I got my first Airedale in October of 1999, a 7-week old puppy from a breeder in Ripley, TN, Ellen Barfield. My husband and I named him Dudley. He was the light of our life and taught us just how wonderful life with an Airedale was.
Over the years we would wonder to each other how we had lived so long without such a wonderful companion. Dudley was with us just short of 11 years; he died suddenly of an apparent heart attack on June 17, 2010. We were devastated. Fortunately, we had become volunteers with Airedale Rescue Group early in Dudley’s life, and we knew we would find another wonderful ‘dale to help fill the void of Dudley’s absence.
Let me interject that when Dudley was around 3, we brought in a foster “Airedale-mix,” Hunter. What a mess he was. He had been given up to a rural shelter in Tennessee because he killed chickens. Though his colors were right-on for an Airedale, he was anything but. We brought this sad, scared, timid, little boy home and nursed him through HW treatment, taught him to live inside, and taught him it was okay to raise his head and look at you. Hunter was the perfect Omega to Dudley’s Alpha. Through the years when we’d bring in Airedales to foster, Hunter would willingly accept the 3rd position: Dudley is Alpha, Foster dog is 2nd, and “Oh, I’m okay, I’ll just hang back here and you guys go ahead,” Hunter.
After Dudley died, Hunter was lost. Where was his best friend and idol? Though we were not in a hurry to get another Airedale, when we learned about Boone in South Carolina, he spoke to our hearts. He had been left in a backyard pen by a family who moved out of their foreclosed home. A neighbor was feeding him and advertised him on Craigslist. One of our alert volunteers saw the post and rescued Boone. He was HW positive and skin and bones at 64 pounds when we got him in August 2010. He didn’t seem connected to the name Boone at all, so a new name was in order.
One of our favorite fosters from years before had been a youngster named Vinnie, so Boone became Vincenzo, Vinnie. Vinnie thrived with us and steadily gained weight to top out at about 90-95 pounds. He was tall and all muscle. He and Hunter became best friends. Though Hunter deferred to Vinnie in many instances, they played and romped as equals. We’d had him nearly 4 years when one morning he just wasn’t himself. He didn’t greet me at the bottom of the stairs when I got up in the morning. He didn’t want his food. We were at the vet’s office when they opened and after an exam, x-rays, and an ultrasound, were told he had a mass on his spleen and needed an emergency splenectomy. The diagnosis that came a few days later was devastating: hemangiosarcoma, an aggressive cancer. We chose to go with chemotherapy to give him more time and he was with us for 6 more months. He died in July 2014.
Again, Hunter was without a best friend, but we decided to let him live out his life (he was about 15 by our guesstimate) as the Alpha dog. The old boy whose nickname at Dogs Rule Daycare was The Warrior, died peacefully at home in October of 2014. When the heart is broken, you think there will never be anything to make it whole. Instead, what you find is that your heart accommodates what you bring to it.
Now we have Hawkeye, born November 26, 2015. We got him as a pup at 6 weeks from someone who bought him from a breeder at 5 weeks(!), but decided after 1 week she couldn’t keep him. We figured he’d end up in rescue if we didn’t get him, so we bought him and brought him home. This is a long-winded way of explaining why my husband and I love Airedales and why we are committed to helping them find their homes through Airedale Rescue Group.