January 23, 2013, it’s 3am and I am already out the door, hopping into my little black two door with the studded winter tires (oh, how I miss you, cute little sports car), all ready for my 2 1/2 hour drive to the nearest city from me, off for a predetermined 5:30am meet and greet with the cutie with the beautiful eyes I had met online, hoping it would lead to him coming home with me that same day.
I had woken up at 2am, the temp had plummeted to below -40 degrees Celsius with the wind chill factor, the sun would not be anywhere near rising for several more hours, and I had no idea where I was going, but none of that could have dampened my enthusiasm on this particular day.
After all, the heat was blasting, the satellite radio was pumping out some peppy tunes, my travel mug was filled with piping hot coffee, freshly brewed, I had an address and a GPS, but most importantly, I was fully armed with my bag containing a brand new leash and collar, snacks, and a small selection of brand new fuzzy and chewy toys that I had gone out and spent a full afternoon shopping for. I had taken the day off of work, had put in months of extensive searching, applications, a home evaluation and much correspondence, and was finally on my way to go and meet that little pup that I just knew would be the one, daydreaming the entire way about how my life was going to change when I met my new best friend, and about just how bestest of best friends the two of us were going to be (cue the Turtle’s ‘Happy Together’).
I had been going through a rough time and an extended period of transition in my life. The problems I was dealing with were resulting in my spending a fair bit of time alone. But I hadn’t been just alone, I had actually been feeling quite lonely, and I wasn’t in a place where I wanted to be around people – I didn’t have it in me at that point to socialize and want to force myself to be good company to anyone. But I did enjoy running, and had my disposition at the time been more favourable I would have enjoyed having some company. I enjoyed my hikes through the woods, but had refrained from them the past fall as the number of wild animals I was encountering had started to increase substantially and I no longer felt secure. I enjoyed staying in and watching a movie in the evenings, yet it was starting to feel a bit repetitive, and I was starting to get into a rut. On top of other things I was also taking a break from my happy pills (or maybe I had just restarted? That, I don’t remember), and was trying to learn to control my mood and depression all over again – this was shortly after my 6 months hiatus from work.
After putting a lot of thought into it, I decided that what I needed was a furry friend to keep me company. I half wanted to go and grab the first puppy I could find and bring it home with me that day, but I’m usually a fairly logical and methodical person, so proceeded to go about it in the way I know best – in a painstakingly systematic and overcomplicated fashion. It was a huge decision for me, and I knew that it would be a life changing step, plus it would not just be me anymore, but I was also contemplating bringing a new little life into my home, for which I would be solely responsible, and would be totally dependant upon me for survival. I needed to do things right.
This was still in early fall of 2012. I knew I wanted a rescue dog, so only looked into animal shelters and rescue/foster agencies, which I knew would drastically limit specific available options if ‘shopping’ for a specific breed, age, colour… you know, all of those things you really can’t be fussy about with a rescue dog unless you get lucky. There was only one of these places in my town so I looked into what options I had the next small towns over, and started to broaden my search, looking into the next city and province over as well. I made applications to all, was screened, had to provide references (which were called), photos of my home and yard/agree to home visits, provide my salary and proof of means for which I was able to support an animal, provide them with my vet info, give them my previous pet’s info (last two died of the same disease, caused by an airborne spore which is quite rare, but prevalent in my area – the 5 kilometre radius I lived in was labelled specifically as a hot spot), answer several questions about myself and my plan for care… it was incredibly stressful and a bit dehumanizing – my series of interviews and testing for my government job had nothing on this! – but should anything have come to fruition, I figured it worth it.
I considered my lifestyle and activities, my reasons for looking, the benefits I was hoping to get out of this. I took those listed things and compared them against a list of dog breeds I found most desirable, and started reading about all of those types of dog breeds and their known character traits, temperaments and needs, trying to find the best match for us both, and narrowed my search field down considerably. If only I had taken such pains when selecting my boyfriends when I was younger!
I was looking for a dog that was protective (I mentioned once, I’m scared of a LOT of things!). No question, he had to be a he. I have always felt more comfortable around male dogs for some reason (though now that I think of it, I lived in a fairly rural area, where the dogs out there could be pretty wild, and I was attacked by two female dogs when I was a kid). He had to be a size that was not only good for cuddling up in front of the TV with, but big and fierce enough that I felt secure when walking alone, whether day or night, in a residential or commercial area, or off trail in the forest somewhere. He had to be ridiculously loyal, intelligent, have enough energy to partake in activities I enjoy, yet not so rambunctious and high energy that I wouldn’t be able to give him the activity he needed (101 Dalmations, anyone?). Being easily trainable was important. He had to be a puppy – I wanted any bad habits he might pick up to be my fault, and not have any nasty surprises down the road; I could get him accustomed to me from day 1, he could grow up with my knowing and having full carriage of his health, fitness and nutrition, and so that I would have as much time with him as possible. I was perfectly willing to overlook it, though I also would have preferred to have a golden/brown or black coloured dog. Through process of elimination, I then began searching with a focus on German Shepherd and Rottweiler breeds or mixes. Like I said, I can be pretty methodical about some things, and can be pretty fussy.
Lastly, and most importantly, when, and if, I ever managed to find a little brown/gold or black Shepherd/x or Rottweiler/x newborn male puppy that would hopefully have all of these attributes, in a quasi remote region of the country (really, think corgi/wolf/collie mutt mix, with maybe a side dose of poodle tossed in the mix and breeder obtained labs – that’s really all there is here it seems), I then needed to meet and feel a ‘click’. You know that click. It’s the one you feel when you meet that stranger that’s destined to become your new bestie, the one where you meet eyes with that random person and tell yourself they’re ‘the one’, it’s the one you feel when you walk into a coffee shop and just feel so at home and comfortable you know you just became their new best customer – I needed to feel that special click. Months were slipping by and I was scouring the internet, web pages, anywhere and everywhere trying to find a puppy that was adoptable. Rarely would I come across anything within my specific search fields. I would get excited when new puppies were brought into ‘care’ and, to my delight, on a few occasions there were a few that looked like they might fit the bill. I got all fancied up in my Sunday finest (jeans and a sweater, perfect for crawling on the ground and being potentially peed on) and went on down to these meet the dog events, and went to make friends with the little ones I had come specifically for – but things just never felt right. They did not gravitate towards me, as neither did I to them. I was also leaving feeling guilty about all of the homeless dogs I was leaving behind when I left. They can’t all be kept in care indefinitely.
I had been looking for at least 4 months by this point. I was giving up hope. I was starting to wonder should I lower my expectations, should I just relegate myself to crazy cat lady status and take up herding felines instead. I still kept looking though, half heartedly some days, others a little too intently – going so far as to look into two provinces over, wondering should I broaden my search even further or just give up. And then this happened. At the dog foster society just a hop, skip and a jump over the border, and the very second place I had put my application in to, this delightfully little squishy pig eared, duck faced, Hershey Kiss shaped, eyeliner wearing squirt – one of the unwanted last two of his litter – was hidden.
Without even going into his bio, I was head over heels in love already. His name was Des. His mama was an abandoned purebred Shepherd, and his daddy was the rascally neighbourhood Rottweiler. His brothers and sisters had all been snatched up immediately, as they had all resembled purebred Shepherds and long haired Rottweilers, and the girls had been scooped up immediately, but no one had wanted him and his brother, the scruffy little runts and black sheep of the litter. He was every single little thing on my list – my dream pooch – plus he was the runt of the litter. I’m kind of a little and broke person too, which could explain why I’ve always had a soft spot for them.
So from here, I would still have quite a few hoops to jump. It was pretty frustrating at times, I’m not going to lie. But if you’re considering adopting and it’s just the process putting you off, just do it. It’s so worth it! I notified the agency I wanted to meet this boy. They had to contact the foster home, then put them in contact with myself. We had to arrange a meeting for an initial playdate, during which if it went well they would have contractual and sales papers for me to sign (after their then contacting the agency in regards to the meeting) so I could bring him home. They then would collect my payment, which they would forward on, and would provide me with a small package/goodie bag and some of the same food he had been eating, on behalf of the agency. I, in turn, had to fulfill the listed requirements on the contract for various veterinary procedures, shots etc., and send in proof of those at certain prescribed intervals, and answer follow up calls and emails.
So this is my third attempt to meet, the fosters having cancelled on me twice. I’m in not just another city, but another province, -40, in the pitch black, standing at the front door of this home, the lights off and the door locked, at 5:30 as per their request. I’m panicked, thinking I’m lost and not knowing how secure I was in this area. Finally, after I’ve taken a drive around the block again, contemplating heading home, I park and come back to their door and try again. And that’s when all hell broke loose. Every light in the place seems to flash on at the same time. The door flies open. People and half a dozen dogs go running by. I recall a feline presence. Apologies for running late and the need to get to work are being directed my way, I have a sense they hoped I could just drive back the 2 1/2 hours and come back another time.
I was already mentally prepared to go home empty handed should I not feel the ‘click’, and am annoyed and overwhelmed, contemplating writing off the whole process altogether, until this lazy little thing comes plodding through the middle of it all, yawning and stopping to sit on the floor. He doesn’t show an overt interest in much. I pick him up and he just kind of resigns himself to not having much other option but to sit there and wait for my fawning to be over with. He may as well have been a stuffed rag doll. I put him down and he didn’t look back, but kind of plodded away before making it not too far a distance. Deciding he no longer felt like walking, he plopped, awkwardly and lazily attempting to scratch himself, and looked back at me with about the same level of interest and attention as one might a faded fixture that had always been there . He was my kind of dog! I was entranced. I didn’t need a second visit to decide not only was he everything I had wanted and more, but that we were also going to get along very well…. and, nice as they were, I was not attempting to go through this with these people all over again.
I felt the slightest bit guilty; I know they would have liked for more time to do things properly or say goodbye, but I had just driven this far, at this time, plus they had left me waiting wondering outside what to do for 20 minutes, and I was not waiting for them to try to schedule another day to do this and driving another 900/km. I had the money in hand, and they went to try to find the paperwork. Quickly signed, I scoop up my new little friend and am out the door, whispering to him that he’s more of a Dex than a Des, so that will be his new name from here on, when they come out after me to let me know how much trouble he’ll be on the car ride; he hates car rides. He gets irritable and upset and sick to his little puppy stomach and cries the entire way, regardless of distance. I thank them for everything and wave a final goodbye. I get back into the car, the engine still warm from the morning’s drive and offer my new buddy Dex his choice of toys and treats.
He has no interest in anything and instead tumbles over, curls up and falls asleep in my lap, remaining there the entire way home. Not so much as a single whimper.
Car rides are his favourite.