For those of us who embrace the philosophy of “A House is Not a Home Unless You Have a Dog,” living without a canine companion for any stretch of time can be unfulfilling.
I spent most of 2017 without a floppy-eared friend after Roscoe -- the neighborhood dog I had adopted eight years before, shortly after moving into my current home -- had to be put down. That sad day was in February. It would be November before another dog came into my life.
Part of me was hoping my next dog would simply show up…..I’d look out the window one day and see a dog sniffing around my yard and we’d have an instant connection. He would, of course, be a stray, no identification, so I would happily adopt him and only occasionally think about where he came from, if a little kid might be missing him, or if a heartless non-human had dumped him purposefully in the woods.
Or perhaps my next pooch would be a gift from a family member or a friend (or even a friend of a friend – the people who are moving and can’t take their dog with them, or the couple whose dog might be a danger to the brand new baby – you know the type). I’m not picky about breeds or colors, although I much prefer mutts of questionable heritage, so any four-legged, tongue-lolling, tail-wagging creature to unexpectedly arrive would have been whole-heartedly welcomed into my home.
When Easter, then Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day and even Halloween all came and went without a dog showing up, it became apparent I would have to stop waiting and start actively searching. I made a date with my older sister to meet at the local animal shelter (she was considering a companion for her little Yorkie/Poodle), and we would scope out the possibilities together.
During our first walk-through of the rows of kennels, several friendly greetings were enthusiastically hurled at us: “I’m cute! Pick me!” “See how high I can jump?” “I’m louder than that one over there!” Our second, slower pass along those same rows had us thoroughly reading the brief bios, speculating on the reasons for the dogs’ presence there, and attempting to establish meaningful eye contact with a handful of candidates.
Ultimately, I chose to meet-and-greet with two: Macie, a large, short-haired black and white terrier mix estimated to be 3 or 4 years old, and Ryan, a large-ish shepherd-colored retriever mix, aged 10 or thereabouts.
At this shelter, the meet-and-greet includes time in a private room, followed by an on-the-leash walk, if desired, to and around the enclosed grassy yard. After placing my requests, it was just a short wait before Macie came galloping down the hall, tugging the volunteer along by her leash, and laughingly announcing, “I’m young and friendly and eager and bouncy, and I’ll go home with you right now!” She immediately placed her front paws on my sister’s shoulders
and smilingly licked her face, then turned to me and did the same. How could you not love her boundless enthusiasm?
Macie wore us out, but we recovered, and Ryan was brought out next. His pace was much more sedate, and he seemed interested only in getting outside, ignoring the treats we were allowed to offer in the private room, and shoving his nose through the one open window. Our attempts at eye contact were futile, and eventually he huffed in frustration, lifted his leg, and peed – and peed and peed and peed -- on a plastic bin in the corner of the room. (Shame on us for not paying attention. He had been insistently telling us he wanted to go outside from the get-go and we didn’t listen.)
No adoption decisions were made that day, although I knew I would go home and “sleep on it” then be back within a week to maybe meet a few new additions and definitely make a final selection.
Fast forward one week, and I headed back to the shelter with my decision made: I would find out if I could adopt TWO dogs together – both Macie AND Ryan. Macie because she’s so obviously loveable, and Ryan because he’s old and unlikely to be adopted by anyone, ever.
Pulling into the parking lot, I saw Macie being lavished with love by two young children. Their parents were holding onto another leash, too, attached to a handsome Boxer. This family had claimed Macie during my week of “sleeping on it” and, as long as she and the Boxer got along with each other (which they obviously did), she’d found her new forever home.
Oh, well, there’s always Ryan, right?
Sure enough, Ryan was still available – who’s going to want a 10-year-old dog? I told myself I would explain to Ryan that, even though it wasn’t love at first sight, he could be my “interim” dog….we’d be comfortable companions until the dog who’s truly meant to be mine finally makes an appearance.
Paperwork complete (I got a Black Friday discount even though it wasn’t the day after Thanksgiving), Ryan was led out from the kennel area. If he remembered me, he didn’t show it, but he willingly jumped into the back of my car, and we headed out for home.
Pretty noble of me, right? Liberate the old guy from the concrete and wire cage and give him a few good years before he succumbs to whatever affliction his aging body acquires.
Then it happened.
I was just a few miles from the shelter and I looked in the rear-view mirror. Something about the way he’d placed his head on the back seat headrest and was looking ahead with a goofy combination of wide eyes and raised eyebrows…..BAM! I fell in love.
I asked him, “What do you think of the name Wiley?” and he cocked his head and thumped his tail. “Wiley Coyote,” I announced. He woofed his agreement.
He’s made my house a home again.
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