This is usually the space reserved for me to talk about Gracie, the pound pup I adopted with KeyPulp co-founder Ross Currie. If you’re new to the column, a quick re-cap: although we’d planned on rescuing a puppy, and even had one available and ready for us, we decided to go with a slightly older bully mix from the city animal control HQ. I’d never adopted an older dog before, let alone one that could even possibly fall into the “pit bull” category, but I approached the situation with confidence. That’s because about a year earlier, I met Sarge.
Reporting on the Barking Beauty, which is exactly what it sounds like, for a now-defunct website, I had a chance to arrive early and scope out the competition. Up on stage, I spotted a large older dog, a pit bull, lying at his human’s feet. He was dressed in a military flack jacket (pictured here), but his youthful attire belied his age. The dog—Sarge—was fifteen years old, a feat for any canine, but especially so when you consider one very important fact: Sarge was a rescue, saved from an animal abuser only a year before. For a dog to sustain so much for so long, and not break under the pressure, was impressive enough. For him to become a certified therapy dog working with the elderly, and then compete in and eventually win a beauty pageant against shih-tzus and poodles and yorkies, was nothing short of a testament to the redeeming power of love—specifically the love given to him by his new family. Sarge’s mom, Kim Wolf, had become an advocate for the dogs she called “elderbulls” and Sarge’s victory in the pageant gave him a very public platform to show the world that old or not—and pit bull or not—a dog is a dog is a dog. Sarge’s needs—food, shelter, and love from his humans—were no different from those of his canine compatriots; but his incredible ability to give as much affection as he received, and possibly more, set him apart, made him exemplary.
And when Ross and I decided that we were ready for a dog, visions of Sarge danced in both of our heads as we agreed that a rescue—a real rescue from a high-kill shelter, and not a cuddly puppy in foster care who would have no problem finding a home—was the right decision for us. Would we have made the same decision if it hadn’t been for Sarge, and our ongoing but infrequent interactions with him and Kim? I don’t know … but probably not. I’d volunteered to work with pitties before, had even met one of the dogs rescued from Michael Vick’s dogfighting operation and proudly posted the photo to my Facebook, and would argue with anyone who listened that not all pit bulls are horrible dogs set to rip out the throats of young children, no matter what biased news reports said, but I’d approached the idea of adopting a dog with a checkered past and a bad breed reputation with more than a little trepidation. But then I met Sarge, and any skepticism went out the window. Sarge paved the way in our lives for Gracie.
Which is why when I received news that Sarge passed away this morning, I felt completely and utterly gutted. It was his time. He was almost seventeen years old, and had crammed as much love into those last three years of his life as any other dog could hope to achieve in a lifetime; but it doesn’t make it any less upsetting to see a dog who meant so much to so many people cross the rainbow bridge. But I do take comfort in the fact that when it’s finally our pets’ turns to do the same—although that will be a very, very long time from now—Sarge will be there to show them the ropes.
Thank you, Sarge, for all that you did, all those you taught, and above all, for Gracie. You’re missed already.