My husband and I represent just two of the millions of people who have adopted rescue animals (in our case, dogs). Upon embarking on our search for the perfect companion for us, we both acknowledged that it was very important to get our future dog from a rescue group. We had our obvious reasons, which I’m sure weren’t too different from all of the other people who set out to rescue dogs too. We knew that we wanted a dog that was playful, yet had a sweet and gentle disposition. Oftentimes, rescue dogs come from very bad situations, so that can affect their temperaments, even if they may seem sweet-natured from the get-go. We spent countless hours looking at pictures and reading descriptions of dogs that were in area rescue organizations. In my mind, I had thought that it might be nice to give an older dog a chance, since the puppies are usually first to go. I understand why people want puppies, but sometimes, it’s nice to know that you won’t come home to chewed furniture and shoes.
That being said, I figured that we should focus our search on 2-4 year-old dogs, because that would allow us to narrow the search pool a bit. Several times during our search, an adorable fawn boxer kept popping up. She had a sweet face, but such sad, concerned eyes. The description said that she was 4-5 years old, and that she had previously been neglected and used solely for breeding. Initially, I felt like a dog that was already 5 years old may be a little older than what we were looking for, but my husband convinced me that we should contact the rescue organization to get more information. I will never forget his words, because they were so true: “Honey, you’re not going to love a dog any less after one year than you are after ten years.” Wow. I knew he was so right, because, from the time I was a very little girl, I have always been extremely soft-hearted and quick to love. My mom used to jokingly call me “Tender Heart Bear,” from the Care Bears, because even minorly sad things would tug at my heartstrings and make me get teary-eyed. Well, after about an hour of going back and forth with “Should I?/Shouldn’t I?,” I decided to contact the rescue. Their adoption coordinator called me back with minutes, and she gave me the “run-down” on Josie. I could tell, just from talking to her, that she felt like this dog was very special. She told me that, despite her past, she was a very sweet and loving girl, but she was also very skittish (and oh how true this proved to be!). I told her that my husband and I would really like to meet her, so we arranged to go to see her the following weekend.
When we arrived at the rescue (The Park Pet Haven, in Tucker), there was an adoption event going on. As soon as we were greeted, someone said to us, “Let me show you the puppy room,” to which I responded, “We are here to see Josie.” At that point, about 4 or 5 voices seemed to be saying, in perfect succession, “They’re here to see Josie! They’re here to see Josie!” It was so obvious to both of us that everyone at the organization cared very deeply for this dog. We were brought back to a private room, and we waited there for them to bring her in. As they led her through the door, she was trying just as hard to back out of the room. After a few tries, we were all able to coax her in, and they left her alone with us. She was just as cute as the picture, but even more timid than we could have imagined. She trembled as we pet her, and barely made eye contact with us. It was so obvious to us that someone had really mistreated this dog, and she had big-time trust issues. As uncertain as this first meeting was, my husband and I decided that we would take her home with us. The whole way home, she was never anything less than petrified; it was really so sad to watch.
When we got home, we had to pick her up and carry her into the house. As she started to walk around, she assumed a very crouched and low stance, which was another indication of her timidity and lack of trust for her new environment. After a brief walk around the house, she quickly found her crate and darted in. As we would soon find out over the next two weeks, it was nearly impossible to get her out of her crate, and once we did, we would have to pick her up and carry her to wherever we wanted her to be. It quickly became apparent to us that she would never be able to develop that trust bond with us as long as that crate was there. We knew that it was her security and her “safe place,” but we wanted to teach this sweet dog that she could trust us, and that we were “okay,” and that she didn’t automatically have to retreat to her crate whenever people were around. Day by day, little by little, she started to become more comfortable around us. She started to let us pet her for longer periods of time, and even trusted us enough to let us take her outside for walks. With her crate gone, she found a new “safe place,” which was located under the hanging clothes in our bedroom closet. Whenever we couldn’t find her, we knew that we would be able to see her adorable face peeking out under my clothes if we went into the closet. It took lots of time, and a tremendous amount of patience, but eventually, she started to “come around.” Every day, we were so amazed by all of the strides that she was making: going for walks in unfamiliar places, snuggling with us on the couch, or just greeting us with a happy face and a bunch of kisses whenever we walked in the door. To say that we are so proud of her is an understatement; it continues to blow us away on a daily basis to see how resilient this girl is. She is so unbelievably strong, gentle and loyal. And yes, she is learning to be brave.
Fast forward to Super Bowl Sunday of this year, and that was the beginning of a new chapter in our lives: the chapter where we decide to adopt another rescue dog. On and off for about a month prior to this, my husband and I had been looking at Atlanta Boxer Rescue’s website, and “picking out” dogs that looked like they might be a good match for Josie. One night, a very handsome white boxer popped up on the site, and we immediately submitted an application for him. He was so cute, and we just knew that he would be a good fit for us, based on his description. We were contacted by the organization right away, and we set up an appointment to meet him. Now, as any one of who have more than one animal can attest to, taking that step toward getting a second pet is a really big deal. On the day of our “meet and greet,” we were all very anxious; we wanted it to work out, but our number one priority was Josie’s happiness. If she was not comfortable with this “match,” we certainly did not want to stress her out or make her regress to the timid, scared dog she was when we first got her. Now, I will spare you all of the details of the first meeting, but I will say that it was obvious to all of the people (and dogs!) involved that this wasn’t a match. A little disappointed, we went on our way, knowing that we would continue to try to find a better match for our family.
Over the next two weeks, we received the names and descriptions of other dogs, and we were encouraged to meet one of them who was being fostered very close to our home. We were being paired with another male dog, though we had a gut feeling that Josie would do better with another female (hey, after 4 or 5 litters of puppies, wouldn’t you?! ). Once again, the dogs did not seem to mesh well, so it was obvious to us that this was not the right dog. While I was very sure that things were working out and unfolding as they were supposed to, I was starting to get a little discouraged.
Later that day, we were contacted by the rescue, asking us if we would like to meet one of their older female foster dogs, a 6 year-old named Gracie. It seemed almost like deja-vu, being matched with a dog that was older than we had originally intended on adopting. We agreed to meet Gracie, along with her family, the following weekend. In the meantime, I began communicating with the woman who was fostering Gracie, and she had nothing but wonderful things to say about her. She told us that she had a very sweet and friendly disposition, and that she absolutely LOVED to snuggle. After hearing that, I started to become very hopeful that this might be “the one” for us. Needless to say, having to wait four days to meet her was very hard. The whole drive out there, Josie, my husband and I were all very anxious and hopeful. Upon pulling up, we met Gracie’s foster mom, and it was clear to us that she was already a little misty-eyed at the prospect of “losing” her. I assured her that, if this did work out and we adopted Gracie, we would stay in contact with her and let her know how Gracie was progressing. Together, we walked into the building to meet Gracie, and immediately upon our arrival, she was wagging her whole entire body. She and Josie immediately started sniffing each other and playing around, and she kept running between my husband and I, giving us big kisses and presenting her paw. It was beyond obvious to all of us, her foster family included, that these two sweet, old girls were meant to be together. It was as if they had known each other forever, and had always been “sisters.” About five minutes after meeting, they were curled up on the floor next to each other, which pretty much cemented our decision to adopt her. After having her in our house for less than an hour, it was clear to us that she should really have been named “Shadow,” as she followed us wherever we went. She truly is such a “love;” she does not have a mean bone in her body, and is full of nothing but pure sweetness. She always greets you with a huge “smile,” wagging tail, and a big, raucous bark. We have not looked back since that day, and we are so thankful to have both of these wonderful dogs as part of our little family.
While they both have their “issues,” which require an immense amount of patience, we would not trade them in for anything in the world. They have added so much to our lives, and we can’t imagine living a day without them here with us. They have left an indelible impression on our hearts, lives and yard (don’t you remember that I’m married to Mr. Wilson?), and we feel blessed that we found them. And I think, if you asked them, they would say the same!