For the last year we’ve been thinking about getting a dog. If you know me at all, you might think that was a very bad idea. I’m fastidious; I don’t like to get my hands dirty if I don’t have to, there is nary a crumb on my floor, the bed is always made, the house generally looks ready for a Pottery Barn shoot at any given moment. Plus, my life is chaotic. I have three strong-willed children, the youngest possibly the loudest person ever created.
We have thought, though, that a dog would be good for the kids. Mae is all about animals – I wouldn’t be surprised if she was a vet as an adult – and until very recently the only pets she had at her disposal were three chickens and an elusive black cat who spends the majority of his time outside on the prowl. Lana, to be frank, doesn’t give a shit about animals beyond naming them but, here too, is an opportunity to broaden her experience, maybe teach her how rewarding a relationship with a pet can be. And then there’s Mihiretu. If ever there was a child that could benefit from the non-verbal, unconditional affection of a dog, it’s him.
Because of Mihiretu’s unique history and accompanying set of issues, we considered a service dog. First we signed up with Guide Dogs for the Blind for a flunkee (they call them “career change” dogs) but these dogs, because of their breeding and temperament, are highly desirable. We’ve been on that list for a year. We also applied for a therapy dog from Canine Companions, a service dog non-profit. We were on the third round of the application process before they decided that Mihiretu was not quite bad off enough to be a recipient. So we got on their flunkee list, also a long one.
We debated getting a puppy but that just seemed crazy. I really don’t need more misbehavior in my house. My friend, Ann, almost conducted a puppy intervention when I broached the subject.
And so we’ve been waiting for the right situation, hoping for a mature, sweet, well-trained dog who will not be freaked out by the loudest boy in the world. A couple of weeks ago I got a call from my friend, Lisa. She was in Bolinas at a yard sale and the family running the sale happened to be retired dog breeders and they happened to have two beautiful dogs that needed homes. Long story short, Lisa adopted one dog, we met the other and said we’d pick her up in a few days.
In those few days, I got cold feet. The breeders said the dog was a “dominant female”. What that meant, specific to this dog, I couldn’t really get to the bottom of. The thought of procuring a four-year-old dog with behavior problems that I couldn’t change was daunting. I’d wake up in the middle of the night thinking “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” We passed on the dog.
A week ago Saturday, I was, for the first time in a long time, doing errands without children. I stopped at Anthropologie (my happy place) to return something. Camped outside was the Milo Foundation, a non-profit that rescues animals from high-kill shelters and fosters them until they find homes. There were ten dogs or so barking it up and one of them was magic. I saw her and thought, uh oh.
Sunny is three months old. She’s some sort of labradoodle with maybe a little something else mixed in. So far, she is calm, she is sweet, she is trainable, she is tolerant. She has hair instead of fur, for god’s sake. I love her with an intensity I could not have predicted. She follows me around the house, gazing at me adoringly. She whines when she can’t see me. She sleeps next to my bed. I had forgotten how uncomplicated the love of a dog is. Humans, very complicated. Mihiretu, extremely complicated. This pup, just sunlight.
I wanted a therapy dog. I just didn’t realize I was the one who needed the therapy.