The Happy tail of a rescued dog.
It wasn’t quite a month after losing our Chocolate Lab, Edward Brown, that I was surfing Adopt-a-Pet and Petfinder for the thousands of dogs in need of homes. We hadn’t planned on getting another dog so soon after Eddie passed and I suppose I had convinced myself that I was just ‘window shopping’ to get a sense for what kind of dogs were out there. You know, for when the time was right.
Anyone who has had to say goodbye to their canine companion knows the huge void they leave in our hearts and in our homes, and in the weeks following Eddie’s passing our house had grown far too silent. He was always a very quiet dog—most of the time you hardly even knew he was there. But Eddie’s quiet presence was bigger than he was, and he was big. It was always reassuring to know that he was there. He was good company. The best.
We 2-legged types get rather used to having a dog around and the things that were once daily routine don’t go away quickly: we catch ourselves off guard during certain moments because we expect our dog to be right there. Of course, they’re not right there. It takes time to heal and for those certain routines to fade. In our case those routines were deeply-rooted after many years of uninterrupted canine company.
It had been almost 20 consecutive years that we’d had a dog in our family because Kate the Dog, our first Chocolate Lab, overlapped with Eddie: Kate had just turned 11 when Eddie came home with us as a 6 week old pup. Those dog years were busy years spent raising kids; there wasn’t much down time. But now that our kids are grown (though still living at home), life has a slower pace. When you remove a dog from that equation you have a recipe for, well, loneliness. I work from home and Eddie was my office assistant, my constant companion. I speak for my entire family when I say it had been far too quiet recently.
Just window shopping, I told myself.
Online listings of dogs display photos and even videos, but you never know until you meet the dog in person what they’re actually going to be like. All rescue dogs have baggage: for some, that baggage is the reason they’re up for adoption; for others it’s hard to imagine why they lost their homes in the first place. Whatever the case may be there is always an unknown, and when you agree to adopt a rescue dog you roll the dice to a certain extent. Wish for the best and hope that the dog will meet the majority of your expectations. Our wish list in a dog is pretty simple because Kate and Eddie both exemplified the qualities we loved and would want again: a sweet, calm disposition; gentle and submissive, a dog that plays well with others (both 2- and 4-legged).
One needn’t look far to discover that there are countless dogs in need of a new home. I checked the listings several times, seeing many of the same dogs time and time again. Most, if not all, have stories that tug at your heart strings and while many listings intrigued me none jumped off the page at me.
Until I came upon a listing for a dog I’d not previously seen.
The first photo of “Happy” caught my attention: it was those soulful eyes. Her listing said she’s a Lab/Boxer mix. I supposed that might be accurate, although breed(s) were not of the foremost consideration:
Then there was this one—there was no hiding the sweet disposition behind this face:
I thought she looked rather sad in the first two photos, and who could blame her after all she’d been through in her short life? And then in the third photo her namesake personality shone through via her expression and blurry tail:
In a video posted on her adoption listing, Happy can be seen playing gently with other dogs; relaxed, her tail wagging happily the entire time. She was clearly very sweet, with a calm disposition and a gentle, submissive nature. Happy’s YouYube video won’t be available indefinitely so I captured a couple of screen shots in which her personality is evident:
As mentioned nearly all rescue dogs come with a backstory that will melt your heart and Happy is no exception to that. She and her sister were found as 10-12 week old puppies along the side of the road in the desert of southern California where they’d been dumped. Emaciated and covered with ticks, a kind-hearted Guardian Angel rescued them and nursed them back to health. This compassionate woman had children and dogs of her own so she was unable to keep Happy and her sister indefinitely. She fostered them until permanent homes were found for the little black and white sisters.
In November of 2013, when Happy and her sister were 6 months old, they were adopted out to separate families. Every indication suggested that Happy’s adoptive family would be perfect and her Guardian Angel was confident that Happy had found her happily-ever-after home.
Such would not be the case.
It was a few days before Christmas 2014 that Happy’s Guardian Angel noticed a photo on the local shelter page. The photo showed a dog cowering in the corner of its pen; the caption listed the dog as having been abandoned on rental property. The Guardian Angel couldn’t see the dog’s face, but a mother’s intuition told her it was her baby. She contacted the shelter and requested a better photo, which upon seeing she immediately knew it was Happy (she was wearing the same collar she’d been wearing when she was adopted out over a year before).
Unfortunately Happy’s Guardian Angel was at her limit with dogs at home and pleaded with everyone she knew to rescue Happy—to no avail. On the day before Christmas the shelter director sent an email, agreeing to ‘turn the other cheek and wave all fees’. And so, on Christmas Eve, Happy’s Guardian Angel rushed to the shelter and pulled her. As it turns out Happy had been turned in to the shelter by her owner’s landlord, who had discovered her abandoned in her home. I don’t know the circumstances surrounding her abandonment, but whatever the case may be her owner had moved out and left her behind. In an act of semi-humane(?) decency the owner had left a couple of 50-lb bags of garbage-quality Ol’Roy dog food (if so inclined, check out the number of complaints and recalls) and a few 5 gallon buckets of water for her. This was her fate for TWO MONTHS—no contact with anyone, human or otherwise. Following this horrible ordeal Happy once again received the love and company of her Guardian Angel’s family, including her sister (whose forever home sadly hadn’t worked out, either).
This was Happy’s life when I stumbled upon her adoption listing.
I contacted Rompin’ Paws (a Pacific Northwest rescue group) and submitted an adoption application—I couldn’t imagine that this sweet dog would be available for very long, and luckily my application was first in line. Our application was approved and the wheels were set in motion. During the week and a half that followed we prepared for Happy’s arrival with eager anticipation and an ounce of hesitation, hoping that roll of the dice would pay off. On March 1st Happy arrived in Seattle from southern California via Paws Without Borders transport. She was accompanied by several other dogs that were also being adopted thanks to a joint effort of two rescue organizations. Happy wasn’t so sure but we instantly knew we’d made the right decision.
She’s still timid and unsure—her tail has wagged a few of times but remains mostly tucked between her legs. She sticks to us like glue, not letting us out of her sight. Who could blame her? She can’t grasp that ours is her forever home—she doesn’t know that she just won the lottery.
We anticipate that over the next few weeks—or even months—as routine sets in and washes away her fears, Happy’s inner happiness will shine through and that tail will be wagging with reckless abandon. We have plenty of time. We’ll wait for her.
Happy will never replace our beloved Eddie, nor would we want her to. What she will do is honor his legacy by being a loving member of our family and carve out her own place in our hearts. She’s already begun to do that.
Disclaimer: This story has nothing to do with fly fishing.