Finn, an update

By Jamie Balke Explore Big Sky Columnist

As mentioned in previous columns, last fall I adopted a dog who I renamed Finn. The shelter explained that when found, he was living on the streets as a stray. The veterinarian thinks he is around 8 years old, and I often find myself wondering how I got lucky enough to find him, while simultaneously feeling sad that it didn’t happen sooner.

Although rather large at approximately 80 pounds, with the powerful shoulders and chest of a bulldog, Finn is a creature of remarkable subtlety. Upon meeting Finn, several friends have described him as a gentleman, and expressed an urge to outfit him in a top hat. If you want to gauge how he is doing, it will be no use hoping for obvious signals like barking and tail wagging. Reserved and dignified, you must look to his eyes. Intelligent and observant, they convey the full range of his contentedness, stress, love, annoyance, interest, and concern with alarming clarity.

Although, there are times when he is not so subtle, reserved, or dignified. Finn struggles with separation anxiety when left alone, and occasionally leaves unmistakable signs of his distress. Most recently, my boyfriend Aaron came home to discover that Finn had knocked over the trash and rooted around. Ultimately Finn found the top of an ice cream container, which he dragged onto the living room carpet and filled with urine. Everyone expresses their feelings differently.

However, it is impossible to remain upset with Finn, who would spend all day sleeping on our laps if he could. Finn cuddles for keeps. If you sit on the floor, Finn sits on you. If you run on the treadmill, Finn snuggles with the front of the machine. If you sit on the couch, he heaves himself up to your side, spreads his mighty jowls upon your lap and promptly falls asleep. Upon getting into bed, he props his front paws on the side of the bed, and stares you down with hope and love until you hoist his back legs up for him, as he does not know how to jump. He seems the most content and relaxed when his three people are home, within eyesight, and ideally being crushed under the weight of his love.

Sometimes, I lose perspective on how big he is, and how intimidating he might appear. I suddenly remember when we go to the dog park, and other owners call their dogs to them and say things like, “Heeeyyyyy big fella” as we pass by and Finn extends his curious, gigantic head in greeting. Although I know him to be a marshmallow, you might not suspect it if you happened to find him outside his comfort zone. Little do the people who scoot away from Finn at the park know that he is a gentle giant, who tries his best to befriend my pet guinea pig Joey in his spare time.

When possible, Finn stares at Joey with palpable adoration that is met with indifference and occasional annoyance. Finn would clearly like to get Joey in on the cuddling, and for his part Joey mostly ignores Finn, or tries to bite him on the nose. Finn is undeterred and continues his campaign of interspecies friendship.

Now that we have Finn, I find that I am becoming somewhat of a homebody. I weigh invitations to leave against the time I will have to spend without him. Recently, this impulse to take Finn with us as much as possible resulted in an effort to attach a borrowed child carrier to Aaron’s bike for an evening ride. Finn does not have the stamina to keep up, and we thought he might enjoy being pulled along with the wind in his fur. Suffice it to say; we discovered the limitations of the carrier.

As is probably evident, my roommates and I find ourselves besotted with Finn, our lives forever changed for the better, despite his wide variety of snores that could probably wake the dead. We hope the feeling is mutual.

Jamie Balke also hopes that Finn will be able to join her for summer hikes, so that she can show him her favorite wild flowers.