As I’m writing this I’m being held captive by a 33 pound ball of furry love. She’s snoring a little bit, and her fat little feet are twitching ever so slightly as she dreams whatever it is that happy dogs dream about.
Just before this past Christmas our family dog Maxwell, crossed the rainbow bridge after nearly 17 years of happy-go-lucky life. He was technically my pseudo-mother-in-law’s (PMIL) dog but in reality he belonged to all of us and spread his affection around freely. His passing was not unexpected but we all cried just the same, and felt the loss of his care-free presence.
After much discussion, and some concerted effort on my part, we were able to decide as a family to adopt an adult dog to fill the canine shaped hole in our household. Puppies are adorable, and we all love them but PMIL is in her mid-seventies and we all have busy lives and crazy schedules, so a dog who was already through the ‘chew all the things’ stage, and had a full-sized bladder were high on my priority list. Not to sound shallow but I like my shoes sans teethmarks and I’ve potty-trained enough creatures both human and canine at this point. So it just made sense to look for a younger adult dog who had enough energy to go for long walks with me, but was calm enough to enjoy hanging out on the couch with PMIL. But how do you find the perfect pup? Luckily, our town has many reputable rescue organizations devoted to finding loving homes for unwanted animals.
As often happens in life and love, we went looking for one thing and ended up with something completely different. See, Dave’s family has always been partial to terriers and schnauzers, so his Mom started checking the internet for homeless pups in those breeds. A few weeks into looking she was contacted about a female Scotty-mix looking for her forever family. Of course PMIL was going to be out of town on the weekend and thus unable to attend the adoption event—Murphy’s law right? So she sent us to meet the puppy and make the decision about whether she’d be a good fit for us.
Bright and early on Saturday morning Dave and I filled our coffee mugs and headed out to the local Petco. Adoption application filled out and in hand, we joined the other stalkers, er, prospective adopters, and waited for the available dogs to arrive.
If you’ve never tried to adopt a dog from a rescue organization you may be surprised to learn that it gets a little cut-throat. On the one hand it’s heart-warming to know that so many people want to adopt homeless animals, but the flip side of that coin is dealing with the frustration of thinking you’ve found ‘the one’ only to have the foster decide to keep her, or another family get their paperwork in ahead of yours. That had happened to us on multiple previous occasions.
So there we were, waiting for the little Scotty to arrive. We had already talked to the adoption organizer and been told we were approved, we just had to meet her and sign the final papers. Except, the foster mom decided to keep her. Sigh. I was disappointed, but of course you can’t be angry about that happening. The little Scotty had found a loving home and that’s the entire point of animal rescue. We were discussing how we were going to break the news to the family when the rest of that day’s adoptable dogs arrived. I decided to hang around and say hello to them, and at least be able give some snuggles to a pup or two. That’s when fate did her thing.
First off the van was a little Chihuahua—shaking like a leaf and nearly burrowing into the volunteer holding her. Next came a Beagle-mix puppy, all legs and ears, with big soulful eyes. Then a smallish coppery brown dog with cute little ears and a sweet face. Bam. Lightning Bolt. Just like my first date with Dave, I knew this was the one. This was our dog.
Dave isn’t as easily swayed as I am (I love every dog I meet) but within 10 minutes his face was wet with dog kisses and he was signing the check to cover the adoption donation. Seriously, this dog never even set paw in the adoption kennel…she went straight from the van into our hearts and our home.
What does this story have to do with health and wellness? A lot actually. Pets are an integral part of leading a balanced life for many of us. They can lower our stress levels, provide necessary companionship and connection, and they can facilitate social interaction with other humans. I’ve met neighbors who’ve never even waved before now that I’m walking our little Poppy! They give us an ‘excuse’ to walk and play more, and for those of us with depression they give us unconditional love, and a reason to keep going every day.
Numerous studies have been conducted showing the positive effects of bringing animals into nursing homes, hospitals, schools and prisons—all facilities where the population can suffer from anxiety, depression, isolation, and anger-management issues. Animals are able to give us what humans sometimes can’t, or that we can’t accept from others. I know that even with all the deadlines I’m facing, and all the usual craziness of being a business owner, Mom of a teenage girl, and living in a multi-generational home in the deep South, my stress levels are pretty darn low right now with this snoring dog drooling on my leg. If she ever wakes up, we’ll go for a nice walk and work on hitting our daily 10K step goal.
If you are looking for a new fur-ever friend, please consider adopting from a local shelter or rescue organization. And please spay or neuter your pets.
Do you have a special four legged friend? Let me know in the comments!