There are people who have somehow earned the reputation of being an “animal person”. When people speak about them, they say things like, “ever since she was a little girl, animals were drawn to her”, or “he’s always had a way with animals. It says a lot about his kind and patient energy”.
I have never been one of those people.
For starters, I don’t like smells. I don’t really like dirt, and excess hair repulses me. Anything that is too needy irritates me. Ok, honestly, as I write this I’m starting to question how I ever became a mother to three human children…but I digress.
We had one dog growing up: Pepper. He was an epileptic Shih Tzu who swallowed his tongue when he got too excited. He wasn’t the picture-perfect family dog you see in L.L. Bean catalogues, and he certainly didn’t instill a desire to have my own dogs in the future.
“YOU’RE INSANE”, my mother would say, any time anyone even mentioned the words dog, or pet. “You can’t get a dog. It’s stupid. It’s impossible. It’s too much work. You CAN’T!”
My husband on the other hand, has wanted to add a dog to our family for as long as we have been together. It has been a monthly, if not weekly discussion. He believes having a dog is an important part of life, especially childhood. He claims it adds a dimension of love and responsibility that cannot be replicated otherwise. Never mind the fact that he usually leaves the house to work from 8-5, and therefore would have a very minor role in caring for said dog. He couldn’t possibly understand why I would hesitate. I couldn’t understand why I would willingly bring more feces and urine into my home. So, we continued to argue.
For months, I have been trapped in a house with a dog obsessed husband and three dog obsessed kids. Watching shows about dogs. Reading books about dogs. Looking at adoption websites together. They started performing chores to prove how responsible they could be. When Ben’s company officially pushed their return to the office until 2021, my excuse about being home alone and the sole caretaker of this pet disappeared overnight. The walls in my heart started to crack. I am a sucker without a spine. One night, I told Ben we could start seriously pursuing the adoption of a dog.
Why adoption? Number one because it’s cheaper than going through a breeder. Number two, with such a surplus of wonderful animals in need of homes, it would be cruel and irresponsible to ignore them. And number three, I wanted a taste of the moral superiority gained only by dropping the phrase, “Oh she’s a rescue”, into casual conversation.
I reached out to a few friends who are active advocates for animal adoption. They explained my options, answered my questions (it turns out the dog snatcher / pound relationship is slightly more nuanced than Disney made it seem), and made me confident in our decision to add to our family. Over the course of 2 months, we went over our list of desired qualities in a pet, researched local adoption agencies, and combed PetFinder.com.
Then one day, Ben sent me a picture of the most adorable little puppy with a piglet body and a wrinkly snout. She was from a rescue organization in West Tennessee, the same place Ben and I first met a decade ago, and where our oldest daughter was born.
We had explicitly said no puppies. It was too much to handle right now. How could I possibly raise a puppy? Plus, isn’t the whole point of rescuing a dog to rescue an older dog with a checkered past and a gut-wrenching history? This seems like cheating. Yet something about her made me pause. Then, I read her story:
“The pups were surrendered to us after their mom was hit by a car and killed. She had them underneath a rental home and the homeowner dug them out and brought them to us.”
As if that wasn’t enough, the website continued,
“The pups are in our jail program where female trustees care for puppies (in real jail) while we finish vetting and finding them amazing homes.” (More information on this incredible program can be found here: https://www.goofyfootrescue.org/paddle-program.html )
I very rarely share the story of the birth of my first child. Even after 7 years it’s a scar that is still too jagged and tender to expose. What I will share, is that I know what it’s like to be a new mother, alone and scared in West Tennessee. My heart ached for this mother dog, who was simply trying to survive and protect her babies. I can’t possibly describe the connection I felt to this poor creature. And while I never understood (and admittedly often mocked) people who spoke so seriously and earnestly about animals, in that moment I got it. It became so clear to me that we had the opportunity to nourish and care for this precious life, and we couldn’t squander it. My hesitations surrounding dirt, and smells, and my family’s judgement were diminished. We applied right away, and began preparing our home for her arrival.
Without further ado, I would like to introduce you to June!
Named for June Carter Cash (we wanted some sort of Tennessee connection, and Presley was a little too obvious), she is a little over 2 months old, and already the best behaved out of all my children. A big thank you to Goofy Foot Dog Rescue (https://www.goofyfootrescue.org/), and Hearts, LLC for making the adoption and transport process so incredibly easy. This girl has been through so much in her short life, and I cannot wait to watch her grow with our family. I haven’t earned the title of “animal person” quite yet, but with patience, discipline, and love, I think I just might get there.