The sound of a dog is home to me. Others might find the bark ear piercing or the whimpering annoying, but I long to hear those noises when I open the front door of my house. I know when I open the door there is an animal who loves so much that she says it with her bark, the shaking of her whole body and the wag of her tail. Sometimes, she even says it by the puddle she leaves behind on the floor.
Zoli and I married in November 2011 and while there were many things to be excited about, what we were both most excited about was adding a new member to the family. Marriage meant a dog.
In December, my husband I began our search, perusing rescue websites looking for our new pet. Eventually, we started going to Washington Animal Rescue League (WARL). Almost every week, I would leave the shelter in love with a new dog, but I knew it was important to wait for the right dog for us.
One day in January, as we walked in the door of WARL, there was a dog being lead outside. I nudged my husband and pointed at the dog. The look on Zoli’s face showed his interest. We walked up to his handler and asked about the dog. “Outlaw” had just been returned to WARL. The family who had adopted him four months previously was moving and was unable to take him with them. “Outlaw” seemed perfect for us. He was a dachshund/beagle mix and had a very sweet temperament. We spent time playing with him, getting to know him better. By the end of the time, we were sold. We filled out the paperwork and agreed to be back the next day to pick him up. I was brimming with excitement. My husband, always more reserved in such matters, could not hide his smile.
The next day I woke with the wide-eyed excitement of a child on Christmas morning. We still had to wait several hours before WARL even opened, and we also needed to prepare the house for its newest resident. By the time we arrived at WARL, I was so excited I left my husband to deal with the paperwork and bounded back toward the kennels. Our new dog sat in the back of his run and the smell of illness wafted out of the door. He came over to me, and I could tell he did not feel well. I assured him I would be back and headed back to the front desk to ask if they knew what was ailing him. A change in environment and food can often leave a dog sick. I wasn’t too worried, and I neither were the staff at WARL.
In no time at all, we were headed home with our new pup “Oliver”…
On the ride home, he was docile and complacent. That night he vomited and my sister-in-law noticed something like fabric in his vomit. We quickly realized that Oliver was really, really not well. He could hardly move without crying out in pain. The best thing was just to lay still…
The next morning we headed to our vet and then on to the WARL animal hospital. The staff quickly went to work on Oliver and soon found an obstruction. In his last home, he had ingested something that looked like a child’s toy – an object with a long string attached. The string had caught around his tongue and the object had lodged itself in his stomach. The string, pulled taught, was cutting its way through the small intestine. Oliver did not make it through that night.
It’s been a year since we lost Oliver and it’s still sad to think about it. We had him for an incredibly short time, but we were so thrilled that his last few days were spent with us. The staff at WARL could not have been more wonderful or more supportive. We cried with staff members standing in the reception area. We knew when we were ready for our next dog, we would be back here.
It took until March before we started looking again. Even then, we took it slowly not wanting to rush into anything that would not work. Then I saw her, a sweet yellow lab mix named “Francesca.”
We adopted her and called her “Olive” – a little tribute to Oliver. On the ride back to our house, my husband hugged her, burying his face in her fur. He didn’t tell me until later, but he felt panic rise up inside him as he felt his eyes get itchy and his throat start to tingle. Not a good sign.
Olive was with us for two weeks. During those two weeks, my husband was allergy tested and told he was indeed allergic to this dog. While the allergy could diminish, in all likelihood it would get worse. To say we were gutted is putting it mildly. The pain of losing our first dog was still there and the thought of losing the second heaped burning coals on the wound. However, we knew we needed to surrender her back to WARL. We couldn’t allow her to grow more attached to us, and my husband couldn’t continue to live in a home in which he couldn’t breathe. During this two week period, we sought advice from WARL, and while it was hard to give her up, we knew they would find a good home for her.
My husband and I were at a loss. What to do next? Our first dog died, my husband was allergic to the second. If we believed in signs, we might have stopped there. Fortunately, we pressed on.
A few weeks later, we were back at WARL. A group of dogs came in from a puppy mill rescue and they included three bichon frisé. The three of them were together in their pen and the two larger, bolder ones seemed to push down the tiny little one, “Tropi-Pop” (?!)*.
This tiny little thing had just been spayed and was still drowsy from her surgery. Despite her drowsiness, she was playful and kept bringing us tiny wee sticks she found outside. I was in love. She was hypo-allergenic and seemed to have a great personality, but Zoli was worried. We weren’t getting a true picture of who she was because of the lingering side effects of the anesthesia. So, we decided to return the following day.
The next day we arrived, and she was gone. Gone to a dog show in upper Georgetown. “When did she leave? How long was the show? When would she be back?” My husband and I talked over each other before realizing the best solution was simply to drive down to Georgetown and see her there.
We flew through DC traffic, knocking aside cyclists and Smart cars, only to discover she was spoken for. Adoption paperwork had been filled out, and she was as good as on her way home with another woman. A sign? NO!
Over the following two days, the staff at WARL heard from us more than they ever wanted to. One adoption fell through! But, there was a second application on Tropi-Pop, so we waited. The next day we got the call. She was ours. How two applications fell through, we have no idea, but she was ours and that’s what I cared about. My husband counted on my confidence. Big decisions are always anxiety provoking for him and given our track record he needed my enthusiasm to carry this. It was important I loved Tropi-pop and knew she would be a good addition to our family. She found her way instantly into my heart. How can you not love a dog that collapses anywhere?
And knows her rightful place is on a pillow?
It took some time, but “Cricket” did go from being my dog to our dog. My husband loves her as much as I do. We’ve had her for a record nine months, and she’s indestructible! She’s managed to eat all kinds of things from the trash and appears to be immune to a variety of poisons. Of course, we’re not testing that theory, but we’re thankful she’s still with us.
Life with Cricket is pretty fantastic. As my husband puts it, she’s my muse. She seldom leaves my side and often sits on my lap as I write. What has been unexpected is that she has brought my husband and me closer and her presence forces us to end any disagreement much faster. It’s hard to be upset when you have this face demanding your love and attention.
Almost two months after we adopted Cricket, my husband and I were leaving dog obedience class. It was the last day, and Cricket had managed to graduate (without honors and without much care for sitting, staying or rolling over). As we walked to the Jeep, I saw a car pull into the lot. Sitting in the back was a yellow lab. A high pitched squeal escaped my mouth, my husband jerked around wondering what calamity had befallen his wife. “OLIVE!” I managed to get out. There she was. Her new owner led her from the car and saw us staring. I tentatively approached and asked, “Is this Francesca?” Met with a positive reply, I explained who we were. Olive (now “Astrid”) wagged her tail but clung to her new owner. She seemed not to remember us. We were thankful for this small mercy. The dog we had known for a short time was with her new owner, had slimmed down, and was happy as happy could be. We got in our car, and I burst into tears of joy. Closure. It’s a wonderful thing.
*Upon further research, I now know that TropiPop is Columbian Pop music. Cricket does not like Columbian Pop music – or really any pop music.