I can’t explain what got into me in the spring of 2017. I found myself browsing Petfinder dog profiles. We already had a great dog named Levi, a chocolate Lab, who was ten. Something compelled me to actively pursue the possibility of adding another canine member to our family.
During my online search, I came across a small black and white Chihuahua mix named Poppy. Originally my thinking was to find a smaller dog to keep me company on my solo kayaking adventures since training Levi to stay in the boat didn’t work out the way I’d hoped. Poppy was adorable in the photo, and the story about his abandonment struck a chord.
I typed a quick email to the small local rescue organization where Poppy was staying. An employee from the rescue (I’ll call her Carol to respect her privacy) responded to my email and said I was welcome to come meet Poppy to see if there was in her words “a love connection.” I made an informal appointment to meet Poppy at the actual main rescue location which was usually not disclosed. It was located in the next town over, about a twenty minute drive from my house.
I was nervous about meeting Poppy and the whole adoption process in general. I wasn’t completely sure I was ready to adopt a second dog, but I felt like I had to meet Poppy after staring at his photo for several days.
The rescue was located in a place I had driven past countless times over the years. It was a nondescript building that looked like a residence. The duplex was located in the middle of several acres with undeveloped land on both sides of the building. A long, dirt driveway led from the busy state highway to the unpaved parking area. As I drove past the building, multiple dogs ran along the fence in the front yard, barking with excitement.
Carol greeted me at the fence gate with Poppy in tow. Poppy immediately started barking and growling at me. Carol placed Poppy on the concrete and chastised him for his hostile greeting. Poppy followed Carol like she was his owner. He had zero interest in me. Carol and I began talking about my current pet situation and the veterinarians I use. She was an easygoing woman; we fell into a conversation like two old friends who hadn’t seen each other in years. We were instantly comfortable. I could tell she had a passion for dogs and had their best interests at heart. We ended up sitting on the porch steps of the duplex, talking and watching the dogs play in the fenced front yard.
There were two dogs who were permanent residents of the rescue that I will always remember. Carol explained that due to their previous situations and resulting behaviors, they were not good candidates for the typical home. I thoughtfully petted Jake, who seemed pleasant enough.
Carol said, “Jake is great unless you try to put a collar and leash on him or kennel him. He transforms into the Tasmanian devil when he feels confined.”
“I’m glad the rescue gives him a home and tries to understand him,” I said. Jake spun around and presented me with his backside so I could more effectively scratch him.
I’ll always remember Bo, a German Shepherd who was the second permanent resident. Bo was skittish around people but wonderful with dogs. He accepted other dogs gracefully, providing stable leadership. Carol said it took her six months to gain Bo’s trust so she could brush him. I considered it a victory when Bo cautiously sniffed me and lingered nearby for a few minutes. I didn’t try to touch him; I just enjoyed his presence.
Over an hour later, I evaluated my initial impression of Poppy. I admitted that I didn’t feel the “love connection” that Carol had suggested I would have if Poppy and I were a good match. She assured me that Poppy would take some time to warm up, but eventually he would follow me around.
I laughed. “He already follows someone around like that: you! I think you are going to have to take him home.”
Carol laughed and scooped Poppy up, placing him on her lap. “My two big dogs would not appreciate that. I already have two foster fails at home.”
We ended our pleasant visit. With a heavy heart, I told Carol I would have to think about Poppy before making an adoption decision. She understood and told me that she was available most days at the rescue if I wanted to come back to spend more time with Poppy or to see if I connected with a different dog.
For the next several days, I couldn’t stop thinking about Poppy. I felt guilty that I had left him at the rescue. I tried to imagine Poppy in my every day life. I had a hard time since Matt, my partner, does not typically like small dogs. I began asking everyone I knew who had small dogs what it was like to live with them. My only experience living with a dog was with Levi, whose laid back personality made him easy. Everyone I asked said that their small dogs had accidents in the house. I imagine this is because they need to go outside more frequently than large dogs. This wouldn’t be an issue if I worked from home; I wouldn’t mind letting a small dog out more often. However, my current schedule does not allow this.
I visited Poppy a total of three times. Before my second visit, I stopped at Kroger and bought a case of wet dog food and treats to donate. I also picked up a harness and leash for Poppy. I spent another hour at the rescue with Carol, Poppy, and the other dogs. At the end of the second visit, I told Carol I wasn’t 100% sure about Poppy. This meant I couldn’t adopt him since I had a gut feeling that told me it wasn’t a good fit.
The next several days were filled with anguish. I felt terrible that I’d left Poppy at the rescue. Carol and I texted several times after my second visit; I told her how I was feeling, and she suggested I spend some more time at the rescue to make sure.
The third time I visited the rescue was a weekend. While Carol and I were hanging out on the rescue porch talking about dogs and life, the rescue’s van pulled into the driveway. Two other rescue workers were returning from showing animals at the local PetSmart.
Carol greeted the woman who jumped out of the driver’s seat. “Any luck?” Carol asked.
“We adopted a couple cats,” the woman answered. “I was hoping we’d adopt at least one of the dogs.”
The woman and man who exited the van began to unload the animals to bring them inside. I quickly jumped to my feet. “Need some help?” I offered.
“Sure,” the woman said. She opened the van’s sliding door. She grabbed the leash of a dog who was loose inside the van. All the other animals were in kennels. “Want to take Mellow inside?”
“Okay,” I said.
“Any potential adopters for Mellow?” Carol asked the woman.
“A woman and her son looked at her. They wanted to go home and think it over,” the woman responded.
The moment Mellow jumped out of the van, I was smitten. She reminded me of my sister’s English pointer. She was too thin, and her legs were stained yellow. She looked around wildly, but I could tell she was a sweet tempered animal. I led her into the fenced yard and took off her leash.
After all the animals were unloaded from the van, we hung around in the fenced yard watching the dogs. Mellow obviously liked people because she went from person to person, sticking her nose in our hands and wagging her tail. I sat down on the sidewalk to pet her, and she immediately sat in my lap.
“I wish I could have this dog!” I blurted to Carol. “She’s amazing.”
Carol smiled. “You can have that dog.”
As I continued to pet Mellow, a feeling grew in my gut. I didn’t want to leave her there. I knew deep down that she was the one. This was the “love connection” that Carol said I would feel.
I told Carol that I wanted to adopt Mellow. She said that Mellow needed to be spayed and chipped before I could take her home since that was the rescue’s policy. She promised that she would make sure the owner of the rescue put my application on top for Mellow.
The next few days dragged by. Mellow had her spay surgery and recovered for a couple days at the rescue. Carol and I texted back and forth about her health. Since someone was at the rescue all day, I wanted to wait to bring Mellow home on the weekend when I could be with her around the clock. It felt like an eternity for the weekend to arrive.
That Friday night I was supposed to go pick up Mellow. Matt and I had heart-to-heart about bringing a second dog into our home. He was less than thrilled.
“We have a dog,” he repeated. “Why do you want another one?”
“I want two dogs,” I answered. I couldn’t explain it more than that.
“Do whatever you want,” he finally said. “If you want another dog, go get it.”
After that conversation, I felt like I was forcing Matt into having a second dog. Since adopting a dog would affect him as well, I didn’t want to do it unless he was completely on board. I texted Carol and told her that I was having second thoughts and explained the situation.
The next morning I couldn’t stop crying. I kept imagining Mellow going to a home that wouldn’t appreciate and accommodate her docile nature. Matt wasn’t sure what to do.
“What’s wrong?” he asked.
“I feel like I’m making a huge mistake leaving her there,” I said.
“If you feel that way, then go get her,” he urged.
“But I don’t want to force you into it,” I said. “It’s your house, too.”
We sat in silence on the bed for a few minutes. “Let’s go meet her,” he said.
“Sure. It’s a nice day. I’ll ride my motorcycle out there.”
I texted Carol to see if we could come to the rescue. I was afraid that my indecision from the previous day ruined my chances of adopting Mellow. I hoped she didn’t think I wasn’t a good candidate now. My indecision stemmed from overthinking the situation. I have had multiple cats and a dog prior to Mellow; I had no illusions about what a lifetime commitment to a pet entailed.
Carol texted, “Come on out. We’ll be here.”
I drove my Prius, meeting Matt at the rescue. Mellow wasn’t in the fenced yard, so we went inside to meet Carol.
When Matt had his first glimpse of Mellow, he said, “Is this her?” He paused. “Is that yellow permanent?”
“I don’t think so,” I said. “Carol said she was locked in a cage nonstop prior to being rescued. Her fur is stained from her urine. I think she will eventually shed it off, and the new fur will be white.”
Matt petted her thoughtfully. Carol said, “Why don’t you guys take her home and foster her for a couple days? See how it works out with your other pets?”
We took Mellow home as a foster, but it only took two days for us to know that she was a member of our family. She and Levi bonded instantly. Some of my favorite photos are of the two of them. Levi provided the stable foundation Mellow needed to learn how to live in a house instead of a cage. He taught her the ropes; she even asks to go outside the same way he did: she stands at the back door and silently stares. Mellow took a little longer to get over her over-interest in Minnie, my cat.
Levi and Mellow had six wonderful months together as canine siblings. I couldn’t have asked for a better match for Levi. He enjoyed having another dog around. He was incredibly patient with her and her puppy-like ways. I only wish they had more time together before Levi crossed the Rainbow Bridge.
Every day I am grateful for the time I had with Levi and for finding Mellow. I can’t imagine what life would be like without having my dogs. The pain of losing Levi still overwhelms me at times, but I know that the joy he brought into my life wouldn’t be possible without the inevitable pain since the feelings are the two halves of sharing life with canine companions.