I like challenges. There, I’ve said it. And I tend to be particularly soft hearted. When we first moved here I had planned on volunteering at the local humane society or animal shelter. That was swiftly, and I might add, correctly vetoed. I am a ‘more is more’ kind of gal. If one coffee mug is good then ten must be great. If one guest for dinner is good then let’s up the ante and have fifteen, and so on. Volunteering at an animal shelter would therefore mean that I brought all the dogs without homes to our home. We’d be overrun!
I had been talking for some time about wanting to rescue a dog from a local shelter. We have lots of space and since I work at home I have more than enough time. Hubby was not on plan. Two dogs was more than he had ever expected to own at one time so a third was out of the question. So I started my campaign. I would find the most adorable posts and photos of local dogs needing homes and email or text them to him. I was sending him at least ten a day. (I can be very persistent - sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s not). He was getting really irritated. I was asked to cease and desist.
Then the kids went back to school - or they tried to return. Within the first two weeks both had contracted Strep Throat, ear and sinus infections and lord knows what else. So they spent a lot of time at home. Because I work from home I am used to having my schedule dictated; well, by no one. Heaven help me my sick kids are a nightmare.
“Mom what can I eat that won’t make me sick?”
“How about chicken soup, or miso soup I could do that.”
“Noooooooooo, I don’t feel like eating soup”
“How about some plain toast or saltines?”
“What’s a saltines?”
“It’s a plain cracker sweetie.”
“That doesn’t sound good either.”
”I could make you some tea and you need to drink something before you get dehydrated. Tea or ginger ale or water? And we can see how that sits and then talk about food again later.”
”But I’m hungry and I feel crappy can’t you make something for me.”
”Buttered noodles? (At this point I am grasping at straws and desperately trying to keep myself from strangling her)”
”What kind of noodles? (This was said in a tone of I don’t think that we have any noodles that I like so I am going to turn down anything you offer unless it is the perfect brand, size and kind.)
”We have fettuccini and multi colored spiral pasta.”
”You know I don’t like them. I guess that I will just have to be hungry.”
At this point I am considering hiding in the basement bathroom and pretending to be someone else.
“Well sweetie why don’t you tell me what you want and I can tell you if it’s a good idea.”
”You have a sore throat, fever and stomach ache and you think pizza is a good idea. No now get yourself something to drink and lay down.”
Sniffling “I don’t understand why you won’t help me.”
At this point she’s lucky to be alive.
Then the other child gets sick. Woo Hoo. I am faced with two sniffling, feverish girls with serious wants who think that I am an idiot for offering them soup and ginger ale. I want to run away after about thirty minutes of the debate above being repeated in tandem. Ahhhhhhhhhh
Whilst all this drama with sick kids is happening, I am still texting and emailing my husband cute dog photos. (I promise that this will all make sense eventually). When he comes home he doesn’t really understand why I am so stressed out. Sick kids just lay around and want to be left alone, right? Are. You. Kidding. Me. I am convinced that when he has to take care of our children that my kids burrow underground and are replaced by perfect android replicas. Thereby discrediting me and having fun underground doing other stuff that they aren’t supposed to do. One night he comes home, both kids have been at home sick one on an antibiotic the other on cold medication and loopy, and he says “You know, those texts and emails are really getting annoying. I’m serious now, don’t you have enough to handle?” At that point in time I was taking care of my kids, dogs and house in addition to working with contractors and sub contractors to refurbish our barn into a studio, work and event space. Not much was getting done. So that was it. I needed a break I was completely losing my mind.
Our two dogs, the mutts from China, are incredibly sweet and loving but they do not cuddle. Let me rephrase: they do not cuddle with me - they love to cuddle together but definitely not with their human family. My last dog was a cuddler and I found at the end of a really frustrating day; sitting on the sofa knitting with a dog in my lap was perfect. It was sweet and calming and no matter who was angry with me or not speaking to me, my dog loved me and thought I was amazing and just wanted to make me feel better. I’m explaining this because this next part might not make much sense unless you know how I feel about dogs.
After three days and a weekend of sick kids and no getting out I decided I didn’t need my hubby to want another dog. I wanted another dog, a cuddler, a dog that would sit on the sofa with me and make me feel better when I felt drained and like I could give no more. And if I wanted another dog I was gonna get another dog. I found this adorable little lab terrier mix in Iowa about thirty minutes away so I decided to go down and look at her. I had filled in all the necessary paperwork ages ago when I started this quest. So into the car go both dogs both kids and an extra friend. I think it was a Tuesday. Everyone was a bit “concerned” when I started loading them into the car. Was Mom really going to drive us somewhere and leave us there? (I may or may not have mentioned leaving them in another state so that I could get a break. Not nice, I know but I had been pushed to my breaking point) I didn’t tell any of them the point of the trip until we got to the shelter.
They say that dogs can smell fear; well I’m pretty sure we all could. There were what seemed like hundreds of dogs, big dogs, small dogs, long haired, wire haired and they were ALL crying. I was pretty sure that if I stayed too long that I would bring them all home. My two were really sheepish, I am wondering if they thought they were being dropped off. We were able to get them into paddock and off their leashes and that seemed to calm them down. Then I stared asking about the dog that I had come down for specifically. The kids at this point were in equal parts excited and outraged. They were extremely vocal about the fact that they had not been consulted in terms of our choice. “Well guess what guys? No one was, this is alllllllllllllll ME!”
Out comes this adorable black female dog. She’s nervous at first and then downright submissive. She lays down infront of my two and pees all over herself and her handler. “Yeah she does that a lot.” Was the helpful information I was given. Ok so that really isn’t going to work. She was terrified of our dogs and would need a full time commitment from her forever family to get her to feel safe. I know that I said I would bring any dog home and that I love them all. I do; but, I can be, at times, realistic. This puppy needed more than I could give. I was completely dejected, I could hear my husband’s voice ringing in my ears: I told you so. Poop. At that point one of the directors came out.
“Do you mind what breed you get?”
”No, of course not, they can’t be too big and they have to get along with my current dogs.”
”Ok, I have a dog that might work, but give him a minute before you decide yes or no.”
Now my brain goes into overdrive. Is this an Alaskan malamute with alopecia, was I going to be looking at a St Bernard with some sort of teething issue. Maybe this was a three legged dog. What if it’s another submissive dog. Good lord my mind went all over the place. And then out comes the director with a tiny dog. I mean tiny like a five pounder. She says that he’s a chihuahua and rat terrier mix. I am waiting for him (the dog) to start screeching and peeing and lord knows what else. I am now convinced that I will have to ride back with three really annoyed and mouthy kids and two dazed dogs who don’t like the car. This tiny dog is cute, I mean he’s adorable. But I was seriously freaking out about him being put down on the ground to play with my two. And then I held my breath and she (the handler) put him down. After the requisite bum sniffing they were off. The three of them were playing like they were long lost buddies. He was jumping on them they were running after him - it was a miracle. I left the dogs and children to sign the paperwork, pay the fees and get all the information for our vet. In the office I am told that his name is Rico and he was in a Kill Shelter in Texas and was shipped up to Iowa when he was about five months old. Oh man I can not imagine having to put down a five month old puppy. When he made it up to Iowa he was adopted by an older couple but brought back. Now I understand not being able to handle a dog. But I don’t understand returning him to the shelter. Way back when I was pregnant with my first daughter 15 years earlier we adopted a submissive little border terrier. She and my older dog did not get along. We gave it our best but it never really jived. So we went to the vet and asked if there were any families looking for a dog like her. Voila a retired couple materialized and they all lived happily ever after. The couple who had adopted Rico had him for like three days and then decided dog ownership was not for them. Back to the shelter he went; and there he stayed for another three months. He was looked at frequently but turned down a lot. We live in a semi-rural area and people prefer big hearty working dogs. Dogs that can live outside and work on the farm. So when we showed up the lady thought we might reject him for the same reason. Nope! He was/is perfect they all fit together like puzzle pieces.
When all the formalities were covered we hopped in the car and headed home. Yay! We have a new family member AND he’s a puppy. I’m super excited and the kids have forgotten their irritation over not getting to choose. They are all busy fawning over the little guy. I’m about halfway home when it hits me… my husband has no idea. I mean none, And to be honest that fact only hits me once I am on our street. Oooops. Ok this won’t be great but it shouldn’t be horrible. He loves dogs and I didn’t really adopt a whole dog he’s more like half a dog. I will take care of him. Now my brain is acting like a ten year old that brought a dog home that they wanna keep. Ok adult thoughts, apply yourself Heather. Ummmmm, he’s cute? Not going to cut it.
I still didn’t have a strategy worked out when my husband got home. He walked in took one look at the dog and one look at me. I held my breath and then… he just started to laugh. Ok great, was it good laughter or crazy I’m leaving laughter. Turned out to be happy. His only comment was “I thought you might do that, what’s his name?”
Needless to say our little Rico has charmed everyone. He cuddles literally everyone of us. He bounces around our back yard like a cartoon and has made dog fans out of “I’m not a dog person” people. Was it extra work? Yup. Was it a little bit crazy just up and getting a third dog? Yup. But it taught me a few things: first off my husband is one great guy and he really loves me for who I truly am; second: our little half dog gives us more than he could ever take, and in this case more really is more.
We’ve been a very happy three dog family for about five months and wouldn’t have it any other way. But now when I feel empty with thousands of people asking things of me and I can’t take it anymore I have Rico and he sleeps in my lap while I knit and makes me feel better.