I said goodbye to my Great Dane mix, Lexus, several months ago. She was my side-kick for 10 ½ years, and I miss having a dog in the house. I know I want to adopt a new dog, but I often wonder how long I should wait to do so. Is it too soon? How long should the grieving period be? I don’t want to dishonor Lexus by “replacing” her.
The Idea of a New Dog
One Saturday, a friend tells me that a local pet store is hosting an adoption event. She has already gone to look at adoptable dogs and has fallen in love with a handsome boy named Rusty. My friend already has a dog and isn’t in the market for another one, but she thinks I need to adopt Rusty.
Is it time to get a new dog? Should I go to this adoption event? No. “Not now,” the voice in my head tells me. “Your in-laws are visiting. There is too much going on this weekend. There will be another time to look at dogs.” I know the voice is right, but I realize I am disappointed.
The busyness of the weekend takes over, and the adoption idea gets moved to the back burner. On occasion, I find myself getting excited about having a dog again. The pitter-patter of four little feet…the excited greetings at the door…the warm cuddles on cold nights…. My friend sends me a text: “You need Rusty.” The voice in my head answers back, “No. Not today.” Darn that stupid voice.
The Flood of Emotions
Monday rolls around, and things are starting to quiet down. My in-laws are still in town, but we are not on any time schedule. We are planning our day when my father-in-law says, “Maybe we should go look at the pet store to see if any dogs are still available for adoption.” This time, to my dismay, the voice in my head says, “Well, maybe.”
When we arrive at the pet store, my heart starts palpitating. Every emotion hits me at once: excitement, guilt, curiosity, apprehension, trepidation, caution, joy, and fear. I am a raw bundle of nerves. I haven’t even seen any of the dogs yet!
The adoption center is in the back of the store. I try to get my breathing under control as we make the long trek down the center aisle past toys and treats and pet beds and food. “Breathe,” the head-voice reminds me. “Breathe.”
There is it, like a beacon shining in the night: The adoption center. “Don’t run,” the voice tells me. “Just be cool.” I can hardly contain myself.
Looking at Adoptable Dogs
When we walk through the door, I see a tall black dog in the far left kennel. My heart says, “That one!” My head says, “Maybe. Let’s look at them all and decide.” My heart argues, “That one!” The sign on the kennel tells us her name is Elizabeth. I laugh. The name seems so formal. She is a two-year-old Lab mix. My heart is practically yelling, “That one!” “We’ll see,” my head says calmly.
We proceed to walk by each kennel. Next to Elizabeth is a chunky hound mix named Charlie. He is trying so hard to get noticed, and my heart wants to take him home, too. A gorgeous boy with green eyes is next to Charlie, and he is quietly observing everything from the back of his kennel. Those eyes look like mischief! “You would be trouble!” my heart says. Around the corner, a kennel plaque says “Rusty.” Oh, he is cute! My friend was right. Under his name is a sign that says “Adoption pending.” Yea for Rusty! He has a new family.
“The black one!” my heart screams. And in a surprisingly calm manner, I find myself asking a staff member, “Could we meet Elizabeth?” All of a sudden, we are in a private room with a big black dog that stands on her hind legs to look you in the eye. She cycles among all three of us, my in-laws and me, and puts both front paws on all of us at some point. She stares at us earnestly as if to say, “Lean in. I have something important to tell you.”
Elizabeth is nervous but calm. She isn’t interested in any toys. Her tail is wagging as she moves around the room. “This one!” my heart pleads. My head argues back with, “She’s trying to dominate you by putting her paws on you. We would have to break her of the standing behavior because that could scare people.”
My heart must be a 5-year-old child, because it whines as it begs, “Please, please, please. We could train her. She’s just nervous in here.” My heart senses that my head is about to give in, because after a short pause it adds one more, “Pleeeeeeease?”
Trying to be Patient
I know that my husband and son need to meet Elizabeth before I offer to adopt her. My head tells my heart, “We won’t put her on hold, but if she is still available tonight when we come back, we can look into adopting her.” My heart celebrates this small victory and says, “Deal!”
Later that night, we return to the pet store. I’m anxious. Is Elizabeth still available? What if she has an adoption pending? What if…”Just calm down,” my head says. “Breathe. And don’t run. Just be cool.”
Elizabeth is still available, and my heart is doing a happy dance. Charlie is still working hard to be noticed, and my heart wants to adopt him, too, but it doesn’t argue when my head sternly says, “No.”
There isn’t very much information available on Elizabeth because she just arrived at the adoption center. She is likely housebroken, but no one knows for sure. They don’t know if she gets along with other dogs. Her paperwork is marked “Rude play behavior.” What does that mean? There are a lot of unknowns, and my head is nervous.
Adding a Family Member
“On the plus side,” my heart says, “she doesn’t seem to be afraid of men.” Elizabeth is walking calmly between my husband and my son. They both agree that she seems like a nice dog and they each vow that they would walk her or run with her to give her enough exercise. Matter-of-factly, my son says, “We should call her Ellie.”
When I look down, I see that my hand is holding a pen and filling out an adoption application. Somehow, my heart snuck that in without my head even noticing. And just like that, we found the newest member of our family. My heart is doing cartwheels, acting like the five-year-old that it is. And, lo and behold, my cranky, argumentative head is actually smiling.
When you are looking to add to your family, consider adoption! We found Lexus through Petfinder. We found Ellie through Fox Valley Humane Association in conjunction with PetSmart.
Joanne Clark is the Communication Coordinator at Countrycare Animal Complex in Green Bay, WI. She loves all dogs, but her favorite breed is Rescued!