Dear Annie: A Letter to our Rescue Dog
15 months ago I saw you sitting outside the pet store when I was running errands. I wasn’t sure if you were part of the local humane society’s adoption event, or if you were heading into the pet store with your own family. You were far too pretty to be up for adoption – a pure bred, rust-colored, goofy, 7-month old golden retriever pup.
I put my bag of groceries down and made a beeline for you. I’m pretty sure I elbowed another couple out of the way so I could get a good look.
“Is this a pure golden?” I asked.
“Yes, as far as we can tell. She was surrendered this morning by her owner.”
The other couple was still standing there, trying to interact with you while I interrupted and asked more questions.
“Why did they surrender her?” I asked the volunteer.
“She was given to an older woman by her adult children and she couldn’t keep up with her.”
“We just lost our golden retriever to cancer. He was 9. He died a few weeks ago," I replied.
The other couple looked at me and said, “She’s meant for you then” and walked away. So I told your daddy that I was filling out the paperwork. He took your leash and walked you around the shopping center to see how you behaved. I watched from afar – you were nuts. Jumping, twirling, and biting the leash. Oh God.
You see Annie, at that moment I was nursing a broken heart. Not only had we just lost our beloved dog to aggressive cancer, I had just lost my dad without any warning two months before. I was a walking void. I could never replace my dad, but I could try and bring a new dog into my life. I wanted another golden retriever because I knew how great they are with kids, how loyal and fun and protective they are. And there you were, right in front of me, a rare snap decision from my normally practical brain.
Your trial week at our house was far from comforting. You peed on the carpet, tried to dig yourself out of the yard, helped yourself to everything on the counters, and barreled over our 2 year old. You ate magazines and inhaled tissues from the wastebasket. My common sense kicked in and I knew it wasn’t a good fit. Adopting a young, undisciplined dog was a huge lapse in judgment. But your daddy wisely honed in on my guilt. “If we return her nobody will take her. Who will want a dog that’s been surrendered twice?” Ugh, well played.
So we took you to obedience school at a local pet store. In that class of 2 dogs you were the star pupil and that gave me hope. But at home you were still a jerk. Our other dog NEVER ate off the counters. Our other dog knew he wasn’t supposed to get on the furniture. Our other dog didn’t like devouring National Geographic. Maybe our other dog was an anomaly… I sure missed him.
Annie, I couldn’t stand you. I was working full time, taking care of a toddler, and now a whack-job of a dog while my husband traveled nonstop for work. I was still very out of sorts following my dad’s death. You have no idea how many times I called your daddy and said “I don’t care, she HAS to go back. I can’t take this!” Remember that time I spent a half hour chopping vegetables for a batch of homemade gazpacho? And I ran upstairs for 45 seconds, only to come down and find you covered from head to toe in tomato juice, with a belly full of summer produce? Remember how I found the super human strength to pick up all 75 pounds of you and sling you in the back yard, cussing you and cussing myself and cussing the horrible mess in the kitchen? That was almost my breaking point. Almost.
The thing that kept you in our house was how quickly you adapted to our young son. Within a week or two you understood that you couldn’t run at him at full speed. You understood that if he pulled your tail or jumped on your head that you couldn’t react. You are testy with me when you have a new chew toy, but you’ve never so much as grumbled at your little buddy. That is the golden retriever way. Gradually you got better. You needed a lot of discipline and a lot of training and a ton of patience (of which I have very little). We gave you some tough love, and still do for that matter.
You’re a smart girl. You keep your nose away from the counters now and have your favorite spots on the floor to relax. You still hop up on the couch from time to time, even though you’re not supposed to. You’ve learned your boundaries with the cat, and you’re a great partner on a long walk. You can even catch a Frisbee which is something our other dog never mastered. But most importantly you are an amazingly patient and loving companion for Junior. You two will grow up together and get in all sorts of trouble. You’ll protect him and rest your head on his lap when he is upset. You’ll keep his secrets.
We rescued you Annie, and even though it was a long road, I think I can finally say that you rescued us too. You sleep upstairs in our room, in the same spot our other dog slept, underneath his picture on the wall. You’ll never replace him, but you’ve put the puppy love back in our family.