Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Power of Puppies - An Adoption and Rescue Story

The story of 'The Puppy Wars' began one weekend while my husband was at work. I was bored. I decided to go to the animal shelter. Knowing how much of a dog lover I am, I filled out the online application before making the know, just in case. Precautionary step, really. I told myself I was going to look for volunteer opportunities. I wasn't, but I convinced myself by this reasoning.

I brought my jack-russell's old carry cage with me. Again, merely precautionary. One should always be prepared, etc. I'd set myself up for failure or success, depending on how you determine the outcome of this story...

My dog, Lucy. She donated her old crate for my adoption efforts.

The receptionist at The Humane Society pointed me in the direction of puppies, upon my entrance and inquiry. I'll just go look at a few. I lied to myself again. I was becoming quite good at it.

 I sent my husband a text message as a desperate attempt to bring myself out of the self-created reality where we could have all the dogs in the world. It read, "I'm thinking about getting a puppy."

I was surprised that I received no response from my logically-thinking spouse. Then, I remembered his phone was low in battery power. I told myself he couldn't be upset with me since I'd tried to warn him and it was, in fact, his fault for not charging the only mean of communication we have when he is working.

There will be more lies to come. Many, many self-deceiving reassurances were developed to make this story happen...

I walked into the room where barking and yelping is near-deafening...the room filled with homeless animals just waiting to be adopted and let out of their cages. In this room, I fell in love. Two little, 9-week-old, Rat Terrier puppies played together in their cage. They noticed me and leaped onto their cage door with enthusiasm and worse...hope.

I couldn't let them down. I would just play with them for a bit and get back in my car like a reasonable human being. Except, when it comes to puppies, dogs, and anything homeless- reason is lost on me. I become a blissfully generous idiot.

A little girl entered the room and asked to play with one of the puppies I held. I handed the tiny rascal to her and spoke with the child's mother, who I learned was there to adopt her daughter's first dog.

My emotional train-wreck of mind would have been salvaged if I'd just walked away. After all, the puppy seemed happy in the little girl's hands. But, what about the other one? Shouldn't the little brother and sister be adopted together? How sad it would be to separate them. I deemed myself the hero who would not let such a tragic thing happen to two innocent, loving little pups.

A shelter worker walked in the room and the child's mother told the woman that they may adopt one of the Rat Terrier infants. The woman said they'd just arrived, however, and would like to look at other puppies before making a decision.

I've never been one to 'look at other dogs' before adopting the first one that catches my eye. Here's my oldest dog, Halle, when she was a puppy. I knew she was supposed to be mine and didn't need to look anywhere else before taking her home!

Like an auction's highest bidder, I spoke up to raise the bar in this shelter listing.

"I'd like to take both of them".

My words shocked me. They shocked everyone in the room. The little girl who had been holding one of the pup-sibs smiled and handed the little girl canine back to me. The shelter worker responded with, "Really?"

"Yep. I want to adopt them both. I don't want to separate them and I can take them home today if they're ready to go."

"Well, yes...they're ready. It's just...are you sure you want two puppies? I ask because a lot of people think they can handle two dogs, but then they bring them back."

"Oh, that's terrible. I would never do that. I'll adopt them and love both of them forever."

"Okay. They've been vaccinated and spayed and neutered so they are ready. Have you filled out an adoption application?"

"Why, yes ma'am. I did that before I came here today."

"I see."

The worker looked doubtful or worried. I'm not sure which emotion her brow furrow suggested but I was holding puppies, which makes this type of thing harder for me to decipher.

The worker left the room to go check on my application status. I checked the price I was about to pay, which I'd not had the sense to notice before agreeing to this critical fiscal requirement of adoption.

$220.00 for both puppies.

Uh, oh.

My husband, Josh, with our first dog, Halle. I hoped he'd be this happy with the other two puppies, but I was worried!

My husband is not going to like this expense, especially when it has not been negotiated or factored into our budget. This had been the first logical thought I'd had all day. I chose to ignore it. Surely, Josh would get over the initial shock and he would love the puppies as much as I did. It would all work out. Everyone loves puppies. My husband is not exempt from this general rule.

Puppies in hand, I approached the cashier's counter with mixed feelings.

I can't believe I'm doing this.

It's going to be okay.

What am I thinking?

Just hand the lady your debit card.

Sign here.

Sign there.

I can't believe you're signing this.

You should take them back and put them in their cage where they belong.

You can't do that.

You love them.

Sign again.

You have two new puppies.


Advice was given by the pet adoption staff and I walked out of the shelter carrying two new family additions and less money than I'd had when I'd entered that day.

I rigged seat belts in my car to secure the crate which contained two little lives that I was now responsible for providing care.

Puppies are a big responsibility. Luckily, they don't take up much room. Halle was a cute pup and she made a great dog! Surely, adding two more won't hurt...right?

I tried to call Josh and my stomach filled with dread as I waited for him to pick up. Straight-to-voicemail is the worst when you're in a situation like the one I'd gotten myself into.

On the ride home, I played classical music, which I found soothed my new pets.

Josh called me when I'd unloaded the car and arrived home to let our two other dogs, Halle and Lucy, outside.

"What have you been doing today?," said my husband.

"Weeeeelllllllll..... I tried to text you, " I said, nervously.

"Yeah, something about you getting a puppy? You know we can't do that right now."

"Wellllllllllllll.... I kinda did that, though."

"You're joking. You don't have a puppy, you?"

"Nope. I have two puppies, Josh."

"Very funny."

"They're in the kitchen right now."

"No they're not."

"Okay, don't believe me. But, I have two puppies and I love them. You'll love them, too."

"Regina, you're messing with me and it's not funny."

"Okay. I'll see you when you get home."

"Love you."

"Love you, too."

I hung up the phone with the knowledge that my husband did not believe me. I've experimented on how he may react to such a situation in the past. I've told him I adopted a dog when I really hadn't, just to see if he'd freak out and to assess the possibility of actually going through with getting another dog. Now, my girl-who-cried-puppy acts were discrediting my real story. Josh didn't believe me, but he soon as he got home. Uh, oh.

Panic began to set in but it faded as I watched the little pups play happily in their new home.

I began to mentally work on the story I'd need to tell Josh.

A few hours later, I heard my husband's car pull into the driveway.

The anticipation nearly killed me from the time he got out of his car to walk slowly up the driveway and turn the doorknob to enter our kitchen. The puppies were sleeping in their crate, not yet visible to my suspicious lover.

 "I still don't believe you, Gina. If you got two puppies, where are they?" Josh's doubt and joking manner made it more real to me, pertaining to the impending tantrum I knew he was about to throw.

I opened Lucy's old cage, letting the tiny animals meet their doubting father.


Josh's jaw dropped and he stared at the little dogs disbelievingly, as though his eyes were playing a mean trick on him and he was somehow dreaming all this up.

"Aren't they so cute?," I cautiously ask.

Josh sighed and said, "Yeah, they are. Of course they are. They're puppies. They're really, really, super-cute tiny little puppies...But-
we can't keep them."

"Pish Posh."

"No, Regina...we really can't keep them. I can't believe that you got two dogs without even talking to me! We are going to move soon and no place is going to let us have four dogs! We have a pack of dogs! You can't do this!"

"Well, I already did."

I've gotten all my dogs from shelters. Halle (on the right) was actually rescued from a home that had at least 50 dogs. Here she is with our friend's dog, whose size she will be at adult age. I didn't know that then. :)
"You can't."

"I did."

"YOU CAN'T! You have to take them back now!"

"I can't."

"You have to. I just...can't believe you did this. What about Halle and Lucy? You have two dogs! You can't just go adopting puppies, willy-nilly. Especially when we haven't even talked about getting another dog. We can't afford four dogs. We can't have four dogs. You have to take them back. How much money did you spend?"

I knew that last question was coming. I'd avoided it like the plague, but now had to face the music of marriage...not the pretty, sweet music that is played at your wedding. The other music. The kind that makes you cringe to listen to it...

"For both of them?"

"Yes, Regina. For both of them. How much?"

"Two-hundred and twenty dollars."

"This is the most irresponsible thing you've ever done!"

"I've done worse and far more irresponsible things in my life."

"Not the point. I'm angry. I can't believe you would do something like this."

"They're just puppies. It's really not as big a deal as you're making it."

"You can't keep them."

"Oh, yes I can."

", you're not. We're not. There was no 'we' in your decision. You didn't consult me and you made a big mistake."

"I don't have to consult you for everything, Josh."

"You do for this type of life-changing decision, Regina. The fact that you didn't is really messed up."

This conversation went on, repeating the back-and-forth redundant statements between my husband and I for the next two days. Our weekend was spent arguing and playing with puppies when we weren't talking about what to do with them.

I took the puppies, whom Josh and I had re-named from Hank and Dolly to Oden and Zoey, to work with me on Monday and Tuesday.

Here's my dog, Lucy, on the left. Tater, on the right, is Mamaw's dog. We'll get there...

After an endless weekend battle with Josh, I knew what had to be done. I hated what had to be done and I resented my husband for what I knew I had to do. I blamed him. He blamed me. The puppies just loved. They loved each other and loved us. Mostly me, because Josh distanced himself from them as to avoid any emotional attachment to the dogs we'd have to give up.

I made honest attempts to find both puppies a good home. My co-workers all encouraged me to take the dogs back to the animal shelter. I couldn't do that, I explained, because I'd already sent the staff pictures of the pups, along with a thank you note for letting me adopt them. Either people don't love puppies like I do, or people are too pre-occupied with other obligations to have dogs. My attempts to give the puppies away were unsuccessful...much to my delight.

Josh knew I was trying to make things right. He didn't know I wasn't trying my best to give them away. As long as I made efforts to ask people to take them (people who I knew couldn't, mostly), I bought myself time. Time, I figured, would be the only tool that would work to make Josh understand. Time would make him love the puppies. He couldn't keep avoiding them. They were far to adorable to ignore. Yes, I'd buy myself time. I'd also continue taking the puppies to work because my bosses liked having them around...and because I couldn't trust Josh not to take them back to the shelter if I left them at home.

I cried every time I thought about giving Oden and Zoey away. I cried when Josh and I argued about giving them away. I tried to come up with any and every reason I could to keep them. Logic would not permit the continued possession of four dogs, and my tears would not change that.

 I eventually faced the harsh reality that I'd acted spontaneously, irresponsibly, and selfishly. I felt guilty for making Josh the bad guy when I was really to blame. I called my Mamaw.

I call Mamaw when I am in a crisis that I can't share with my Mama. I tell my mother just about everything but not when I do something stupid that requires advice from Mamaw. I do this for my mother's own good, as knowledge of my less-than-responsible decisions, tends to needlessly worry her.

"Hi, Mamaw."

"Hi, honey! What are you doing today?"

"Weeeelllll, (because I say 'well' like that when I'm about to say something crazy)... I haven't told mom about this but I've done something stupid."

"What did you do?"

"Mamaw, I went to an animal shelter."

"Uh, huh?"

"You know I can't go to animal shelters."

"Yes, honey I know. You'd adopt everything."

"That's why I'm calling you. I got two puppies, Mamaw."

"Oh, Regina! You can't have two puppies!"

"Yeah, I know. They were just so cute, Mamaw. Josh says we have to take them back or I have to find them a home."

"You know he's right, angel face. Now isn't the time and I know they must be cute and that you love them, but you have to be a big girl and do the hard thing now which is taking them back."

"I was hoping that maybe, you could take them, Mamaw."

"Baby, I can't do that. I've already got Tater. I'm sure I'd love them but I can't keep them. You know that and I'm sorry you fell in love with the puppies but I just can't. I'm so sorry."

"That's okay. I just thought I'd ask."

"Sweetheart, someone will adopt them. People always want puppies and if you take them back to the shelter, they'll have good homes with owners who will love them."

"Yeah, I guess. It's just...really hard, you know?"

"I know, Regina. But, Josh is right. Taking them back is hard, but that's part of growing up and you can do it."

"Okay, Mamaw. I'll send you pictures of them, though."

"Okay, honey, but that won't change that I can't keep them. I'm really sorry, angel, but taking them back is best and you can be a big girl to do that. You can adopt a puppy later on down the road, when you and Josh are settled, moved, and Josh is finished with pharmacy school."

"You're logical, like he is."

"Well, sweetie, you know this can't be easy for him, either. I'm sure he loves them, too, and feels bad about having to give them up. You have to think about your husband and the two dogs you have and do the hard thing now, baby."

"Yeah, I know. Thanks, Mamaw. I knew you'd make me feel better. Please don't tell Mama. It'll just make her worry and I need more time to sort all this out. I'll tell her eventually, when everything is taken care of."

"I won't breathe a word. Now, I know it's hard but you know what you must do."

"I will."

"I'll see you soon. I love you, Regina. Things will get better."

"I love you, too. So much, Mamaw. If you change your mind, let me know."

"I won't."

"I'll call you back in an hour just to make sure."

"Okay, but I'm not changing my mind."

"Talk to you in an hour. Love you, bye."

Lucy and Halle could use a couple little friends...or so I thought!

I'd hoped Mamaw would take the puppies. I cried after I hung up the phone. I played with Zoey and Oden until I felt better. Then, I cried more when I thought about taking them back to the shelter. Then I played with them until I smiled. Cry, smile, play, laugh, clean up puppy poop, cry, smile, cry...I was on an emotional roller coaster. I'd created the ride and now must complete the track.

I listed the puppies on Craigslist. I felt like a piece of shit. I cried as I typed up the listing...
"Free Rat-Terrier Puppies"

I added pictures to the local online listing from the many photos I'd taken of the pups. 

I cried more.

I decided not to keep questioning whether or not taking my babies back to the shelter was the right or wrong thing to do. I confirmed to myself that I was NOT taking them back there. I would, for I must, find a good home for them. My home is good, I thought, as I typed up the type of prospective owner I was seeking for my companions.

I posted the listing.

I cried.

Within five minutes, I received five responses from interested community residents and hopeful soon-to-be-pet-owners.

I replied to the first inquiry since she wanted to adopt Zoey and Oden together.

I met the Craigslist lady at Petco, where I sadly surrendered ownership of the puppies I loved so dearly.

I learned that my dog's new owner had two children. She worked at Petco. She'd been looking for a dog since their family pet passed away. I felt slightly comforted knowing that she'd take care of the puppies as I loaded dog food and adoption papers into her car. I didn't charge her an adoption fee. I just wanted it all to be over. She thanked me and said goodbye as she carried my old puppies and her new puppies as one into the Petco, where she groomed them.

I got back in my car and placed the empty cage in the back seat.

I cried hard in that parking lot until the tears subsided to allow my departure.

The lady told me that she would keep the puppies together and she sent me an email to thank me again and tell me how much she loved them already.

Josh held me as I sobbed. He'd arrived home from work to find that I'd finally done what had to be done. He told me he was sorry and that he was proud of me. I didn't care. My puppies were gone and I felt a sadness I couldn't explain. I sat silently and petted our other dogs but it just wasn't the same. I

 As I recovered from a terrible sinus infection and the loss of two puppies over the next days, I did a little online research.

I found Zoey and Oden's new owner on Facebook. Call me a stalker. I'm crazy, as I previously said, when anything homeless is involved. I knew my...well, her- new puppies were no longer homeless. Still, my insanity from dog-loss prompted some helpful research results. Not at first.

At first, I just found the lady's Facebook page. I knew her name so just searched and hoped that she may have posted pictures of Zoey and Oden with her two daughters. Why I thought that would make me feel any better, I don't know. It couldn't make things worse, I figured. Except....

No pictures were posted of the lady's new puppies. I thought that was odd. I figured she just must be busy. She must be one of those people who doesn't get on Facebook much. Oh, well. Maybe I'd keep checking, periodically, for puppy updates.

 Yesterday morning, I found disturbing results on Facebook. My online searches had been uneventful and no emotional resolution had resulted thereof. Still, I hoped some pictures would show up eventually and I pulled up her profile page again just for the hell of it.

It read, "Zoey has been adopted. Still have one 9-week-old, Rat Terrier male named Hank who needs a home. Fully vaccinated and neutered. Message if interested."

WHAT THE....bleepity, bleep, expletive, expletive?????

 Surely not. I couldn't believe it. How could she? How could she do this? She lied to me. She said she'd keep both of them for her two daughters and she's selling them on Facebook.

What a- (insert expletive, for I had many upon this discovery.)

 I told Josh what had happened. He shared a similar reaction. He shared in my cursing rant. He shared in my furious, maddening sorrow and appall at this Facebook information.

I sent the owner- and who I'd also named, a 'puppy-flipper', an email and message on Facebook. I didn't have her phone number, which I assumed she didn't give me since her intentions were false and she didn't want me to keep in touch.

Her discretion on providing limited contact information would have been successful, had she not told me where she worked.

She would have gone about her life without ever seeing me again, had she not met me initially at her place of employment's parking lot.

I messaged her to request that she give 'Hank'- my 'Oden', back to me. I held back the anger I felt by sending her an email to explain that I'd given her the puppies with the understanding that she was keeping both of them for her daughters. Because of this, I carefully worded my request for Oden's return, hoping to make her feel obligated rather than insulted.

I didn't receive a response back from her.

Josh and I drove to Petco. We waited in the parking lot until the store opened. I listened to him warn me about how I needed to act reasonably and not allow my temper to get in the way of this confrontation. I obliged. After all, my motivation was not to make her feel bad. I didn't care how she felt. She gave my puppy away and may not even have Oden anymore. On the slim chance that the little boy puppy hadn't been sold or adopted, I needed to remain calm and be as nice as possible during this soon-to-occur interaction.

I walked into the grooming department. I asked if she was working and explained my situation, briefly, to her fellow grooming co-workers. I was told that she'd be at work at 1:00PM. I asked for her cell phone number but was told that I could not receive that confidential information.

Feeling distraught, I exited the store with my husband, whose companionship had been necessary if only to keep me from acting like an enraged monster. Josh is a good chaperone and his calm disposition often puts others at ease, even in messy situations. He's my hero and without him, I could make no guarantees about how I may act based on my emotions- especially in such a stressful situation. Josh went with me for he shared in my outrage, but could act respectfully and responsibly more effectively than I.

I got an email on my phone...finally. The new owner apologized for not keeping Zoey. The email provided reason to the unreasonable situation that we were in.

It read,
" Those were my intentions (keeping both puppies) but as it turns out, we are not allowed to have more than one dog here, per lease request. I am sorry if it disappointed you, I honestly wanted to keep them both. They are good dogs, really good dogs. I do still have Hank. "

Perhaps she isn't such a monster, after all, I thought. I actually felt bad for all the terrible things I'd called her. I said them behind her back but would have said them all to her face at the time when no reasoning applied to the Facebook news.

Now, I had to get Oden. His name was not Hank. His name was Hank at the animal shelter but I specifically told that lady that his name was Oden when I gave him to her. Poor Zoey. Poor Oden. Living apart from his sister must be devastating for him.

"We have to get Oden back, Josh."

"I know."

I was surprised by my husband's response, but his love for Oden was evident from the first day he met him. He wanted his favorite puppy back. So did I.

We arranged to pick Oden up at Kroger. We spent over an hour waiting for Zoey's brother in that parking lot. I got angrier by the minute. The lady had agreed to meet us there. She had agreed to give Oden back to us. She was nowhere to be seen and we finally faced the fact that she wasn't coming.


Josh didn't respond to my rhetorical question but I knew he felt the same as I did.

Since I could only communicate by email to the no-show, I sent a message to confirm that we'd gone to the right Kroger.

More time passed without a reply, so Josh and I got some lunch at Dairy Queen, where we tried to forget about the puppy we'd hoped so much to have back with us. We tried to forgive the owner who had lied again to us. We tried...

I cried some more. I'd gotten really good at it by this point in our puppy-saga.

Finally, we received a reply from Zoey's second ex-mother.

We learned that we'd gone to different Kroger parking lots. Each party had waited for the other to show up.

"This whole situation is an 'I Love Lucy' episode, Regina. You're Lucille Ball."

"Josh, at least life with me isn't boring. She sent me her home address and says we can pick Oden up there. She said she's sorry about the mix-up."

"Yep, you're Lucy...and you've got a lot of 'splainin' to do. You get us in the craziest situations."

"I love you."

"I love you, too."

"Let's go get Oden."

Josh and I drove to Oden's new and soon-to-be-old home, where his soon-to-be-ex-owner met us outside. I could tell that she had been crying. I asked if she was okay.

She explained personal family circumstances that had occurred in the days since she'd had the puppies. Though tragic and really out of her control, I learned that little Oden had been kicked down a flight of stairs.

This would have enraged me if she hadn't conveyed the same outrage about someone else hurting Oden, needlessly. That person, she told us, was no longer in her life and her relationship with that person had ended during the time the puppies were in her care.

She apologized more times than I could count. I held Oden, who wagged his tail and licked my face happily as I listened to the crazy- but totally believable- story of what had happened to this poor girl.

She is a nice person. She couldn't keep the puppies because of her lease terms and because of circumstances and events that were beyond her control. I forgave her. She took good care of Zoey and Oden. She didn't sell Zoey, but rather, gave her to a regular customer at Petco. She kept Oden for me even though Zoey's new owner wanted him, too.

I gave her a hug. Josh told her she was a nice person.

We bid her farewell as her eyes filled with tears.

Oden is my Mamaw's new puppy.

She has agreed to keep him.

She fell in love with him when she saw pictures I sent her. I told her this whole story and she has re-named Oden.

Oden is now Tiny II, as in- Tiny the second, Tiny Two.

He likes his new name.

I like keeping him but like giving him to Mamaw even more.

My puppy adoption story is unusual, perhaps, but it all worked out in the end.

Zoey and Tiny II have good homes. Their story just keeps getting better and my Mamaw will tell Tiny II's in the years to come.

I will refrain from visiting any animal shelters.

I will adopt a Rat-Terrier puppy in the future, when I have talked to Josh about it first.

Some of life's hardest lessons involve puppies.

I learned mine.

I will give Tiny II to Mamaw this coming weekend.

She will be his owner at the end of this charade...for the power of puppies is tremendous, and I am not the only one who can't resist them!

  For Tiny II and Mamaw, who is his true owner. For Zoey, who found a home. For me, who is now fully aware of the love I have for dogs. I 'rescued' Tiny II twice. He will never need rescued again. :)

Stay tuned for the continued story when Mamaw meets Tiny II! :)