This post originally appeared on my tinyletter, Where is my Mind?
This isn’t our first dog, a dog that we had to give away (read the linked piece, he’s better than fine). The kids and I have missed Thor tremendously since we had to let him go. When we moved to Virginia, the house we ended up renting didn’t allow pets, and so when we moved (again) mid-school year (again) we softened the blow by finding a place that would allow pets.
Ever since, the kids have been begging, begging to get dogs again (daughter and I are both really, really, really allergic to cats). We wanted to get settled, to get into our routine, and to figure out if our schedules would allow it; we didn’t want a Thor 2.0 situation. No, if we were getting a dog, it would have to be fair to the dog. We would be going all-in.
The kids took wonderful care of Thor when they were only 3 and 5, so we knew that they would be even more equipped as 10- and 12-year-olds (how did that happen?). They never wavered in their desire for a dog, and their assertions that they would, in fact, take care of said dogs. Yes, dogs, as each of them wanted their own to love and care for.
While the kids would have loved to get new lovely bred puppies, we always knew we would get another rescue. If our time in Morehead, with our next-door neighbor fostering puppies and adopting the old dogs ones no one else wanted as well as witnessing the aftermath of too many animal hoarding incidents, didn’t seal the deal, then my daughter’s subsequent project on puppy mills did. For the first time in my parenting life, I put my foot down and told my daughter there was no way I was going to let her make a diorama of a puppy mill. But it was still six depressing weeks of researching puppy mills.
I also knew a puppy (or puppies) would be too much for the kids, having been worn out by a 3-day visit from their then-2-year-old cousin. My daughter, especially, was worn out by the toddlers energy and sheer neediness (I tried really, really, really hard not to be like, NOW YOU KNOW HOW I FELT). I knew right then that a puppy (or puppies) were not going to go over well, no matter how much the kids romanticized raising their own little puppy.
And really, if we were going to get a dog, it would be a dog with issues.
I started following our local shelter on facebook, and they would update their feed with pictures and stories about animals that had just been brought into the shelter. Two little dogs showed up on my feed from them, a bonded pair, found together. One dog, the post explained, was really friendly and loving while the other “takes a little while to warm up to you.” It should have said, is a scared, snappy dog who has clearly been hurt.
And it didn’t phase our kids at all. All that time with rescue dogs in their formative years means they know how to be quiet, gentle, and patient with dogs. The handler was really, really impressed, but voiced his concern that while my kids were good with the dogs, what happens when friends come over? I have to admit, I appreciated that they really wanted to make sure that the dog(s) were paired with the right home, as to not have to them brought back.
Instead he suggested this dog that we had heard barking (yapping really) the entire time we were there. He was an older dog whose owner had died and the daughter subsequently brought the dog in to be put down. She clearly lied about the age and condition of the dog (he’s way too energetic for 14 years old with no problems other than some dental work needing to be done), so they put him up for adoption. As soon as he was let out of his kennel, he calmed immediately down, and played right away with the kids, gently and kindly and calmly.
So, we got Ziggy.
His story was too moving to not get him. Imaging losing your long-time owner and then being dropped off at a shelter, and then had to have major dental work done, a rotating cast of handlers and visitors, along with all of the other dogs sharing the space with him. He wanted, he needed a family again. He was chill, housebroken, and healthy. He was perfect for us.
He is perfect for us. I am clearly his favorite, as he follows me around the house constantly. I’m in the kitchen, he’s in the kitchen (waiting for treats). If I’m on the couch, he’s on the couch. If I’m upstairs reading to the kids, he’s upstairs in the kids’ bed getting read to, too. Or he’s at the bottom of the stairs whining until I get back. He didn’t bark at all once we got him home, loves cuddles, found a favorite pillow, and sleeps with one of the kids.
We took him to PetSmart to get a proper harness and some more dog food (soft food only!), and the poor thing was shaking with fright. Understandably. He wouldn’t get out of the car, and we had to carry him the entire time we were there, he was so nervous and frightened. Frightened we were going to leave him there. And then I had to take my daughter to ballet. Ziggy wasn’t going to be home alone; my son would be with him. But this is when he finally started barking, a kind of desperate, sad, scared yelp when he saw us putting on our shoes without a leash in our hands. My son had to hold him and carry him to the couch to get him to calm down.
So our dog has some abandonment issues. Which, no kidding. Who wouldn’t after what he’s been through. After the kids went to bed, I held him close to me and kept telling him that he was a part of our family now and that I would always come home. We’re a family with issues, so you fit right in, I told him. We understand you. I understand you. Better than you know.
Let’s heal together, Ziggy. Welcome to the family.