At the beginning

As is common, when we picked out our dog at the SPCA, we didn’t have much information on her. They told us she had been found wandering lose by an anonymous person in a poorer section of the city.  This person then stuffed her in a cat carrier, took her on the bus, and dropped her off at the shelter. The SPCA staff member said she thought our dog was one year old, part Australian Cattle Dog, and knew she had issues with open doors. That’s it. That’s all we had to go on.

I will never be able to say why we chose her out of all the other available dogs. Honestly, it was kind of on a late Friday night whim. I’d wanted a dog of my own for years, ever since my family dog passed away in 2005. I was a woman obsessed. Every dog I saw I would cry over. It must have driven my husband insane, though I know he wanted a dog almost as badly as I did.

Last January, a whole year ago, we finally decided we were ready. We had the time, we had the money, we had the space, and our landlords were agreeable to the concept.

Once we’d made the decision I did what I always do, I headed to the internet. Since we don’t have a fenced backyard we knew we couldn’t get a large animal. We needed a dog that would be happy spending most of its time inside with us. From the time I was four years old I have spent many an hour researching dog breeds. I already had a lot of information stored in my head. But I bought more books anyway – now I had an excuse – looking for a breed that would suit our lifestyle best.

Initially, we had settled on adopting a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever. They are smaller than most retrievers with the same wonderful dispositions. We’d even gone out to visit a local breeder to meet the dogs face-to-face. Both of us immediately fell in love. Unfortunately, the Toller breed is a rare one and puppies always in high demand. If we’d wanted to hold out for one it may have taken years. Neither of us really wanted to wait that long.

This is when I discovered Petfinder.com. Adopting a rescue dog was an item on my life list but I wasn’t sure I was ready yet. Shelter dogs come with baggage, I figured,  and one never knows how a dog could turn out. What seems really sweet and shy in the shelter can become a terror after a few weeks in a home. A puppy just seemed safer, less problematic. The only issues a puppy would have would be the ones we created. After looking at all the beautiful dogs available for adoption at local shelters, I was ready to change my mind.

Unlike a puppy, most of the dogs were house and crate trained.  Furthermore, most could handle being on their own for a few hours, a bonus for our work-outside-the-home household. Once we became SPCA-approved, all of them would be ready to come home with us right away. That was the biggest selling point of all.

Speeding ahead to April 2009… My parents were coming out to visit mid-month and we had decided to wait until after they left to bring home a dog. Naturally, that decision didn’t stop us from going to the shelter every weekend to see some of the dogs. A border collie mix named Daisy even seemed like a possibility for us but, by the time we got there to meet her, somebody else had adopted Daisy. Returning home dejected, I tried to tell myself it was probably for the best. We can’t get a dog until May anyway. I shouldn’t even be looking. Like that stopped me. Petfinder.com was the most frequently visited website on both my home and work computers.

The evening of Good Friday saw me sitting on the couch, laptop in front of me, logging into the website. When I saw a picture of the skinny, spotted dog that would eventually become our nutty Shiva, I pointed it out to my husband. Isn’t she cute? We decided to stop by the shelter again the next day, just to see meet her. Just to see. Yeah, huh. Right.

At the SPCA we discovered the spotted dog from the photo hadn’t been claimed yet. Yay! They then encouraged us to take her for a walk. The volunteer handed me the leash and almost immediately I was through the door, running to other side of the parking lot. The first thing we noticed was her energy. All radiated was energy. Jumping, running, dancing, sniffing, pulling, everything was so exciting for her young brain. My husband wanted her instantly. I could tell by the look on his face.  I worried over my parents’ upcoming visit. A dog would probably get in the way of their plans. It wouldn’t be fair to them or to the dog. It would be too upsetting, too much at once for a new dog just getting settled  in.

To end a long story, my reservations were ultimately ignored. The people at the shelter assured us everything would be okay as long as we watched her around open doors. Our cat? Not a problem, she loves cats! My parents’ week-long stay? That’ll be wonderful for her! She loves meeting new people!  

A few days later, on April 15, we brought home our very special, very crazy, who-knows-what-breed-she-is rescue dog. 

 As far as the open door issues, only once did she run out  to meet the dogs that live on the other side of the road. After that we pretty much had that problem beat. So much for the worries!

Not so fast…

On the same day we brought her home, when Shiva met our cat for the first time, we had to break up a fight. The first of many, many, many fights to come. A week later, when my parents arrived at the house after a long over-night flight, it was all I could do to prevent Shiva from barking herself into convulsions. So much for the things she loves.

Thus far, I’ve only had a few moments of doubt. Even more importantly, I don’t have any regrets. Not even after she ate my shoes. Not even after she ate my books. Not even after she ate the freshly home-made bread. That’s saying a lot, I think.