Why can’t we save them all?

May through June 2008

We’re going to get a dog.  We start telling people, “We’re getting a dog.”  Not really designer people, and since I’m a sucker for a good bleeding-heart story, we know we’ll rescue.  But from where?  With so many resources out there, and a significant lull at work, the emails flew:  links to websites and rescue societies, craigslist ads for people “looking for a new home for their pet they love so much but can’t have anymore because [insert reason here],” news stories about dogs from puppy mills and hoarders in need of a forever home (we could save one or four, right?).  We exchange more emails during the months of our dog hunt than we have during our entire courtship.

And then we find him.  I stumble across a link for a Chow/Lab mix who had been so mistreated by his previous owners that he’s gone blind.  The photos online show a dog with a perpetual smile, eyelids sewn shut, purple-tongue extended and ears open to face the world.  His profile boasts of a big, slobbery, happy boy with zero aggression-tendencies seeking a calm, forever home.  We must save him.  I send his foster-mom an application email, and the waiting begins.

 To keep busy during the waiting, I know I should do something totally unrelated to the pup.  Knit, read, take a language class, maybe clean the apartment.

 Instead, I lose my mind. 

I contact several veterinarians and scour the internet for information on how to train blind dogs. I reach out to consultants in our area specializing in “nesting” for special-needs pets.  I engage James in extensive dinner-time discussions about what scents we’d make each room in the apartment so the pup would know where he’d wandered to.  Would James feel incomplete having a dog he can’t play catch with or have as a running companion?  My amazon.com wishlist fills up with toys specifically designed to engage dogs with sensory impairment.  I become the Wikipedia of blind-dog knowledge.  The Monks of New Skete are my homeboys.

But the unthinkable happens.  The foster-mom abruptly ends our correspondence and disapproves our application.  We’re perfect.  We’re gainfully employed and around.  We’re prepared to take care of whatever medical needs the pup has.  Our references are impeccable.

The response?  The apartment’s Property Managers have changed their breed policies.  No dogs with any Chow genes are welcome.  For the record, none of the following breeds are welcome: Staffordshire Terriers, Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, Chows, Akitas or Dobermans.  (We’ll get back to this later.)

 And I am heart-broken.  No one would love that fur-boy like we could.  I take the news like a 14 year old girl’s big break-up from the love of her life.  I cry.  I shred pictures.  I’m angry and I decide we should move—apparently, that’s irrational of me, and so James and I fight.  We will never find another dog. (We= me making declarations.)

 James, meanwhile, is clandestinely continuing the search. Smart man.  After a week, he gently sends me the PetFinder link to a Border collie/Something mix. 

Me: Ok, he’s kind of adorable… Is that a star on his chest?

James: This fuzzy boy is living in West Virginia but can be driven to NoVa for the right family. 

Me: I don’t know, James.  Maybe we’re not the right family.

James, ignoring the previous comment/trap: Great with other dogs and cat-tested.

Me: Whatever, Athena will hate him no matter what.

James: He shows some signs of anxiety around people, men in particular.

Me: Well boys are kind of dumb, so he’s a smart dog.

James: He’ll need love and patience.

Me, perking up: I have those things.

James: Socialization exercise with humans. 

Me: We have friends!

James: The rest of his litter has already been adopted.

Me: OMG HE’S ALL ALONE! WE HAVE TO GO GET HIM.  WHERE ARE YOUR KEYS?!

Homeward Trails Animal Rescue is handling the adoption applications.  We send in a form, and within 24 hours we’re contacted for references and to schedule a home visit.  If all goes well and we’re approved, the pup will be on the next transport.  Fingers crossed.

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