Please Meet The Beasts

October 5th, 2010 - filed under: The Farm » Fauna

In all this time I’ve been blogging away on Bonzai, I’ve never formally introduced the furry men in my life! I’m currently in the process of slowly, finally, switching them over to a veg*n meal plan, and if all goes well I’ll be writing a ton about doggie diets this winter. So it seems an appropriate time to actually get acquainted!

Without further ado, may I please present:

Harley the Happy Dragon

A younger, svelter Harley. Circa 2005.

I rescued Harley in 2003, after the unexpected and untimely death of my first baby boydog, Killer. I hadn’t planned on adopting again so soon. I was still grieving. But I missed canine companionship, and I’d taken to visiting local pounds on a pretty regular basis. Okay, very regularly. I knew all the dogs by name.

On Halloween weekend my boyfriend and I drove from southern California up to the Bay Area. On the way home, cranked up and hung over, in the middle of absolutely nowhere, we stopped to stretch our legs at some random animal shelter. It was a total whim.

I entered to the familiar sad sounds of a kennel – endless and desperate barking. Meandering through the maze of cages, admiring each sweet beast . . . and then I saw him. This quiet fellow. A big bully head on his muscular body, his appearance was tough but his eyes were nothing but tender. A gentle giant.

I walked up to the fencing and stuck my hand through the wire. He lifted his paw, placed it in my hand, and sighed. We hung out like that for 15 minutes or so, just holding hands. There was no denying he was my dog.

Damian and Harley go way back. This was taken ages before D and I got together.

3 days later we drove round-trip from soCal to noCal, 5 hours each way, to fetch my Harley. The poor boy vomited the whole way home (it took us years of patience to tame his carsickness). But with a little bit of time and a whole lot of loving (he had been abused) Harley was happy and healthy and totally assimilated into my life.

He is, seriously, the sweetest guy. And handsome too, the combination of which has prompted many (many!) people to offer to buy him from me. Weird, right? Who does that!?

But I understand – he’s just that awesome.

Harley celebrates Waits’ 1-week birthday. Is that a look or what, ha!

These days Harley is officially an old man. His hips give him trouble and he’s grumpy with the young pups. But he still follows me from room to room, all day, every day. I’ve never known a more loyal soul. And he still loves nothing more than to just sit quietly, holding hands.

Crash Bang Boom

Don’t be taken in by his cuteness. He’s scheming!

Ahhh, Crash. Where to begin with our accidental addition . . .

I do believe that some people come into your life when you have a particular lesson to learn. Crash has taught me more than a few lessons, and has been a constant catalyst for my own self reflection. He is truly my teacher and ever my vexer, and I love him unconditionally.

Crash was a pound puppy, adopted young by a family who lived with my grandmother. Granny lived upstairs with her two cats, and the family lived downstairs with this sloppy spotted mess of a mutt, probably a Dalmatian/hound mix. They named him Splash.

Fast forward 9 months and the tenants were moving. My grandma mentioned their plan to return the dog to the pound. Um, no way! “Let me put my feelers out,” I told her, “Before they do anything.”

A simple mass email confirmed at least 5 friends would be ‘interested’ in adopting a puppy. I told my grandma, “Let me take him. I can get him a good home, no problem.”

Damian drove the hour-long trek with me, though we were still just pals at the time. He hung with the dog in the back seat, all the way home, and stayed to play late into night as we tried to get this CRAZY dog acclimated. See, ‘Splash’ was 11 months old with no training at all. Abso. Lutely. None. Within minutes we had dubbed him ‘Crash’, a rhyme that was a much more appropriate moniker.

A rare moment of calm amidst the storm that is Crash Bang Boom

This dog was completely deranged, chaos on 4 legs. Beautiful, yes. And super sweet. But also a total nightmare. All my ‘interested’ friends backed out. Finally, one unlikely person decided to take the plunge – Damian! He’d never had or planned to have a dog, but why not? They’d bonded and it seemed a significant opportunity.

So off they went and the demon doggie was out of my hands. Can you see where this story goes? Within weeks Damian and I were a couple, and within months we were living together.

So Crash was once again my responsibility. And I took on the challenge with gusto, though I won’t lie and say I navigated gracefully. It took us months just to leash train him (years before he’d stop pulling completely). We worked endlessly on simple commands, trying to establish a basis of communication. Crash is hands down the most stubborn dog I’ve ever dealt with. But, with my insistent diligence, with Damian’s infinite patience, and with an early morning energy-burn, he slowly began to normalize. What an ordeal!


Crash is still a work in progress. But aren’t we all? That’s the greatest of many, many insights that this small spotted hurricane has gifted unto me.


And what about you, do you have canine companions? Please tell us about them!

  • Rachel

    aww, I wish! I grew up with a dog (a toy poodle) and I would love to get another one (my dream is a standard poodle! or some kind of poodle mix). but I’m still in grad school so I don’t really feel like I have enough money to take good care of a dog… hopefully soon!! the guy I’m dating has a really sweet dog and I’m totally jealous of their bond… at least it’s kind of like I vicariously get to have one :) anyway I love all your adorable dog pictures, and the sweet stories about how they ended up in your life!! :)

  • LB

    Hurley’s story made me cry! Yay for rescued pups!

  • Laura Louise

    I’m not able to take a dog of my own right now. So many reasons for it. But at least I’m a “godmother” to a tiny tiny furball. He visits often and stays with me when his owner goes abroad, just has a lot of things to do or when I just miss him too much. It’s a good and the only way for me to have a dog.

  • Dana

    Harley’s story made my cry to!

    We don’t have dogs. Both my partner and I grew up with dogs, but I am a real cat person (almost 100%!) and my partner isn’t willing to put the time and effort into owning a dog, so we don’t have one. That doesn’t mean that I don’t like dogs, but I just don’t want to own one.

    All of our animals, 3 cats (Oscar, Skye and Figaro) and a bird (Mistical, Misty for short) are rescue animals. I would never buy animals, not when there are some many animals in pounds and so many people who treat their animals badly… (It took years to get Oscar to behave normally…. and he’s still a very strange cat!)So i agree with LB, yay for rescued animals!

    But I do have a question for you: why are you changing to a v*gan meal plan for your dogs? I never even thought about doing that, untill now that is. Is it healthier for them? Just curious…

  • windycityvegan

    I used to work with a bully breed rescue group, but I’ve never been in a position to have my own canine companion – yet. Someday I hope to have several! But for now, I’m happy with my cats, hens and goats.

  • Ashley

    I loved Crash’s story! I love crazy, hyper dogs. You see, I’m a glutton for punishment… I started with my siberian husky mix, Mitzy, that I adopted 10 years ago and have added 2 full blooded sibes since then (one of whom is a CRAZY rescue). Along with a bengal cat and an injured, orphan raccoon we have a huge disaster of a house thats full of chaos, I LOVE IT. I wish that more people would see past a dogs “formal obedience” and see the potential and unconditional love that they can give you. They just need a little bit of blood, sweat, and alot of tears.

  • Heather

    My grandpa had a dog named Danger that he rescued from the Army. He was trained to be mean and attack. My grandpa and I spent alot of time with Danger and he became sweet as can be. He was OVERLY PROTECTIVE of my grandpa and me, but he was so sweet. All he needed was love :)

  • Karen

    Your dogs are beautiful! I especially love Harley, but I have an admitted soft spot for bully breeds. I adopted two shelter pit bulls myself a few years ago: Ava, a wiggly, silly, wonderfully good-natured black pittie, and Violet, a terribly abused, shy blue pittie. Violet’s still a work in progress, but she is so much better now.

  • Adrienne Audrey

    What cuties! I have 3 dogs, a 1 year old Lab, a standard poodle and a pug. Two of them are adopted. Our house is in constant chaos but I love them to death.

  • Lenn

    We have a sweet beagle named Dub whose owners got rid of him at six years old because of the husband’s allergies. He’s very cute, but not so much in the brains department. Mostly he stays outside, he is housebroken, but if we leave him in a room alone, he never fails to tear something up or get into something! Do you have any tips for doggie discipline/training? I use a spray bottle on the cat, but when I do that to the dog, he looks at me like “YAY! SHOWER!”

  • Cedar

    Such fantastic doggy stories! You’ve totally inspired me to hit up my local pound. And I will admit…I too cried a little.

  • The Naked Redhead

    Awww! I just wrote a little series on Why I Rescue…and seriously, I might be giving a sweet dog a home, but really, I’m the one who is being changed. (Cheesy? Yes. True? Double yes.)

  • Rea

    Ha, I have a dog that a friend bought that I adopted. Strange story! Long one short, my friend bought this puppy and within months ended up unable to care for her anymore, so she became my wee widdle Snooks. I don’t know where I’d be without my fuzzy little bundle of joy. She has brought nothing but love and happiness into my life.

  • Valerie

    My husband and I grew up with dogs and always wanted one. April of 2009 we adopted our black lab/american eskimo/pug mix: River. Her name was originally Laura, but we changed that the first day. She was 11 months when we got her. She has been so good for me, especially during this past year of unemployment. Without her I would sleep until 2pm each day & be horribly depressed (I was unemployed for 3 months after college and that’s exactly what happened).

    I too am wondering why you have chosen a vegan diet for your dogs I know a lot of vegans do but evolutionarily speaking dogs are omnivores, why change nature?

    And one more thing for all the dog owners out there. What methods do you use to keep fleas under control? I am especially interested in effective, natural, not toxic solutions. She never had a problem until a month and a half ago. :(

  • Donna Mae

    I have 7 years old long hair Chihuahua that is not the ankle biter you might expect. He grew up in the woods with big dogs and I am not the one to pamper so he is very independent. Very easy going but loves to wrestle.
    I also have thru my 3 year relationship a Vizsla/yellow lab mix that has such a personality. He never stops especially around water. There are times that his feet wear out before he does. With this energy though it keeps us going for plenty of walks and spending time in the outdoors.

  • Elizabeth

    Oh this makes me miss my “puppy!” I say puppy because she’s 5 years old now but my sis and I still think of her as pup, probably because of her size. Her name is Ginny Weasley and she is a shih tzu/bichon frise mix. She’s small and fluffy and has such an attitude. Very well behaved (doesn’t bark at people ever!) but she give us the craziest looks, like she’s thinking “oh my god, what are these people doing?!”
    She’s living at with my parents and I wish I could see her more often.
    I can’t wait to adopt a dog of my own!

  • erosan

    I have a mix of dachshund with ?. She is the most hyperactive and stubborn dog I’ve met. She is cooperative, though, so she knows how to sit, and stay (for a couple of seconds now) and she comes when you call her. She is almost never inside home, but when she is she behaves.

    That said, she is a master escapist and has messed my garden consistently these past week. I have a great time playing with her, though…

  • emily

    Loved your dog stories! I have 5 dogs – Maggie is a boxer blood hound mix that I rescued from the animal shelter when I first got married. Pancho and Lefty are lab/pit mix dogs that somebody left where my husband worked. I was going to “find a home for them”…I did…mine. And Frank and Grace are feist mix that I got from the animal shelter on the day they were to be euthanized. Grace was pregnant, and I knew nobody would adopt her. I couldn’t leave her brother, Frank, alone at the shelter. I adopted them in order to buy some time to find a home for them, and they’ve been here ever since.
    Thankfully I am lucky enough to live a rural area where we have plenty of room to run and play!

  • Karli

    I am a new reader due to being linked here from a LJ natural living community. Someone linked your deodorant recipe. I am totally going to try that once I run down my toms of maine. Anyways I just got lost reading your blog for to long ha, but I love it. You are so beautiful as is your partner, baby, dogs and chickens! I also live in Portland so it’s exciting for me to be informed of events and stuff that you will attend. Thank you for your amazing blog it is teaching me a lot.

  • Joselle

    I absolutely love that picture of Harley and Crash snuggled up together!

    Benji is our Jack Russell/Papillon mix who we rescued. Last year, I moved to Philadelphia after quitting my job, getting engaged and moving in with my fiance. It was a difficult time for–adjusting to living with a partner for the first time, being in a new city in a neighborhood that is sometimes hard to be in, and feeling completely lost about my career prospects. I started volunteering with a local rescue group, PAWS ( and, one of the first dogs I walked was Benji, then named Petri (and previously named Spike!). I thought he was adorable and sweet but we were not planning on bringing a dog into our home. Too much going on and I was still grieving over the loss of my dog, Luckie, who I found dead in my kitchen the previous year. He was 14 and quite sick but it was still a huge shock. I thought I’d get a dog years later.

    I couldn’t get Benji out of my head, though. That first week of volunteering, I went back everyday to walk him. I kept talking about him with my fiance. Over the weekend, my mom came to visit so I didn’t go to the shelter. I couldn’t stop talking about him. I don’t know why exactly but I felt incredibly bonded to him.

    That following Monday, I asked if anyone was interested in adopting him. One of the managers said he had four applications but no one responded to their follow up. I requested to put in application after finalizing it with my fiance.

    That Wednesday, he came home with us. Tomorrow will be his one-year anniversary with us and I am baking him the canine cake from My Sweet Vegan. This year has been challenging and having Benji at my side has been such a huge comfort. As my fiance and I ironed out kinks of living together, Benji smoothed the transition. He is incredibly sweet, affectionate, playful and naughty! I adore him and am so grateful to him for his role in helping us start our little family.

  • Pat

    i also have a rescue dog (and two rescue cats) a vet-friend was asked by her neighbors to put down a litter of pups plus the bitch, she knew i was toying with the idea of getting myself a dog, so she called me, i went over and sat in the middle of 7 pups, but how should i make up my mind of which one to take? i couldnt, but my dog picked me, he was the only one that craweld onto my lap and licked my face. i dont know what happend with the others, i am not sure if i want to know, it would be to painfull, if none of the others made it, but i couldnt have taken them all! :-( But i was picked by one of the most loyal friends possible, but he was also a very hyper fellow for the first 2.5 years.

  • Emily

    we have two mutts, both from shelter, and love them both to pieces! although they’re both “adults” everyone thinks they’re still puppies which should give you and idea of their playfulness! they like to snuggle up just like your two! Boris is even in the habit of using Nushka as a chair!

    Luckily our city just opened a dog park across the street from our apartment complex (we’re a dog lovin’ complex!) so we can’t wait to use it to make doggie friends!

    We (or i should say “I”, finace doens’t have as much trouble, i guess i’m the pushover) still have trouble with them yanking on the leash. how did you win that battle? It’s toned down now that they’re older and they walk perfectly after they’ve been to the park. they just get so excited to get there!


  • Carolyn

    Yay! A post about the doggies! Thanks for letting us see more about your beautiful beasts.

  • Nahui

    What beautiful dogs you have! I am really looking forward to reading your posts on veg*n doggie diets.
    Massi is my Miniature Pinscher mix. Five years ago she was an emaciated, filthy, yet energetic little dog. I saw her one day with her previous owner and I was shocked that she was such a beauty -she is a cinnamon color all over: coat eyes, nails, nose- but that she looked so terribly neglected. I approached him and asked about her, and what he told me made my jaw drop.
    He said that she was so thin because he did not have time to feed her! How in the world is that a valid excuse to neglect a dog? So I just knew she could not stay with that man any longer and I offered to take her if she was such an inconvenience to him.
    I took her home right then and there, gave her a bath (she had fleas and ticks), brushed her teeth ( she was so filthy her teeth were GREEN!)and took her to a vet.
    Within a few months she gained weight, had her teeth fixed and I also started getting random strangers come up to me offering to buy her from me.
    A couple months ago Massi lost the sole ownership of her “queen of the castle” title when another tiny dog, Pinina, came into our lives.
    Pinina is a Chihuahua mix that one of my brother’s buddies found abandoned on the street. He remembered that I love animals and asked my brother if I would take her in.
    I was not planning on getting another dog, particularly because I was just visiting my parents and getting a dog meant making arrangements for international travel, which can be a real hassle.
    However, my brother knew the two things that would get me to say yes: pictures and the phrase “if you don’t get her she will go to the pound”… and now I have another dog and she is quite a handful. She behaves as if she was a puppy, even though she is over a year old.
    Right now, I have both of my girls sitting in the couch across from me. Gotta love those faces.

  • Sayward

    Thank you everyone for sharing your personal stories. They are all so touching! It’s so beautiful the way that our companions bring out the good and the tenderness in each of us. We’re lucky to have them!

    For those asking “why” a veg*n diet, there’s a few reasons. First and for clarity, dogs are not obligate carnivores in the way that cats are. They are true omnivores, which means they are *capable* of eating both plants and animals (but not that they *need* to). More specifically, they are opportunistic scavengers just the same as humans. That is to say they’ve evolved to pretty much take what they can get and survive on a variety of diets.

    So, from an ethical standpoint, if my dogs do not NEED to eat animals, then it’s my moral obligation to cease contributing to animal suffering on their behalf.

    As well, I believe that this will be much healthier for them. Right now I feed them crap food out of a bag. It really is crap. Feeding them veg*n is the motivation to feed them homemade, whole foods. This can be nothing but good for them.

    Just like with humans, there are tons of success stories of dogs reversing disease and experiencing incredible health and longevity by switching to a vegan diet. I’m very confident that when done right, it’s the best diet for both dogs and people. I’m very excited to try it out!

    Love to you all!

  • Kelly H.

    This warmed my heart. I love those guys just looking at them! Thank you for being a savior to these animals.

  • GreenLearner

    Your beasts are adorable. I too have a rescue. Yet he is not so people or other animal friendly. I was wondering if you make food for your beasts or you buy them organic/natural food?

  • Kaye

    Crash sounds like my Beagle/Border Collie mix (a match made in hell). Oreo is definitely still a work in progress. She has infinite amounts of energy and she listens really badly. =/ We’ve been able to put a stop to some of her habits, but some of them are a little tougher to quell. We’ve had her for less than a year, so far.

  • Kate

    Oh Sayward…I have the opposites in dogs. Rusty, my first, is your Crash, although our problems are fear aggression and an extreme mistrust of new people, and my second is a pseudo Harley. An ultimate snuggler, but much younger, Maverick is definitely the easier of the two.

    When I write the long, loooong stories of both my dogs, on their own blog ultimately, I will share here :)

  • Sayward

    Loving all these stories!

  • sarah

    Aww love this. Read my mind again too apparently… I was just thinking last week, “Wait, does Sayward have one or two dogs? I know about Harley… but isn’t there another…” Animals are such an important part of our lives it’s cool to hear about yours… especially Harley’s story. I’ve “rescued” all of ours off Craigslist so that’s a little different, not as romantic ;) (And as a side note I COMPLETELY understand about losing your first pup… we lost our baby in a really bad way a month before he would have turned one… most awful thing I’ve ever had to go through).

    Now we have Kademos who is 1 yr and 3 months and sounds pretty much just like Crash. He’s a purebred Siberian Husky… “chaos on four legs” is so very appropriate. He’s very smart but hard to train due to his ADHD and spazziness but he’s growing up… slowly. He’s definitely my husband’s dog.

    Last week we made a new addition – Aelo (pronounced “EEl-o”) who is 8 weeks, and half German Shepherd, half Siberian Husky. We got him as a buddy for Kade (and because we need a dog with some practical intelligence ha), but we also have 3 cats so he has to be young enough to be raised with them. He looks and, so far, acts like a German Shepherd, which is what I wanted – he will definitely be “my dog”.

    Cats are Moses (a girl – long story) who is about 5, twin brothers Jaeger (mellow chunk) and Jasper (onery cuteness). And I also have a leopard gecko, Xander, who chills on my computer desk and waits for his crickets to appear. He’s actually older than any of the other pets except Moses (almost 4 years) which is kind of funny.

    Now you know why we don’t have any kids lol…

  • Sayward

    @ sarah – What a menagerie! I love it!! (and Xander!!! awww <3 )

  • Lou-Lou

    You’re puppies are gorgeous!! I’m looking for a natural dog wash, I’m a “no pooer” myself, is it ok to use on dog skin? Both of mine get allergies and I don’t want to hurt them if the BS is too harsh??

  • Sayward Rebhal

    I just use plain Dr Bronner’s castile soap. Works great!

  • kate

    My husband and I have a hurricane named Oppenheimer…wouldn’t have any other dog in the world! Love this post!

  • Andrea

    Just happened on this post as I’m making your Matzoh Ball Soup tonight. I tear up every time I read other people’s rescue stories. It’s especially tough today because my amazing standard poodle woke up today unable to walk. I rescued him when he was about a year old, I was volunteering in rescue back then (over time, it’s what got me veg/vegan) Anyway, Leo is a god and now about 14 and having trouble with his back legs for months. He’s lost a ton of weight and I guess his time with us is nearing an end. Dogs are such a gift, the very best part of life. Knowing we’ll outlive them is the painful deal we make every time we adopt one I guess. Enjoy every day we have them….

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Hi Andrea, thank you for sharing your story, and I’m so sorry to hear about what your Leo is going through right now. You are right, they are a gift and a treasure. You’ve reminded me to give some extra doggie love today, so thank you.