Things that make you step away from the computer


1. Getting a dog.

We picked up a rescue dog on Saturday and I feel as though I have not touched my computer since. This of course is an exaggeration, but Howie has completely changed my outlook on many things that I was overthinking, worrying about and spending too much time doing. The only thing I can compare it to are times when I have been overextended and too busy, and my body has shut me down with a bad cold. When I finally came out of the fog of being sick, things that seemed so important suddenly weren’t anymore, and I was more laid back.

The same is true with getting our dog.

Howie was, when I saw him via a Craigslist ad that led me to a Petfinder site, named (rather improbably and unsuitably, I thought) Doug. He was in rural Modesto, in the Central Valley. The ad said he was good with kids and other dogs, very friendly, about a year old. I was sold by his scruffy chin. I emailed about him, filled out a long adoption application (What will you feed your dog? Where will your dog stay when you go on vacation? Do you have a fenced yard? Who is your employer? How much do you think it will cost to take care of your dog for a year? and on and on), and made an appointment to go see him.

We drove the two hours out to Modesto and found “Doug” in a pen with several puppies. “We don’t just put any dog in with small puppies,” the woman who ran the rescue said. Doug seemed to love us, jumping up and licking our hands, our faces, our ears. We met him in the woman’s driveway.

The place felt desolate, a cottage among a ramshackle assortment of pens and fences. The owner of the place had saved “Doug” from euthanasia at a shelter in Bakersfield. He came to her scrawny and battling kennel cough. He wouldn’t walk on a leash, she said, he would only roll like a crocodile snared by hunters. He had some kind of allergy, she thought, which made the hair fall out on his legs. We looked at his pink feet, the thinning hair around his eyes.

We took him for a walk in a nearby pasture. He was great on the leash and had a happy look on his face the whole time. We were nervous about getting a dog, since we are used to living without many restrictions on our free time. I had thought we might meet him, and then think about it for a week. (In retrospect, I should have known myself better than that.) But “Doug” was so sweet. And the rescue woman told us story after story of dogs coming out of bad shelters or worse, emaciated dogs, matted dogs, aggressive dogs, dogs who couldn’t stand to be alone, dogs who had been alone too long. We saw some of these other dogs– a poodle shaved to remove matted hair, whose body underneath was thin and fragile. A big rottweiler mix who was really old and who had lived in a house for three weeks with his owner’s dead body and had come to the rescue starving. (He was happily wagging his tail, his body now filled out, his coat now shiny, his gray muzzle sniffing over the fence at us.)

The rescue was chaotic…dogs seemed to be everywhere. The woman who ran the place had been in the process of shaving a small matted poodle mix when we arrived, and for most of the time we were there the poor animal sat on a workbench in the garage waiting to have the job completed. A teenager and an older man who were supposed to be helping out kept bringing the dogs treats and interrupting our conversations about Doug. Under the wide sky of the valley, the sun beat down on everything. I wondered what the place would be like in the summer. There was a set of vertabrae on the ground next to the driveway, from the slaughterhouse nearby, we heard. “The dogs are always digging up steer skulls and bringing home femurs,” the rescue owner said.

We looked at each other and knew we couldn’t leave Doug there. We were so unprepared to bring a dog home — we’d assumed the rescue would have the strict rules of city shelters and ask us to return for a second visit before we adopted — that we didn’t even have a collar or leash. I think the woman who ran the rescue was happy to have one less dog to worry about. She gave us a green collar that someone had donated to her operation, and we coaxed our now-nervous dog into the car. I rode in the backseat with him to calm him down. He fell asleep on my leg, and by the time we got back to the city his name was Howie and he had a new life. And now so do we.


8 thoughts on “Things that make you step away from the computer

  1. Nothing I love more than a good rescue dog story! We adopted our yellow lab mix a year and a half fact, Sasha just celebrated her second birthday yesterday. We’ve been through a lot with our girl–two months after we got her, a relative who was watching her for us lost her and she was missing for a week in the cold; we found her by spending 20 hrs a day on foot…through it all, she has been the most lovable, loyal, good-natured and smart little dog–like all rescues, she’s a survivor.

    Good luck with Howie!!! I am so happy he has a new home, and that you have him.

  2. ohhh I just love this post, and you two are both so lucky! Doug/Howie looks so darling (and you do know he “matches” your website logo, no?). I looove doggies, and your story reminded me of how I “picked up” both my two doggies from rescue years ago.

    Yes, you meet them, and you can NEVER say “No.” Both times I went to “check out some dachshunds,” I came home with one!

    It takes some adjustment, but you will be so rewarded for it! He is soooo handsome!

  3. oh p.s. yes, it is amazing how dogs are given names that don’t…seem…to match their spirit! One of my doggies was named VICTOR at the rescue organization. (Because his sister was Victoria, but they were purposely separating the two). VICTOR was NOT a good name for him (he didn’t even come when called by that name). We changed his name promptly, to something way more suitable. :)

    um, sorry–i just love dogs so much that if/when you get me started on talkinga bout them, i will talk/write forever!

  4. Laurie, what a traumatic story about Sasha! You must have been so worried. I’m glad you found her…it sounds like you are really happy together!
    Jade: Victor is about as bad as Doug. I mean, really! I have a theory that it’s hard for dogs with bad names to get adopted. Or maybe I was just a sucker for the cute names on Petfinder. I always clicked on the dogs with the good names first.
    It *is* definitely an adjustment. Howie has some learning to do, but he catches on pretty quick…We are both already SO attached to him. He sleeps at my feet while I’m on the computer. When he does something wrong, it’s hard to get mad. Last night he was sleeping upside down with his mouth open…so cute!

  5. What the…?
    He’s really cute, though. I’m just surprised it was a dog, instead of a cat (though I know the allergy thing was a big factor, I’m sure). That’s so cool you traveled and rescued him! Nice doggie parents, you. He’ll have buff legs, walking around your neighborhood.

    How’s stray cat taking it?

  6. Oh man, Stalker Cat is PISSED. And to prove it, he enjoys sitting high up on fences and taunting Howie, who goes absolutely nuts.
    Actually we tried to adopt two different cats and had no luck. We’ve been looking for a pet (dog or cat) for a while now.

  7. Thanks, Elizabeth! Once she was safe and sound again, it seemed to reaffirm she was meant to be with us :). (We went to ” just look”, too, put once Sash put her paws on my husband’s shoulders and kissed his face, it was a done deal.)

    As for names, we really wanted to name whatever dog we got “Dublin” but when we met Sasha, she couldn’t possibly be anything but a Sasha-and she wasn’t nearly sturdy enough at the time to be a Dublin!

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