Del Ray Dogs of the Week: Bilbo and Gandalf
The 'two old men' of the dog park
Debby Critchley says it was “serendipity” that she ended up with her two dogs, Bilbo and Gandalf, named after the characters in "Lord of the Rings." Both were adopted separately, almost on a whim over 12 years ago. The three of them have been visiting the Simpson Stadium Dog Park almost every weekend since.
Bilbo, who she thinks is a Jack Russell and Wire Hair Fox Terrier mix, was Debby's first dog. She had grown up with dogs as a child, had a few cats throughout the years, but had never had a dog of her own.
She made the decision that she wanted a dog but made no specific adoption plans. Then, “call it luck, fate, whatever,” after several trips to a local shelter were sidetracked, Debby finally stopped by and saw the cutest 2-month-old puppy.
She called him her “Beanie Baby” puppy and though she filed the second application for adoption (about 20 more people applied after her), she visited him all week long. Eventually, she did indeed lucked out and brought Bilbo home.
Finding Gandalf, an American Eskimo, was a similar story. Debby decided to just stop in to the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria one day when she happened to be over in the West End. She saw this beautiful white puppy barking at her as she walked toward him. She whispered for him to stop, he did, and that was all she needed to know this was the dog she should adopt.
Gandalf might have stopped barking that day, but it has continued on every day since. “He’s my early warning system,” says Debby.
She also calls him her “Velcro baby,” because when they are out it is like Gandalf is attached to her knee, protecting her. Most of his barking is to ward off the truly evil people of the world, like mailmen and package delivery people. But he can also be heard howling like a wolf occasionally, and barking at Debby if she doesn’t give him his after-dinner treat in a timely fashion.
Even with all of Gandalf’s barking, Bilbo remains the alpha dog of the house. Debby long ago learned to feed the two dogs separately or else Bilbo will force Gandalf to give up his extra food.
Sadly, Bilbo was diagnosed with diabetes about a year ago. Debby came home from various trips and would notice Bilbo had lost weight. Even under her watch, Bilbo was eating well but continuing to lose weight. She also noticed him drinking a lot of water.
Debby took Bilbo to the Del Ray Animal Hospital where he was diagnosed. Since then, Bilbo has been receiving a shot of insulin with every meal. She has been working with Dr. Farrell and the Del Ray Animal Hospital to find the correct dosage.
Unfortunately, Bilbo has also developed cataracts and lost most of his eye sight, though it’s hard to tell just by watching him.
“He’s very resilient and seems to have heightened his other senses,” says Debby.
Shortly after saying this, Bilbo stole the glove that was poking out of my coat pocket while I was crouching low to pet Gandalf. This made Debby smile. “He has always been a glove thief. He could hear a glove coming off at 50 yards,” she joked.
Early on, she tried to take Bilbo for walks. But Debby says his sniffing at every inch of grass became too much. “We don’t go on walks, we have 'drags,’” she says.
So now Debby visits a dog park every day with her “two old men.” Most weekday afternoons are spent at Utah Park in Fairlington and every weekend morning they go to Simpson Stadium Dog Park in Del Ray.
“We've been going to the park since before it moved from the opposite side of Simpson Park,” she says. She loves the park and the sense of community it offers, having made friends with the other regulars over the years.
She continues making friends there to this day, offering up stories about everyone’s dogs and the history of the dog park, all with a smile on her face and a white dog velcroed to her knee.