May 31st, 2012:
Food and water dishes, check!
Dog bed, check!
Dog food, check!
Collar and leash, check!
I got into my car, not knowing that in a short time my life would never be quite the same. During the short drive to the shelter I thought about how I had found myself on my way to sign the adoption papers and bring Charley home.
The dogs that came before
Growing up we always had dogs. There was Corky, a large Boston Terrier that my parents had gotten around the time I was born. In his old age we ended up getting a new miniature dachshund puppy we named Pebbles. She helped ease the transition when we decided that Corky was getting too sick to stay with us and had to be put down. A few years later with the memories of how good of a dog Corky was, we got Ruby, another Boston Terrier. Everything was fine at first, until she started being overly aggressive towards Pebbles. We should have worked with Ruby more, but my sister and I were young and we were too busy arguing with each other to come to an agreement on how to discipline the dogs. There were quite a few fights between them where blood was shed; mostly the dogs’, but in some cases the humans that tried to separate them would get bitten in the craziness. From then on, we kept Ruby away from all dogs. I went off to college wishing I could take Pebbles with me (she had become “my” dog, while Ruby had become my sister’s), and I always thought that when I got my own place, I would take her in relieving the burden from my mom. After taking 5 years to get my bachelor’s degrees, I moved to NJ to work on my PhD. Pebbles did not come with me. I got a call from my mom during my first year in NJ saying that both Ruby and Pebbles were gone. Pebbles couldn’t hold her bladder anymore, Ruby wasn’t in great shape either, and I think it was too much on my mom to have both of those dogs plus another dog she had adopted from my uncle a few years earlier. I had known the day was coming, and when she called with the bad news, I cried.
Ideas of dogs to come
Even though Pebbles was considered “my” dog, she really was a family pet. When I started to think about the kind of dog that I wanted to get for myself, I realized that a small dog would not exactly fit my lifestyle. Being active, I wanted a dog I could take with me on my adventures – running, hiking, and being outdoors. For awhile I was obsessed with Beagles, mostly because they are active dogs but were small enough to appease my (at-the-time) boyfriend who wasn’t too keen on getting a large dog. I quickly found that I didn’t want a hound dog that would be distracted by smells and would probably be quite vocal. At first I thought I wanted to get a dog through a breeder. I was convinced that knowing the dog’s pedigree and the temperament of the parents would ensure that I knew what I would be getting into with a new puppy. While I don’t think this train of logic is wrong, I realized that there are many good dogs in the world that need homes, and that I didn’t necessarily want or need to get a puppy.
I searched online for a year before I got serious about really getting a dog. Andrew and I were dating long distance and he kept talking about getting another dog so that Dixie would have a companion. I wanted a dog so that I would have a companion. While I was looking for dogs in NJ, he was looking at dogs in MN. I did the math: Dixie + Andrew’s new dog + my new dog = 3 dogs! If and when we were going to be together we would have three dogs?! I am not sure I could have handled that. At some point we agreed that three would probably be too many (and too costly) for just the two of us. Until that point I had spent a lot of time looking at dogs online, but never made the move to inquire or visit any of them. After talking through it with Andrew, I was able to convince him that me getting a dog would be a good solution to both our problems. Once we were together (which was starting to look like a possibility for the near future) Dixie would have a doggie companion, and until then, I would have a furry four-legged friend to keep me company. Spring semester 2012 was just ending, and with no classes in the summer, I would have three months where I could spend extra time working with my new dog before the fall semester. It felt right. I felt ready. Now we just had to find the dog…
The dog we found: Lewis
Once Andrew and I agreed that I should get a dog, I knew I didn’t want to get one without him helping me choose. This was really going to be OUR dog eventually. He flew out to visit at the end of the semester, and we spent time visiting some local shelters. The first place we went was one close to my apartment. We had seen online that they had a couple of dogs that we wanted to check out, and one in particular that we wanted to meet was a young black-lab mix. After speaking with one of the shelter workers and explaining the kind of dog we were interested in, she pointed out both the black-lab mix, Domino, and another two-year old yellow-lab mix named Lewis that had just come into the shelter within the last week and who was in his last day of quarantine due to kennel cough. We took the year-old Domino out for a walk first. He was clearly more of a pitt bull than a black lab, but he was adorably goofy and did pretty well on our brief walk. We found that he was definitely still a puppy and had a lot of energy and was easily over excited. Andrew and I both agreed we were looking for a little bit older dog (one that wouldn’t drive Dixie crazy with all the puppy energy). We then took out Lewis. He was a remarkably unremarkable dog. We could tell he wasn’t pure lab, but it wasn’t quite clear what his mix was. He had a large head and fairly fluffy body, and wasn’t sure what was going on when we took him on our short walk. He smelled the ground and wandered about, but really paid no attention to us, or about any person really.
We decided to check out the next shelter. There we met a few very timid mixed breed dogs that were mostly just scared. I couldn’t help but want to rescue them. They were underweight and not in the best condition physically or mentally, but something in me wanted to take them home and show them how wonderful life could be. Andrew was a bit more level-headed and started to talk me into going back to look at Lewis again. I was really torn. He seemed like a good dog, but I guess I thought I would know right away when I saw the dog that I wanted, and nothing stood out with Lewis. Although, nothing stood out with any of the dogs that we had met that day either. I decided that going to see Lewis again was probably a good idea. He was clearly a happy-go-lucky boy and didn’t seem to have too many cares, which would probably be better for my first dog anyway.
A few days later we went back and got to see him running around in a fenced in yard at the shelter. He seemed to enjoy chasing tennis balls, but wasn’t incredibly interested in either Andrew or me. One of the shelter attendees came over with his daily meal, and I could tell right away that Lewis knew this guy and knew what he was bringing. It turns out this was the same guy that worked with the large dogs and he told us a little more about Lewis. He had just come up from a shelter in Tennessee. From what they had found out through their tests at the shelter, he wasn’t food aggressive and he got along pretty well with other dogs. He seemed like a pretty good fit, and I was beginning to fall for the dopey smile and happy attitude. The name Lewis, had never seemed quite right, and for some reason I was drawn to the name Charley (although it took awhile to decide on the spelling – Charlie, Charlee, Charley, Char Lee?). And so Andrew and I both agreed that we would go through with the adoption process and try to bring Charley home.
The first step was to fill out an application. Once that was accepted we would be able to adopt any dog that the shelter thought was a good match for the next six months. We knew this when we visited Charley for the second time, so we dropped the application off then. The application itself was pretty simple and straightforward. Some of the questions asked were: Why was I adopting my pet? Where is the pet going to stay during the day and at night? What is my home like? Is the yard fenced in? How do you plan to exercise your new pet? Are there other animals in the house?
I dropped off the application on the Thursday before Memorial Day weekend, and took off with Andrew to enjoy being in Minnesota for the weekend. I was nervous. What if another family came around that was already approved for adoption and took him home? What if he found someplace and we had to keep looking? Everything about him seemed perfect for us. What if it didn’t work out?
Over the next week I called the shelter a few times to see if they got around to processing my application. They kept saying that someone was going to do it, and finally I got a call saying that the numbers for my references were not working. I gave her the correct numbers, and she immediately called them. I know this because my office-mate was one of my references and he was on the phone with them a second after I had hung up. Andrew was my other reference and I texted him to let him know they would be calling. Soon after, the woman from the shelter called me back and asked when I wanted to pick up my new dog. He had just been neutered that day, so I said I would be in the following day.
So there I was on May 31st, 2012: on my way to pick up Charley. At some point Andrew had made the joke that he could be named Charles Barkley and I thought it was perfect! So Lewis became Charles Lewis Barkley or our Charley Wolf.
In another post, I will write about my first few days with Charley, and how we adjusted to life together.