If there is such a thing as love at first sight, it was spot on with Dante.
I instantly zeroed in on him out of a dozen Dalmatians at the Save a Spot Dalmatian Rescue in rural Turlock.
I was looking for an energetic and friendly companion for my Dalmatian Cruella II after DeVille — another Dalmatian — had passed away. I also wanted a runner to take on jogs occasionally.
I was told by Dana Dulaney — the guardian angel of Dalmatians who runs Save a Spot — that Dante would shrink away whenever someone opened the kennel gate and go seek cover in his shelter. It would take a good 5 to 10 minutes sometimes before he’d even warm up to his rescuers when they tried to approach him.
Dante had been at Save a Spot for a few weeks and appeared to be anything but rambunctious.
Despite his being the opposite of what I was looking for there was something in his eyes. Perhaps it was the fact one was blue and the other black. Regardless it just seemed there was much more to Dante.
Dana let me into the kennel. Following her advice I stayed my distance so he wouldn’t become skittish. After “talking” to Dante from a crouched position for less than a minute, he started cautiously moving toward me. Dante oozed docile and skittishness as I stroked his head.
The make or break test for me was whether Dante would like to run.
Dana placed him on leash. After getting acquainted for a few minutes it was time to take Dante out for a road test.
I switched Dante into a running harness I brought and walked him toward the country road that crosses Fulkerth Road.
The second I started to shift from a walking pace to more of a jog, Dante took off like a rocket.
I had been use to running with two Dalmatians in attached running harnesses so I was expecting an upper body workout. Dante, however, was on the explosive side.
It didn’t help that we knew nothing about each other. And while I know it isn’t smart to try running with a dog that you’ve barely met, Dante’s inclination when it came to running would be a deal breaker or deal maker.
Dante went crazy zig zagging across the pavement and making the workout I was getting in Body Pump classes seem like exercises perfecting the art of being a couch potato.
Dante could hold his own with Usian Bolt and then some.
His name at the tine wasn’t Dante. I tagged him with that moniker.
A name like “Rocket” would have been apropos.
But after I got him under control somewhat, off the road, and my arm back in its socket I was struck by his happy-go-lucky look grin from floppy ear to floppy ear.
That’s when it hit me; the perfect name. I had just returned the previous day from my favorite hiking spot outside of the eastern Sierra and Death Valley — Mt. Diablo. Yes, Dante was a devil and a happy-go-lucky one.
That was over 10 years ago.
Early Thursday morning while I was still at work it was time for Dante to go run with the wind while playing among the clouds.
It wasn’t a surprise departure.
Like many pure breeds, Dalmatians are susceptible to health issues.
Dante’s started four years ago when he started having seizures. Then this past summer tumors started developing.
And like many rescue dogs, Dante had issues.
Over the years I’ve had a half dozen pure bred Dalmatians — Zebra, Dottie, Spottie, DeVille, Cruella, Cruella II, and Dante. All but Zebra were rescue dogs. And only two — Dottie and Spottie — was I comfortable enough with their calmness level and knowing they didn’t have issues that I allowed families that wanted to “re-adopt” them to welcome them into their homes. It sounds nuts but it was to make room for “hyper” Dalmatians that are a little difficult to find homes for that benefit from having almost full ownership of a large backyard that otherwise could end up spending months if not years in a kennel rescue setting.
For whatever reason, I’ve had two Dalmatians at a time. They do keep each other company but when they are in a mischievous mood they can be a happy challenge.
But to be honest, I’ve found it’s a lot easier to train and control two Dalmatians whether they are waking or running in leash. If not and they are a solo act even when they are attentive and into a run they can suddenly make moves that can create some rather interesting outcomes.
The one that sticks out in my mind was running with Zebra on the edge of an almond orchard along East Highway 120 when we lived out in the country. Zebra, though male, did the No. 1 without hiking his leg.
On this particular day someone honked at us as we were jogging, I turned my head to look just as Zebra moved to the left suddenly to take care of business. I ended up grazing a low hanging almond branch. Stunned monetarily I didn’t realize Zebra had come to a complete stop in front of me. I ended up stumbling over him almost doing a face plant.
Dante was always in an upbeat move.
Several days after he moved in, he started clattering his teeth when he came across people he wasn’t sure of.
Several people told me it was his reaction to him being nervous or afraid of people. Whether Dante was beaten before being rescued, I have no idea. But to his credit that nervousness never turned into aggression.
Yes, he would bark when something was amiss but for the most part he was on the quiet side.
Even with Dante gone I’m still seeing spots.
That’s thanks to Rascal, a Dalmatian-pit bull mix that’s been hanging out with Dante for more than two years.
Rascal on Thursday wasn’t her usual mischievous self for obvious reasons. She was borderline mopey.
Nothing excited Dante more than running. His seizures got to the point that whenever I’d put a running harness on him he’d have one.
That effectively ended running with a dog for me because I wasn’t about to torture Dante by taking Rascal for a run and leaving him behind. Besides on runs the two fed off each other’s joy.
On Thursday after I bid Dante good-bye, the first thing I had to do was to try and cheer Rascal up. I wasn’t too sure how she’d take to having to put on a running harness. It was always a handful getting the dogs into their respective running harness and it had been almost two years.
To my surprise, Rascal was a complete lady.
It seemed Rascal knew she was going to go running again with her pal Dante who was now free of his earthy ills to run by her side to soak up all the joy the world has to offer.
This column is the opinion of editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be reached at email@example.com