana wearing dog from the old west. At least that was the plan. For now, I had to lift him up for him to have a chance at walking, and that was a chore for Dillon. I held him in my lap as the paperwork was finished, and the young girl who assisted me began to cry.

Between the sniffles she told me Dillon's story. He was one of three dogs that were neglected in a back yard and removed by court order. The other two had been adopted already, but since the only food was what neighbors dumped over the fence, and Dillon was the smallest of the three, he barely ate. Though stunted in his growth by a couple inches, he was a full grown 3 1/2 year old Golden Retriever that weighed only 28 pounds. That amounts to a skeleton wrapped in skin and filthy fur, and if you subtract for the dirt on him it would be more like 27 pounds. My hands were filthy from holding him, and I was warned because of the kennel cough I could not let him get wet for three more days.

She continued to sniffle as she explained that it was her goal to get this particular dog adopted today. Through the sniffles she explained that he was scheduled to be put down — that day — at the close of business. I too sniffled.

I carried Dillon to Casey's Blazer, slowly lowering myself into the passenger seat. Casey drove us home as I comforted my new dog the entire way with petting, sweet talk and ear scratching. . At the front door I gently set Dillon down to get the keys from my pocket, and as I opened the door he cowered. This poor dog was afraid to go inside. A step closer to him showed that he must have been kicked when he got close to the door, so once again I scooped him up and held him close to the grime covering the front of my shirt — carrying him inside. Dillon was nervous, but my non-stop "good boy" comments seemed to calm him. I set him down in the middle of the living room, where he experienced his first tummy rub. Being inside was OK with him.

I could NEVER understand how someone could mistreat an animal like this! He was afraid of everything. Hands, magazines, a broom. It seemed like any object was a weapon used on that dog. Dillon's life had been pure hell, but that was over now. He was about to learn what it was like to be loved and appreciated.

Food and water was another issue. Poor Dillon had a stomach so shrunken that anything he swallowed was spit back up. Even a single tablespoon of chicken broth would not stay down, so I sent Casey to get a neighbor of mine right away. Christina was a nurse, so I was hoping she would know what to do or who to call. She told me to get some Knox unflavored gelatin and mix it with salt water. Let it set and feed it to him a little at a time. This would get the stomach primed and producing acid.

Once again, Casey to the rescue, as he ran to the store for the gelatin. I made a double batch, one with the quick-set method and soon had Dillon's first meal ready to go. He loved the treat and ate a few cubes every 10 or 15 minutes without spitting anything up.

As for the filth, that was resolved after his three days of doctor ordered "stay dry". I put him in the big roman bathtub with warm water. He liked his bath but had a very difficult time getting a good footing to stand. Since his slender frame made it impossible to sit I ended up climbing into the tub and held him in one hand as I lathered him with oatmeal doggy shampoo in the other hand. Taking great care to make certain he was comfortable I cleaned every strand of fur on that dog. A washcloth for the ears and face to keep them from getting too wet, brushing out the dead fur and — as the label says — lather, rinse, repeat. Dillon and I were in the tub for over an hour until every bit of grime was gone from his slender body. With the loss of all of the dead fur he was even skinnier.

I drained the tub, regularly pulling huge clumps of fur from the drain. I was thinking It will be a miracle if this drain does not clog, and I did eventually need a bottle of drain cleaner to clear it out. With the filthy water drained I used the shower wand to give Dillon a final rinse; something he enjoyed. There we were in the tub, both soaking wet. Him with 1/2 the fur he started with, and me, still in my jeans and denim shirt. After he was rinsed I took the shower wand to myself to get rid of even more dog hair.

I ******** out of my wet clothes, towel dried my buddy and brushed him as I waved the blow drier around. That filthy mangy dog was now a deep rust color. His fur was coarse but a quality dog food and a little time turned his fur to a flowing silk, up to a foot long on his fringes.

Overall, it took about six months to get Dillon back in shape. This included the gradual introduction of dog food, starting with a canned anorexia food (where a tiny can provided complete nutrition) and working our way all up to dry kibbles. There was a never-ending bowl of kibbles in the kitchen and he soon learned that he would never run out of munchies. We also had an exercise routine that needed to start slowly, but by the end of the 6th month his muscle tone was perfect. Except for the loss of height you would never know there was a checkered past.

In this time I also needed to do a good amount of training. I taught him his name, and when he was able to move more freely we began with the basics; sit, lay down, shake, stay, come, etc...

Looking back to day 1, Dillon was as insecure as he could be. At night, the last thing I would do before going to sleep would be to lift Dillon onto the bed. This, he loved! He curled up into a ball on a pillow at the head of the bed and laid by me all night long. For the first two nights he felt it was necessary to hold my wrist in his mouth. Ever so gently he had just enough of a grip to know I was not leaving him. I night number three he did not do this. Instead, I woke up half on my side and half on my back, with my mouth wide open and his nose and snout stuffed into my mouth.

Salty. If you ever wondered what a dog's nose tasted like, it is salty. Dillon an I had generated a house rule that I called "Must Touch". Every night, when asleep we had to be touching. As he learned I was not going to leave him the Must Touch rule evolved to him pressed against my side or using my shoulder as a pillow. Personally, I never slept better.

He knew my every move, and I knew his. In only a few months all of his fears went away. Hands that once smacked were there to scratch his ears and rub his belly. Magazines were no longer a weapon, but for reading. If I walked into another room Dillon followed me... Always by my side. As a Golden, he loved carrying something in his mouth, so many of our walks had him with the loop of his leash in his mouth and the clip hooked to my belt loop.

Dillon was with me for just under 12 1/2 years. Though it's hard to imagine a dog that had such a rocky start living to almost 16, he did. In that time he he was my best friend and companion, and I know he was meant for me. As he got older I got a puppy to keep him company. Dillon raised this puppy and passed all of his knowledge on to the next generation. I referred to them as "brothers", but Dillon was like a daddy. I never taught this new do anything, as Dillon did that for me. The puppy mimicked his big brother and knew everything I had trained Dillon to do. That puppy is Murphy, my current dog. He will be 13 years old this month, and each day I see some Dillon in him in one way or another.

Though this is technically a story about his abuse, I chose to focus on the positive. Had that sweet Golden Retriever not tolerated those deplorable conditions for his first years, I never would have found him at the pound, fallen in love with him, and used him to carry on the doggy traditions, and had so many years of true delight.

Every night, when I am asleep, Murphy follows the rules of "Must Touch". He learned this from Dillon, and knows no other way of sleeping.

wetdog777 wetdog777
51-55, M
4 Responses Dec 3, 2012

I got chills of the best kind when I read this story. Thanks.

Thank you for your kind thoughts. I am happy they were "good chills".

Good enough to rate it up by 5.

I didn't even know you can do that. Thank You.

Yeah, I've only done it for one other story...and guess what it was about. LOL, yup, another story about a rescued dog.

1 More Response

What a beautiful and touching story. Thank you so much for sharing it and for being the kind of person who will give a neglected dog a second chance. Bless you.

And now, I am in the process of finding another dog. One to keep my Murphy young and active.

Holy Crap! That was sad and sweet and beautiful.....I'd like to take those people who abused that dog and use more than a rolled up newspaper....i think think they should be stuck in a cage with rabid dogs for about an hour...that would be poetic.....yes, i am an "eye for an eye" type person.

your dogs are lucky to have found you. i love my dogs but i don't think i would have been able to emotionally handle what you must have gone through with Dillon.

Thank you for your thoughts. If I may correct you on one point, it is not the dogs that were lucky to find me... it was me that was lucky to find them.

you were all lucky...but i meant it the way i said it. Dillon wouldn't have had a chance if not for you.

Your beautiful story brought tears to my eyes, thank you for sharing it. I have saved kittens and puppies over the years, and it is so amazing to see them become happy again. I want to rescue a golden retriever or a labrador next spring, but I am not sure what is the difference. I never had a large dog and am afraid of them biting. Have you ever seen the movie "Hachi, a dog's tale"? it is a beautiful story of a loyal dog based on a true story. That movie made me cry.

I have seen Hachi, and I cried. Golden's and Labs are almost the same do, with the difference being the coat. Golden's have longer fur with very long fringe. Labrador's are short haired dogs. Personality wise they are exactly the same, and as for the biting, both breeds top the AKC list of dogs that bite the LEAST. They are hunting dogs, and their instinct is in retrieving birds and fish --- so they were bread for gentleness. When my God Daughter was 9 months old she visited, and had an obsession with picking Dillon's nose. Every time you turn around she had her little fingers drilled up his nostrils --- yet he never growled or snapped at her. If that doesn't say gentle, I am not sure what would.

Awww.. that is a cute story about your God Daughter. Thanks for the advice.

Anyone who doesn't has no heart. Don't you agree?