Our journey began on a cold winter day on February 17, 2006.  Mary Palmer had contacted Kristi and me on the 16th to ask if we would foster a male Maltese who was in the Jefferson County Humane Society.  Austin was found in a culvert a few weeks prior during a stretch of sub zero temperatures with only a t-shirt and collar with no identifying tags.  

On the morning of the 17th, I contacted the JCHS to inform them that I would arrive later that day.  I arrived at JCHS an hour before close and they brought me back into the kennel area, Austin was leashed when they brought him to meet me.  He pulled with all his might at the end of the leash, trying desperately to lunge at me, while being very aggressive with teeth showing and drool running from his mouth.  The volunteer mentioned he was very male aggressive and asked if I was sure I wanted him to be surrendered to me.  Not knowing what to expect based on the description Mary had given, I had come prepared with treats and a toy as well as a crate for transport.  Because of his aggressive manner, I knelt down to his level, extended my hand with the treat.  Austin immediately calmed when I knelt and he cautiously approached, sniffing my hand and then the treat.  Scared, but obviously hungry, Austin snatched the treat from my hand and turned his back to me to eat his treasure.  He quickly devoured his treat, turned back to face me and stared directly in my eyes for about one minute.  I slowly put both hands out for him to come to me, which is when he ran and jumped into my arms.  

As I completed paperwork at the front counter, Austin snuggled in my arms.  He was shaking, yet calm. I suppose he was cold as the kennels were kept around 50 degrees and he was wet from the kennels recently being washed.  As I held him, I could feel him tremble.  Every bone in his body was easily felt, he was extremely thin, and oral decay was evident by the smell of his breath.

As we went out the door, I placed Austin on the ground to go potty.  He quickly found a place to potty and immediately wanted back in my arms.  As I placed him in the car, I opened the door to the crate; he looked at me as if I was crazy so I placed him on the front passenger seat.  As soon as I got in the car, Austin scurried to my lap, where he stayed the entire ride to meet Kristi and the girls.  

Once home, Austin quickly learned the lay of the land, exploring every room in the house.  He would not leave Kristi’s or my side.  That night we cooked a special dinner and every dog got a bone to chew.  Austin was in heaven.  That night when we went to bed, Austin cuddled in between Kristi and me, making sure he was touching us both.  As we turned out the lights, he let out a huge sigh as if to say I have found my home.

As the weeks went by, Mary and I discussed what to name him, and began preparing him for adoption.  Just thinking about losing this precious little boy brought a tear to my eye and a lump in my throat, but what came next ensured Austin was here to stay.  As I mentioned earlier, Austin had severe dental needs, so in preparing him for adoption, I made an appointment with our vet to have him examined.  In his typical form, Austin showed male aggression when Dr. Greg entered the room to perform the examination.  Dr. Greg lay down on the floor and let Austin check him out, quickly ending any aggression.  What came next surprised me.  Dr. Greg asked if I could leave the room so they could give him a thorough examination without him wanting to escape to me for security.  I agreed and Dr. Greg held Austin.  As I opened the door to exit the room, Austin let out a blood-curdling scream and began thrashing to escape Dr. Greg’s arms.  I paused and looked at Dr. Greg, to which he replied, this little guy loves you, you are his world, and he is afraid you are leaving him here.

When we got home, Austin was clearly stressed and Kristi asked what happened.  I told her the story and she immediately said call Mary and tell her Austin is HOME.  This was the beginning of a wonderful six years shared with our buddy Austin (Mr. Big).  Austin enjoyed many activities with the family, but he especially loved spending weekends on the boat.  While Austin was not the alpha dog, he knew his place, and took very seriously protecting Candie, Mellie, and Mom when I would be gone.

We love and miss you terribly Austin.

Mom, Dad, Candie, and Mellie
Austin Lee Whiteside
(Mr. Big)

February, 2006
On the boat
A happy boy out on the water
For our Loved Ones, The Heart Never Forgets
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