03/31/2014 02:27 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Rescue Me!

A few weeks ago, I brought home our newest family member, Kellie. He sleeps through the night, is toilet-trained and has a sweet disposition. No, I wasn't pregnant for 9 months, didn't go through 18 hours of labor (son #1), had no nausea, no epidurals (sons #1,3, 4) nor natural childbirth (son #2). Kellie is a dog and a family had surrendered him to a shelter and thankfully, a rescue organization had picked him up. I found him on the website and now he is part of our family.


Our family already consists of two 13-year-old indoor cats, four sons and my husband, who is disabled from a stroke he suffered 3 ½ years ago. When I first began considering adopting a dog, I consulted my veterinarian. I wanted a dog I could train as a service dog for my husband. Our vet knows my family -- feline and humans -- and his advice to me was "get a dog with a happy face." He also suggested a poo mix (anything with poodle) as it would be smart enough to train. So, I searched the Internet looking for a "poo mix with a happy face." I looked at many sites and many faces. It was heartbreaking to see so many "urgent" notices. When I found Max, the description sounded perfect for our family -- a 1-year-old male cock-a-poo, good with kids and adults and good with most cats. I arranged a meet and greet in Chatsworth, an hour away, narrowly avoiding the jamzilla of the 405 Freeway and after arriving agreed to a foster to adopt arrangement. The dog was dirty and matted, but just as it was with my husband 40 years ago; it was love at first sight! My sons said he smelled bad and so I begged the groomer to shampoo him, although she had no available time. Thankfully, she fit him in and we discovered he has creamy white hair, not fur. Then, I brought him to the vet and had him checked out and finally I introduced him to our cats. We needed a new name for the rescue's new life and decided on the diminutive of Keleb (Hebrew for dog) and called him Kellie.

Everyone has a different opinion about what Kellie is -- cock-a-poo, malti-poo, Couton de tulear, havanese. We think he is something of a poo, and know for sure he has a sweet disposition. We started training him on the "sit" command using positive reinforcement, a.k.a. treats and a clicker. So far he responds well. Our vet told us to cut down on the treats because Kellie is carrying a few extra pounds. Actually, the vet called him "fat." How can a rescue be overweight? Junk dog food, perhaps?

So many things about him make us smile. He dances down the street, jumping and prancing to his own inner beat. Everyone who passes us laughs. He also hops like a bunny when he pursues a ball. He doesn't quite retrieve the ball; he goes after it, captures it and guards it. Next thing he has to learn is how to bring it back. He loves his squeaky toy and ends up on his back caressing it with his paws. Shekie, one of our cats, just stares at him in amazement.

We take lots of long walks together and he accompanies me everywhere -- even to the bathroom. We think he has abandonment issues. But we are best buds. He is at my feet wherever I am.

My third son expressed concern that I would neglect the cats when I got a dog. I reminded him that when each successive son was born, I never neglected the older ones. I had enough love for them all. That seemed to reassure him.

I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I brought Kellie home to meet the cats. I read some books and decided to keep him on a leash in the house. I didn't know if he or the cats would be the aggressor. When I finally let him off the leash, he would follow the cats around and assume the "play" position. They were not interested in playing with him and hissed at his advances. This didn't dismay Kellie, as he continued to follow them around until he got a whack for his efforts. Sometimes he would run after them and the cats would end up high up beyond his reach or under the dining room table, protected by the chairs.

Enough was enough! Last week, Shekie decided to take back the house. He gave Kellie one good swat and walked over to his toy box, urinated in it and then made a caci in the middle of Kellie's bed. Order had been restored. The predator had become the prey. We all agree -- Shekie is the undisputed boss of the house. He drinks Kellie's water, sniffs at his food and plays with his toys. Kellie cringes when Shekie looks at him. Now that things are restored to the way they should be in the Demeter household, Shekie wakes me with kisses in the morning -- a practice he abandoned when Kellie came to us.

And most importantly, as my husband's primary caretaker I am sometimes weighed down by the heaviness of that role. It is a job that comes with many challenges. I originally decided to get a dog to train as a service dog for my husband, but Kellie has become my therapy dog, bringing much needed laugher, love and companionship to my life. He rescued me.