Sunday, December 18, 2011 in Austin, TX was overcast and cold. It was the kind of day that encouraged hot cocoa, a warm robe, some channel flipping and being lazy. But it was also my birthday, so I knew it was my Day to Plan. I announced to my husband: Today is the day we are going to adopt a dog. No response. We had lost the last of our cats to cancer months earlier, and we had decided to find a rescue dog when we were ready. Leo, our burly orange tabby, lived a long good life but at 17 he went downhill quickly. Making that “pink shot” decision is never easy, but it was the right thing to do. Our Leo had given us so many great years; he traveled from Texas to California and back to Texas again. He loved sitting in our California vineyard, thinking we could not see his 20 pound fur frame among the vines. My husband had agreed in principle that getting a dog was a good idea, but when the principle turned into a plan of action, he caved. He had never fallen in love with a pet the way I had – the way my family had. We had married later in life and our animal experiences were very different. He never looked at an animal like an extension of family, a furry ball of love who usually knew your thoughts before you did. He was skeptical, but agreeable. He had a fondness for Leo and knew it was time. After all, it was my birthday.
Off we went to an Adoption Event nearby. Only two dogs. I was disappointed from the parking lot, because I had fantasized about aisles of cute dogs waiting for my selection. I was daydreaming about the spring and summer adoption events I had seen. But it was a week before Christmas, a cold dreary Sunday. We walked up to the pens. The first dog was a Mastiff. Holy Cow, he was dear and sweet but his paws were like footballs and he was taller than I was when he stood to give me kisses. My husband walked over to the other pen. Here was a year old Belgian shepherd, black with white markings, with a red coat tied over her back. She seemed to smile when he pet her, and he was smitten. I had thought I wanted a short hair Lab mix, but this long hair black female was sure cute. I walked her, and she was quiet and timid. After playing awhile with her, but still not sure – my husband announced that we needed to get this dog. I agreed. We signed the papers and agreed to a telephone “interview” the following day and went home hoping that no one else beat us out. I couldn’t sleep that night. My husband even made a list of potential names for her! I was falling in love with this adorable girl and knew she was the perfect match. We passed the interview, she was spayed and cleared for pick-up at a local vet a few days later. Christened Zoey, she became our new baby.
I learned later that black dogs are the hardest to place through rescue groups. The shelter that fostered her told me that she was on the schedule for euthanasia – they didn’t keep dogs very long as their facility was small. Her days were numbered. Some of the other local shelters actually discount their black dogs and offer complimentary obedience classes to “sweeten the deal”. I felt like she was destined to come home with us.
Tomorrow is our One Year Anniversary of owning Zoey. I cannot imagine our life without her. Every morning we are out walking. She is friendly with everyone, dogs and people. Her only vice is chasing squirrels, and she tries valiantly but so far she has been unsuccessful in catching one. They chirp at her, taunting her from the trees. Her bed is beside our bed and every night she gets a story, which she expects around 10:30 PM. It is “The story of Zoey, the most wonderful dog in all the land”. Her eyes close, she sighs, and I repeat every night the story of how she came to live with us. It’s cheesy I know, but that’s what animals do to us. They allow us to be honest and funny and silly and goofy with wagging tails and loving eyes. My husband only grumbles occasionally about the shedded fur – oh my how long haired dogs shed in the summer. I watch him patting her and rubbing her and behaving the way I never knew he could with an animal. Totally in love. But that’s how it’s supposed to be; and he never would have known about this love if we hadn’t found Zoey. December 18, 2011. A good day.