Saturday, 5 February 2011

Now, at 30, I'm finally reponsible :)

Not to seem hyperbolic, but dog ownership has completely changed my life--for the better, actually. Not just dog ownership, but this dog in particular. Her name is Sheila, and she is, in one word, AMAZING.

I say she's amazing not just because of her great personality and cute quirks (I'll get into those later), but also because of the things that she's taught me in such a short time (two full weeks).

But, let's jump all over the place (because I may have adult ADD) and rewind to two weeks ago, to when I got her from Beagles & Buddies. First of all, I had been referred to B & B through another adoption agency, when I inquired about a Beagle/Pug mix (I guess you'd call it a "puggle", but it really looked more Beagley than Puggy) that they had. Someone had already filled out the paperwork on the adorable little thing, and so that left me out of luck for that adoption prospect. However, the lady from the adoption agency told me about her friend who volunteered at another place, Beagles & Buddies, where they were currently being overrun with pooches that needed homes, and were reaching out to their affiliates to help them out.

Several conversations with several adoption people later, I set up a Saturday to drive out to El Monte to participate in the shelter's open house. I arrived, a list of dogs from the website in hand, as a guide to try to sort out the ones that might be suitable for me out of the pack of adoptable pups. The woman at the main counter gave me a look that was neither here nor there and wryly quipped, "Let me guess, you're here to buy a new car, right?"

After discussing my options, she pointed me in the direction of the kennels, where I found my way alone through a couple of gates to a long line of cage runs. The noise of barking dogs was deafening, and heartbreaking to me, thinking, "How could a dog be nothing but insurmountably stressed to be here? I mean, yes, the rescue was saving them from an even worse fate, and hopefully most of them wouldn't be there long, but I couldn't help but feel my heart ripping apart a little bit. Walking down the line, I saw many friendly doggie faces, wagging, yipping, yelping, whining. I knelt down by the cages and dozens of noses poked through the wires to catch my scent.

I decided to play with one dog, Bitsy, who was a very dark colored beagle, with a very sweet expression. She was a little bit larger than what I was looking for, although still on the smaller side of medium. Taking her out into the yard, however, she seemed interested in everything and everyone besides me. It was like going on a date where everything seems perfect, but you just don't "click" with the person. One of the volunteers mentioned to me that they had a dog that she thought would be just perfect for me.

"Sheila," she'd said. "She's small and super quiet. Honestly, she's too good of a dog to have ended up where she did. The only thing about her is that she doesn't have any teeth on one side, so her tongue just hangs out."

A broken dog, I thought. I'd pictured my dog, the dog in my mind's eye to be beautiful, perfect, one that I and everyone in the world would think, "Wow, that is the cutest, most wonderful dog on this planet." I'd been raised with purebred dogs all my life (don't hate on my parents, they had their reasons--although now, as an adult and seeing all of the great animals out there for adoption, I am NOT in any way an advocate of dog breeding), dogs that were always beautiful. The thought of having an imperfect dog never crossed my mind. Still, I thought it'd be worth checking her out. Keep an open mind, I thought to myself. You never know.

Sheila was carried out to me in the yard, while a pack of hyper young Beagles romped about. She was small, puppy sized, and her tongue hung clownishly from the right side of her muzzle. Her unusually golden eyes observed me with a welcoming gaze as I stroked her silky beagle head and gossamer ears. Well, she WAS sweet.

"Are you sure she doesn't have any issues? Any problems with other dogs, anything?" I asked the volunteer.

"Nope, she's PERFECT!" the volunteer said, giving little Sheila a squeeze.

The volunteer plopped Sheila down on the bench next to me. Sheila looked at me expectantly. I patted my lap and she crawled right over. A good 15 minutes passed while we sat together, observing the goings on around us, as I massaged her little Beagle back. Was she the one? It seemed as though the rest of the world didn't matter when this dog was on my lap in that moment. But...this was not a decision to be taken lightly, I thought. Could I love an imperfect looking dog?

It seems shallow, it seems dumb. But I knew that there were going to be comments, questions, stares, all of the time. Could I deal with that?

Finally, after much deliberation and the gentle persuasion of the volunteers, I decided to take the little angel, tongue and all, who had decidedly curled up in a dog bed and gone to sleep, away from all of the hubbub, while I made my choice. Broken, or not broken, everyone deserves some TLC.

As soon as I opened my car door, Sheila hopped right in. I had some trouble dislodging her from my lap before we took off, but I finally settled her into the seat next to me, and we took off toward a new life.

Two weeks later, I have to agree. The tongue has become extraordinarily cute, a great conversation starter, and this dog is nothing but perfect in every sense of the word.

Follow Sheila's blog also (we're starting it this week)!

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