I have to write this right quick before someone wakes up and starts chewing on the hem of my leggings from under the table.
I have a dog.
I never thought that would sentence would ring true in my life.
I’ve always wanted a dog from even my earliest memories.
I was about six or seven and two dogs were chasing me through an apple orchard somewhere upstate New York. I remember screaming as I ran through the grass and the smell of rotting apples as my grandfather called after me to stand still! The master, the owner of the orchard, also called his dogs to also stand still.
My grandfather caught up with me and explained the dogs, now circling around me, were only trying to play. The more I ran, the more they would chase me.
But once I stood still, they let me pet them. I remember the feel of their shaggy black and brown coats and the warmth of their wet tounges as they licked my palm. One, who must have been a mix of a lab and a German Shepard, had a black face except for its brown eyelids.
I started begging my parents for a dog. But they retorted, reminding me of the long-term, enormous responsibility. Of walks outside, no matter the weather. Or not being able to travel. Or not having enough space.
So, I got my doggie fixes through the canines of others: my friend’s dogs, dogs in the park who didn’t look mean. I’d ogle at puppies in their cages at the pet store in the Staten Island Mall, all the while my parents telling me that buying a dog from a pet store was a bad idea because they were most likely from a puppy mill. I learned that adoption and rescue of a mutt, and not a purebred dog, was always the most humane route to doggie ownership.
My love of dogs never has abated. Not through young adulthood, or motherhood, or later on, watching my brother and wife with their sons and their dogs.
As it happens, like me, my children have also wanted a dog. Even when my youngest at 18 months was bit in the face by the spooked black lab of a friend and needed a visit to the emergency room and stitches, no, that early trauma never carried over. And the daily persistent pleas for a puppy never ceased for the next 16 years.
“Mom, can we get a dog?
Hey mom, guess what? Can we get a dog?
Mom, if I clean my room for a week, can we get a dog?
Mom, you said after we moved to Michigan, we’d get a dog. It’s been seven years.”
So, why, you may wonder, did I choose a purebred Siberian husky, the first dog I’ve ever had after a lifetime of wanting dogs?
Turns out, it was not a deliberate choice, just circumstance and fate.
It’s funny how a global pandemic changes all that hesitancy to, yes. Yes, we will look for a dog.
As it turns out, everyone else in the age of Coronavirus is looking to adopt a dog. In fact, right up there with shortages in toilet paper and hand sanitizer, there is a shortage of adoptable dogs as Americans are emptying out shelters as they are ordered to shelter in place.
We searched on Petfinder.com. We asked all our friends and neighbors where they adopted their dog and they gave us listings of local shelters. But none of these shelters were doing in-person visits. And most of the dogs listed were pit bulls or pit bull mixes. I do not mean to offend pit bull lovers, and I have met some loving pittie pups in my day, including those of my brother’s. But living in my neighborhood with many small children, I did not want to take my chances.
A few weeks back on a Tuesday, I walked with my son and husband in the neighborhood on our daily-after dinner jaunt. But we didn’t go our normal route. And as we walked, we talked about how the shelters were not responding to our applications to the dogs we wanted, or how some dogs we wanted required extra medical care, or were not good with children, or required physical fencing.
And there, sitting in a crate in someone’s driveway decorated with sidewalk chalk, sat this guy:
Outside of labs and goldens, huskies are one of my favorite breed fantasy dogs. I’ve always admired their beauty, the way they get along with everyone, and … those eyes.
So, of course, we squealed in delight at the sight of him and asked the owner where he got him and that we were looking to adopt a dog too.
Then, the young man in his 20’s said, “Actually, I need to get rid of him because I live with my mother now and she had an allergic reaction to it.”
No way. You’ve got to be kidding.
We texted our daughter to come by. She put her XC and track skills to use and sprinted over to the driveway in five minutes flat.
So, after the family got to know him, we negotiated on a fair price. And by that Friday, we were dog owners.
So, why a husky, as so many of our friends have been asking? That’s why.
How did we find such an incredible puppy in a pandemic?
Did we truly look for and want to adopt a shelter mutt? Yes, but there were none to be had that was right for us.
Is a husky the most practical and easy breed for first-time dog owners? No, not exactly. More of that in my next post. Each day, we are making it work and learning as we go along.
This little guy (getting bigger by the day), who shares a birthday with my grandma (“zl), well he just fell into our laps.
In the age of Coronavirus, school as we know it has been canceled.
Plays and performances have been cancelled. Sporting meets have been canceled. Graduations have been canceled. Summer internships and summer camp, that’s all been canceled too.
But dogs? No. Dogs don’t get canceled.
So let it be. Let this be the summer of the dog. The summer of Simba.
And let sleeping dogs lie.