November 04, 2012

Happy Puppiversary Part 1: A Dream No More

On October 23, 2011, J and I began an unimaginably rewarding chapter in our lives. We became dog parents to our sweetheart (now) 8-year-old beagle named Tucker.

We always talked about adopting a dog, but never felt the time was right. We wanted to insure that we could commit to him or her fully. The issue of time – time for walks as well as time for socialization with both humans and other dogs – was brought up. Travel, work, and sports ate up our time. Money was another issue. Sure, we had enough for the essentials. But caring for many animals in the past, I know the value of having a stash of emergency vet funds. Until we had that cushion, I wasn't ready to adopt. And what about love? Oh, that is never an issue in this house.

Cudding with Fox
So, we dreamt away. We dreamt of a dog spooning with us on chilly winter nights. We dreamt of woodsy walks with a curious canine at our sides. We'd crinkle our noses at the ecstatic, trusting, and utterly adorable dogs in the neighborhood. As time rolled on, it was obvious that adopting a dog was no longer a long-term dream but a short-term goal.
Stuck in the cold rain in the middle of the woods
During a long-awaited visit from my best friend, I shared my desire for a furry companion. I suddenly exclaimed to J, “Let's get a dog!” I'd said that countless times, but something made it real this time. I don't know what it was, but J felt it, too.

This came at the perfect time. I was plateauing in my recovery from the mold and feeling more than a little frustrated. Not yet sure how to reach that next level of healing, I was searching for my next steps forward. I knew that having a companion animal has been shown in studies to have positive effects on health, not that I even need a study to tell me that! When J and I came to the decision that we were ready to adopt, I knew it would help me move beyond the ol' boring health plateau I'd settled down on.

The regal beagle
Because of my health condition, I knew I wouldn't be able to keep up with a super energetic dog or maintain sanity with an extremely mischievous dog. We didn't want to get a puppy because everyone wants a puppy, and we didn't want a very old dog because we didn't want the risk of additional health-related stresses. We preferred a medium sized dog for a lot of reasons, but size was no make-or-break determinant. So, we concluded that our perfect dog would be mid-size, mid-age range, mostly trained, playful but laid-back. I hated to be so specific about their temperament and age, but I knew I was making a responsible decision based on my capabilities and the fact that we were first-time dog parents.

Because of the sheer number of pitbulls in the shelters and their amazing, loving personalities, J and I really wanted to get one. Unfortunately, it is nearly impossible to rent here with a dog. Make that dog a pit bull, and you may as well squat in the nearest abandoned building. We would be moving in a few months, so this was a concern. (Our current landlord was thankfully pretty cool about us getting a dog with only a few stipulations.)
He adores kids. He and Maddox are best buds!
The river is a favorite hangout spot.

Perusing Petfinder, we found several dogs we wanted to meet. One of them was at a shelter about 40 minutes from the city. He was a black corgi lab mix which J freaked out about because he loves corgis so much. My dad, who has talked about wanting a dog for as long as I can remember, came with us to the shelter. I'm surprised he didn't leave with a dog for himself as well. My mom isn't a big animal person (understatement of the century), so I don't think there are any dogs in his future. For now, he's happy enough with his fur grandchild!

Carbone, the corgi mix, had been at the shelter for awhile. I called 2 days prior to our visit to make sure he was still there. When we arrived at the shelter, he had just been adopted out the day before. We decided – as if we had any other choice – that it was meant to be. Carbone had finally gone home with someone who would love him, and another dog was waiting for us. 

Luckily, this shelter had many other animals that we thought would be a good match. We had made a list of other dogs we liked since we weren't 100% set on bringing Carbone home, and took a walk around the shelter to see if there were any others we liked who weren't featured on the website. We told the volunteer who we wanted to meet and she brought them to us one at a time for a small visit. Among them were an animated jack russell mix named Herman, a psycho one-eyed pomeranian named Ickus (so cute, so loud), a corgi mix named Dixie, a terrier named Shaggy, and a beagle named Tucker. 

Basking in the sunlight

We narrowed our choice down to Dixie or Tucker. We visited both of them one more time. Dixie was sweet but didn't seem very interactive. She had just come into the shelter and she was only 2. We thought she'd have more of a chance of being adopted out soon because of her young age. (Turns out we were right about that.)

Tucker was very sweet and excited to be around us. This was his second time at the shelter – he was there when he was a baby, too – and this stint had lasted over 3 months. Most recently, he was surrendered by a family that was moving and couldn't take him along because the pet deposit was unaffordable. I know this is a hard time financially and I like to give people the benefit of the doubt, but I also really, really hate that excuse. 

When we went out to get him for the second visit, he was standing on the top of his dog house, as if he knew we were coming back and was just waiting for us to return. That is the moment we knew he was coming home with us. 

"I'm on my way to my forever home!!!! Whee!!!"
When we walked him to the car, he hopped in like he'd done this with us a million times. He settled down on an old Powerpuff Girl blanket I'd brought along (one that he still sleeps on regularly) and smiled with complete contentment. As we drove down the country road toward his new home, we rolled the windows down. It was a gorgeous fall day, and we wanted to soak it in. Tucker jumped up and stuck his head out of the window. He'd look at us then back out the window. He is forever safe with us. With the wind in his ears, he could smell freedom and the beginning of a new and wonderful life. 

Living in luxury. Spoiled much?

Stay tuned for part 2 when I'll gush about my puppy love, talk about what we did to celebrate the special day, and pose the question, "who exactly saved who?"

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