A few weeks ago, I was walking to my car after work when I passed by a man squatting on the sidewalk in front of three dogs. They were outside a shabby RV – the kind that stays perpetually parked on the same streets but in different spots every day – and the man was pouring what looked like pellets onto the concrete while two full-grown Rottweilers and a small golden puppy ravenously wolfed down everything they could.
As I came parallel to their little group, an unexpected urge started pushing me to ask the man if he needed a home for any of his dogs. I say “unexpected” because, given that my partner and I live in a small rental house with a cat and a dog already, even the thought of adding another animal to the mix was preposterous. And what would I do if the man actually said “yes”?
I decided I was crazy and kept walking, but I only made it three or four steps past them before I turned back and heard myself saying, “Are you looking for a home for any of your dogs?” My better judgment started shouting at me and told me the man would think I was nuts, as well, but then he said, “You can take that one,” pointing to the small golden puppy between the two big dogs.
Before I knew it, I was scooping the puppy up in my arms and carrying her to my truck, noticing then how emaciated and weak she was. I set her as carefully as I could in my passenger seat and we drove off to surprise my partner and our dog and cat. My partner took one look at the sad-eyed puppy when she opened the front door and started preparing a place for her in our bathroom. As I set her down, she whimpered and groaned like she was in pain, and my partner and I exchanged worried looks as we tried to get her to eat. Neither of us could sleep that night, praying and wondering if our adoptee would still be alive in the morning.
The puppy, whom we eventually named Zoe, was indeed alive in the morning, but she could barely get to her feet and totter around on her skinny legs. When I took her to the vet, I was told she had a urinary tract infection and a fever, so Zoe and I went home with a bag full of prescriptions and canned dog food. My partner and I had no idea what we were signing up for, but we decided to see where all these events were leading.
Zoe started regaining strength within a few days as she ate more and dutifully swallowed her antibiotics and dewormers. She quickly went from a cringing little skeleton to a bouncy, curious bundle of energy. Suddenly, my partner and I were just trying to keep up, pulling our puppy out of the trash can, apprehending her as she chased the cat, and preventing her from eating everyone else’s food. But these were the easier challenges we faced – the most difficult have been the erratic soiling of seemingly every inch of our house and the dramatic howling every time we leave.
Now, with the help of a crate, The Monk’s Way to a Happy, Obedient Dog, and more realistic expectations, we are adapting to our new family member and the shifting family dynamics. We get up every two hours through the night to take Zoe outside for a potty break, feed her in an area separated by a baby gate, and are diligent about discouraging bad manners. Our lives have changed drastically in just a few weeks and we are all sleep-deprived, but I am glad something stopped me on the sidewalk and made me ask that question. Sometimes the most absurd ideas lead to unexpected gifts.