I swear, it’s not our fault. We actually lasted five weeks without a dog. Meanwhile, I admit I did notice that, dogless, the house remained clean longer than fifteen minutes after being vacuumed and a leaf could blow across the front lawn without our being urgently warned that ISIS was invading the neighborhood, but, you know, we’re just dog people. In the meantime, our loving helpful daughter, who knew the inevitable next step, was secretly searching on our behalf–until she found the perfect, calm, laid back, already house trained Aussie doodle puppy (exactly what we were looking for!) in foster care. She sent me pictures, and I got really excited–until she adopted him herself, and now claims that as a good mother, I should be extra joyful because the puppy has made her, her husband and kids and even their elderly Lab soooo happy.
“Oh yes, honey, I’m truly thrilled.” (My high school drama club stint with those acting tips from the teacher comes in pretty handy sometimes.)
So, as was inevitable, we started haunting the SPCA and Humane Society shelters in the tristate area and spent a ridiculous number of hours online trying to find a dog like the one our daughter had snatched up. There weren’t any.
On October 13th, we finally said, “This is it, we’re going up to the best shelter in the area and we’re just going to meet dogs until we find the right one.” We’d already filled out a lengthy required application (there and at seven other shelters, we’re nothing if not thorough) and been told we were approved to come, so we drove up. Staff carefully asked us what we were looking for so they could bring us candidates that they thought would work best. Well, we’d learned with Scout that a 65 pound dog sick or injured is too heavy for us if regular lifting is required. So we started with “Medium sized, like 25-40 pounds. We’d like a young dog, but not a baby.” Then we got to the heart of it: “Calm, laid back. Easy going, not hyper. Relaxed. Quiet. Not a barker.” (We went like that until we ran out of adjectives. Notice a theme here?)
Apparently, the kindly staff heard what we said, but believed we were giving off vibes that said, “We’d like to take home a puppy under a year old that is as batshit crazy for attention as any dog you’ve ever seen. Preferably one that likes to dig compulsively so we could see what our large fenced back yard would look like with a muddy rain pond in the middle. And one that will jump on us with a invitation to wrestle if we sit down! Oh, and definitely one with an obsessively expressed vendetta against squirrels. We can handle it!”
The staff never considered the possibility that those vibes were pathological liars.
Meet Cassidy, aka “Cassie,” our new family member. She’s about a year old (vet said she was under a year when we got her in October, abandoned near the shelter in early August), a Lab/beagle cross, the shelter’s vet also said. She wasn’t spayed and was malnourished and terrified when the shelter took her in. It had taken until October to get her weight normal, ready for adoption.
As soon as the shelter person brought her into the meeting room, she came straight to us, tail wagging asking for affection. We fell in love. She had us at hello.
When you adopt a shelter dog, you definitely have challenges. Cassidy had shelter trauma plus whatever fears she brought in with her from before the shelter. We’ve been working with a trainer for the past month, and she’s come so far in the two months we’ve had her. She knows sit, come, down, stay, “go to place” (a special mat), loose leash walking and (sort of) “leave it”. We have her happily crate trained and her house training is perfect. My husband uses a thirty foot line to let her run and sniff on long walks in the natural areas with river, forest, and open fields near us. She runs free and fetches ball relentlessly out in the yard. Still, often in the late afternoon when we’re done working for the day and we want to relax, we’d swear she has a psychotic break as she races around the house, using one of us as a trampoline for quick pivots. And yes, she’s already been exercised to the point of exhaustion. (Ours, anyway.)
Cassie’s is also trying to eat the house. I’m sort of serious. Rugs, her beds, any stuffed toy, my husband’s shoes (I don’t leave mine out), his socks (I don’t leave my out)–You get the pattern here, so I can stop, right? After she unstuffed three perfectly lovely dog beds and scattered the plush lining throughout the house (so enjoyable to clean up) we cashed in some of our 401K to purchase a “guaranteed indestructible dog bed impervious to the toughest chewer.” Ha. Haha. Hahahaha. Cassie laughed so hard she nearly choked as she tore the first hole.
Our daughter thinks this is all hilarious. She says their new puppy is the laziest, calmest puppy ever. Chews up absolutely nothing, doesn’t dig, etc. (See a pattern here?) Sounds so nice. But we saw Cassidy, she bonded with us and we with her, we named her, and we brought her home. We’re experienced dog people and we had no idea what we were doing. Love is a crazy thing.
In the midst of all craziness–including the craziness of too much buying, too much stuff vs. too little stuff, food, and rest for too many who are burdened with too much worry, grief and pain–I do want to carve out a quiet moment (Cassie’s in another room eating a rug so I can) to say that I hope that those of you who celebrated Hanukkah had special moments of loveliness and beauty, and that those of you who celebrate Christmas will, too, in the coming days. If you celebrate is Kwanzaa, or the solstice and return of the light, or any other tradition this time of year, I wish you the same, light and peace.
Please feel free to add your remembered new puppy or kitten stories, or whatever’s on your mind as a comment. I read and respond here to every one. And thank you!