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.

Little Happy & her sis. Happy is on the right, with The Ears.

As a pup, Happy had already been through a lot.

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.

Hesitant to leave the safety of her transit crate.

From one crate to another, this time headed home.

She has white socks. Like me.

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.

A rough day at the office.

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.

Couch potato.

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.

Thanks to Rompin’ Paws Rescue of WA and the Ridgecrest, CA chapter of Almost Eden Rescue for helping Happy to find us. And a huge debt of gratitude goes out to Happy’s two-time Guardian Angel.

Disclaimer: This story has nothing to do with fly fishing.


  1. Howard Levett

    All the dogs throughout my years have been adoption dogs. Wouldn’t have it any other way. Nice going Kirk. By the way, they say the longer you’re together the more you’ll start to look like each other. The white socks may have you covered.

    • Kirk Werner

      I’ve heard that about dogs and people, Howard. I’ll grant you the white sock similarity, but beyond that she’s way easier on the eyes than I am. Thanks, amigo.

  2. Drew LooknFishy

    Very cool! We lost our family German Shepherd about 16 months ago…still not ready to have another. It’s hard to explain how attached you get…they become family. Great post.

    • Kirk Werner

      Drew, thanks for the comment. You are right about dogs becoming family. In my assessment they are no less a part of the family than the 2-legged variety; different, but no less loved. I hope your family is capable of another one day; dogs deserve a good family as I am sure yours is.

  3. Erin Block

    This makes me so… HAPPY! Every dog gives you all it has, but I’ve truly come to believe rescues give us more, somehow. Cheers to Happy and to her new life. She struck the lottery with you all.

    • Kirk Werner

      I could not agree with you more, Erin. Rescue dogs seem to have an extra measure of gratitude; they just KNOW. And while a bit cliche, they also rescue us. Each new day brings a few more tail wags than the day before so she is gradually coming our of her shell. I appreciate the comment and kind words.

  4. Jessica

    Hi, I fostered Happy for just 2 1/2 days while she was vetted and waiting for transport. She is a complete doll, she captured our hearts in that short time. She is a clingy dog but the other dogs brought her out of her shell. She is very sweet and very gentle and does great with smaller dogs , and did great with my big dogs too. If at all possible, adopt a second dog – you will notice an amazing difference and why her name is Happy. She will stick to you like glue, but watching her smile – and boy does she a beautiful smile – why she ran around the yard playing with my pit/ lab Cand then cuddling with her and cleaning each other. I don’t know if it’s in your capability to ad a second dog, but I encourage it!

    Happy is one of the best dogs that has stayed here, and even though her visit was short, she made her way into our hearts. Both my big tough husband and I gave her a tearful goodbye and we miss her. Give her and extra kids from us and enjoy your incredible new family member!

    • Kirk Werner

      Jessica, so great of you to take the time to read my little Happy story and leave a comment. It’s nice to hear from the person who had her for a brief, but important, part of her journey. With each day we get a few more tail wags and ears relaxed instead of pinned against her head hesitantly. From the moment we got her home she has been a world class cuddler, and as she gradually settles in she’s also proving to be a great napper. I can imagine that she loves the company of other dogs since she’s been around others since she was little, save for that tragic 2 month period. I’m not sure that we would get another dog—I’d have to ask my wife 😉 We’re grateful for Happy, and grateful for everyone that helped her come to us, so thank you.

  5. Bob Triggs

    I don’t need to read anything else for the rest of this day. Three Big Cheers.

    • Kirk Werner

      Thanks, Bob—I’ve no doubt she came to us for a reason!

  6. cheryl

    Hello Kirk,
    Thank you for providing a wonderful home for Happy. I am sorry I did not get to spend more time with her, but through Happy I have made a friend in Yesenia and I know she is relaxed knowing how wonderful you will be toward Happy, her health and her well being. Thank you for being open to meeting her and giving this gorgeous gal a third Chance in life and thank you for being such a wonderful person. Thanks go to your entire family as well. Teresa of almost Eden and I have teamed up to save as many dogs as we can from the desert of the High Sierra, all the way down to Bakersfield. Hopefully your article will inspire many, many more people to choose adoption as their only option when seeking a family companion.

    Cheryl Salvati
    Rompin Paws Rescue

    • Kirk Werner

      Cheryl, we feel so lucky to have Happy join us. Thinking back on how things worked out, from the moment I first stumbled upon Happy’s listing, it was definitely meant to be. We’re getting a few extra tail wags with each new day, and she absolutely has so much love to give that I cannot fathom why her first adoptive family gave up on her. As much as it pains me to know what she went through, selfishly I am glad she persevered because she’s ours now, forever. Through all this I gained a deep appreciation for what you and other rescue groups do, so thanks for that. Keep fighting the good fight on behalf of all those deserving dogs. You have my support going forward. —Kirk

  7. Susan

    It was an Honor to transport Happy to her new forever home, each and every dog or cat we transport holds a special place in our hearts knowing that we are transporting each one of them to a better place, Thank you for adopting her and giving her the love she deserves. Susan, Paws Without Borders Transport driver. 🙂

    • Kirk Werner

      Susan, nice of you to read my story and take time to comment. The work you do is huge. The dogs may not know it, but they owe you a debt of gratitude. Maybe they sense it. Either way, thanks for your huge role in getting Happy to us, as well as all the other dogs who have been and will be your passengers.

  8. Tobin

    Good on you, Happy, and all the folks who make rescues work! Our young lab was a semi-rescue from a field trial place. He tells us every day he did not get enough lovin’ as a puppy, but he does now. Thanks for a great story.

    • Kirk Werner

      Thanks for the comment, Tobin. I have a newfound appreciation for rescue dogs and those that rescue them that I never previously had. I’m sure your Lab is grateful to you for all the good lovin’ he’s getting: they all deserve the best.

  9. Mark

    Dear Sir/Kirk
    Dog is a lovely creature and as the man’s best friend she/he deserves some care and attention. My heartleft codolence with Eddie. The loss of the beloved dog especially in result of cancer makes a great impact and it’s difficult to find replacement but the life must go on.
    Is that true that Labs can smell the man who is 27 feet unedr water ? May be your new friend could be trained for detecting Yakima trouts and scaring rubber hatches?
    Sir, the quality of your pen and the sense of humor is worldwide known. 🙂
    Next time, of course Sir if you have nothing against, could You please deliver anything on; fly fishing, fishing in general, waters, or even even bloody sea turtles.
    Yours faithfully & a fishing man.

    • Kirk Werner

      Thank you, Mark, for the kind words. I’ve never heard that a Lab can smell a man who is 27 feet under water, but it wouldn’t surprise me as they have amazing noses and abilities we two-legged types cannot fathom. I doubt any dog could help me catch more Yakima trout, to no fault of the dog 😉 I appreciate you following along with my written musings. I promise to one day soon bring you something fishing-related. Soon…

  10. Yesenia

    Kirk as you know I am so grateful you gave my girl her happily ever after =) The love her & her sister have the pure unconditional love & loyalty it has & probably will forever blow my mind what they both went through. I am sure by now you’ve seen a few scars on happy her sister sadly carries them too. How both girls got them I will never know, I will never know how or why anyone dumped these girls. They were so little so scared but eager to love. Both girls were adopted as pups & both went through hell a 2nd time in life. But I know with you happy has her own little personal heaven. And so does her sister with me, you truly were meant to be her people. There was only a few days left in Feb. and my mind was set on keeping her if she didn’t get a home that month. She is a truly sweet loving dog. If you ever do get a 2nd dog I would love to know happy really thrives with another dog given the fact that I’ve always had a pack. But I also know she does great with just people & doggy friends to play with =) I thank you so much for adopting her. And more so for keeping me in the loop with her. Give her kisses & a pat on the head for me.. A piece of my heart left with her but knowing she has you gives me peace.

    • Kirk Werner

      Yesenia, I feel fortunate to have been able to connect with you as it helps us to understand Happy a little better. A rescue dog with an unknown past would always remain somewhat of a mystery: because of you we know what she’s been through, which is a lot. She’s not been without company for more than a couple hours since she arrived, and she is bonding nicely. She has even shown glimpses of her personality, though she seems to catch herself off guard and gets immediately shy again. Baby steps 🙂 We know she is 100% loving sweetness—no doubt about that, and she’ll get the same love from us in return forever. Thanks again for everything you did for her so that she could get to us.

  11. Cinda Crouch

    Hi Kirk,
    I’m so pleased to see you have a new four footed friend by your side and beginning a long Happy life with all of you. I love her name and I know she will become a close friend to all of you very quickly–why wouldn’t she?? Eddie will always be your side kick no matter what but he would like it that you have helped out one of his friends. Love and miss you my friend–say hello to Pam for me and I will say a few prayers for a gentle transition for Happy which I know will be an easy thing to happen. I read every word you wrote about what she went thru so this will be great for her and you.
    Love, Cinda

    • Kirk Werner

      Thank you, Cinda. We feel lucky to have welcomed Happy to our world. She’s settling in gradually and giving us extended glimpses of the reason she was named Happy. Hugs to you!

  12. Tara Williams

    I can only imagine how “Happy” she will be with time and with a loving family. What a beautiful story and so amazing of you to adopt that sweet girl!

    • Kirk Werner

      Thank you, Tara. Through all this, we feel like we’re the lucky ones 🙂

  13. JD

    Your female readership just multiplied by a factor of 10. Nice piece.

    • Kirk Werner

      Thanks, pal. Sometimes we just need to solicit a little variety in our readership. It’s all about those Google Analytics, boss.

  14. Louise Coleman

    Hi there Kirk,
    Many thanks for posting this. Your words about losing Edward so well reflect my and my partners feeling about losing our wonderful rescue dog Chase, who was 16. We adopted him at 14 and he wove his way into our hearts very easily. We have just adopted a 6 month old Staffy/Greyhound cross. She’s very timid when we take her for walks and she probably doesn’t know this will be her forever home, but as you say “baby steps” Anyone who has the love of a dog is very lucky :>)

    • Kirk Werner

      Louise, You gave Chase the best two years of his life and likely more than enough to make him forget previous years that may not have been so perfect. As for your new pooch, she’s probably much like Happy in that she’s trying to sort things out. I’ve been told it can take up to 6 months for a rescue dog to be 100% confident that they’re not going to be passed along again. In just over a week I’ve seen glimpses of Happy’s inner playfulness and will patiently wait until she’s ready to give in fully. Your pup will blossom. Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment, and all the best and many, many years of happiness with yours.

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