How I learned resistance is futile.
It had been almost ten years since we brought our precious Sammy, a poodle puppy mill reject, home from the dog pound in Fairfield, CA. She is a world traveler, having made the trek to and back from Turkey, as well as our assignments in the states, a vital and needed part of our family. Having endured a spinal injury in her early years with us, she still gets around, albeit with a precarious wobble and a rear right leg that often fails her. She has slowed visibly of late, not so eager to wake up and greet the day. With our daughters away at college, and both of us working, we considered bringing another dog home but were hesitant. Still, seeing Sammy’s days become emptier and less filled with her people “pack” made us want to do something for the puppy that had brought so much to our lives. We were about to experience the six stages of pet adoption.
A few weeks ago, a co-worker, who had for some years been actively fostering dogs with the St. Louis Senior Dog Project, showed me a photo of a little white dog she was caring for. “She’s real sweet”, Virginia said. “Do you think you might be interested?” Well, that was an innocent enough question which called for a definite answer. “Well, I don’t know,” I answered, “maybe”. “Why don’t you come and see her this weekend? We’re having an adoption event.” Well, I could think of all sorts of reasons this was probably not a good time, but what could it hurt? “I’ll talk to my husband,” I replied, “We can probably come.”
On Saturday, my husband, I, and Emily, our youngest daughter, traveled the 35 miles to see her. Before we even reached the front door, we could see several dogs being walked through the parking lot – whether by volunteers or prospective families I wasn’t sure. This couldn’t be good. We had a dog, and she was perfect. Once inside, I saw her immediately. She was a puppy mill momma, coming from 4-5 years in a crate, devoted to having babies and doing little else. Her fur was long and matted with two anomalous wispy apricot patches like a wide belt on her sides, sticking out straight and coarse through her creamy curly coat. She had been drooling – a lot, probably exaggerated by a recent tooth extraction, the fur on her face laced with long wet brown streaks. Her eyes were lovely – smoky, big, and brown. She nosed around nervously and alternately sat and got up, obviously unsure of what to do or who we were. Emily loved her immediately.
She wasn’t Sammy. We needed to think, really think, about this. David suggested we bring Sammy sometime soon and visit Virginia and see how it might work. “Perfect,” I thought, grasping at this delaying tactic. We shared our sensible plan with Virginia who simply said, “I understand, you need a trial period. Take her home for a week or so and see. Give her at least a week.” Wait, this wasn’t the plan. “But, we don’t have a leash or a way to secure her in the car. How will we get her home?” I protested. “In my loving arms,” Emily quickly asserted. Virginia handed us a leash. I was out of excuses.
Emily held her, dog drool leaving lavish wet pools on my daughter’s jeans. On the way home, we named her Zoe. Surprisingly, the dreaded first meeting with Sammy on our front lawn went very smoothly with wagging tails and a few “getting to know you” sniffs. That first day was a disaster. As soon as we brought her in the house she relieved herself. Grass held no charm for her; fortunately she found the perfect place to take care of her needs – on our many hand loomed Turkish rugs. Scraping up inchoate mess after mess, I fumed. Walking her involved an elaborately choreographed dance, alternately spinning, ducking, and unthreading the tangled lines. Zoe still steadfastly refused to share any of her bodily products with the great outdoors. What were we thinking?
By Monday evening, I was done. We had made a mistake, and we needed to return her. David agreed. “We agreed to a week, though,” he rightly cautioned. I hate it when he’s right, and I reluctantly agreed. We were to keep her for just a little longer. Astonishingly, as we acclimated and Emily lavished her with love, the accidents were fewer, and we all relaxed. It had only been a few days, but we were making progress.
Home at Last
By Wednesday, it was done. I couldn’t remember what had given me pause. Today, short days later, she is fearless, having mastered the stairs, house training, but not the leash. She is wonderful company for Sammy – despite her occasional lapse of judgment and Sammy’s need to issue a quick correction. On a mid-day walk, our oldest daughter accidently dropped Zoe’s retractable lead and, as it jerked her way, she took off like a shot with her plastic pursuer skittering gamely after her. I thought we wouldn’t see her again, and my heart sank. Coming to the end of our cul-de-sac, she made an abrupt u-turn, and I held my breath. Now a white blur racing down the opposite length of our street, she made a beeline to our front door, the leash battered but still attached. She was home.
postscript: I wrote this almost three years ago. Since then, we’ve lost our precious Sammy, but Zoe is not alone. Wash has joined our family, and he has his own story to tell.