The House That Alex Built
In the summer of 1991, a colleague at Southwestern College convinced me to
be a foster parent for a dog at the Winfield Animal Shelter. I went to the
shelter and there were so many that I just pointed at the first one I saw:
a cocker spaniel jumping up on the cage door. This dog had already been
spoken for by a member of the local law enforcement, so I decided I really
should take a longer look and there I saw her-a small brown puppy, sitting
in the middle of the kennel. She was the only dog not jumping up and down
and barking. She just sat there looking lost and confused. I thought,
"We have a lot in common" and home she went. A week later I returned to the
shelter and adopted little Alex.
Miraculously she survived her first year of life living with a senior in
college who had some not so bright friends that would try to feed her
everything from all the pepperoni off a large pizza to chocolate brownies.
And I must admit, I left a glass of peppermint schnapps down one night. She
moved about 10 times during her life and although always afraid of being left
the first few days in a new place always adjusted.
In 1994, Alex and I added a new member to the family, when I married John --
that June we sent out invitations for a wedding reception/graduation
party/belated birthday party for Alex. We were married in the backyard of
our rental in Manhattan. Alex sat on my sister's lap. Some children I had
babysat for when I was younger and who had adopted my parents as grandparents,
brought balloons, a tablecloth and presents for Alex. So there at the wedding
reception was Alex's little birthday table.
In 2002, Alex was diagnosed with cancer. She put up a valiant fight but died
two months later. During those two months, she went to work with me everyday
and when I was in class, colleagues kept an eye on her. At the time I was
also a member of the team negotiating the new contracts for the teachers at
Butler Community College. This team included five other faculty, one dean,
four VPs and the president of the college. Alex went to all the meetings
during those two months, becoming an unofficial mascot. Right after finals
week, we went to my parents' house, so that they could see Alex. My sister
and her boyfriend drove down from Manhattan to see her too. Whenever we were
at my parents' house, my dad would always share part of his hashbrowns with
the doggies. Unfortunately when Alex was younger, she was diagnosed with
bladder stones and had to go on a special diet, so dad could then only sneak
her the tiniest of a piece. That last Saturday morning, he asked me if Alex
could have hashbrowns and I told him she could eat whatever she wanted. I
think he may have bought a separate order just for her. Dad was so happy
the breakfast tradition could be reinstated.
That night we went to sleep and Alex woke me at about 2 AM to go outside.
We came back in and went to sleep. At about 3:30, John and I heard her cry
out. We got to her and she tried to roll over from her side to lie on her
stomach, but she couldn't. I reached for her head. She wagged her tail and
then her little head rested in my hand. As always Alex took care of me. She
waited until my semester was over, until I was surrounded by family and then
she made the decision, so I wouldn't have to.
We decided then that we would move to the country to help other dogs. It has
taken six years, but we finally made it. Alex's House was initially envisioned
as a place for old and sick dogs who had been abandoned by their owners at area
shelters to go to ensure that their remaining time was a happy and comfortable
one, but we quickly realized that dogs of all ages in this area are in need of
rescue and so we opened our home to as many as we could.
Here are some of their stories: