Monday, October 8, 2012

Pick Me, Pick Me: Just Another Rescue Tail

If you've ever succumbed to the siren song that comes, seemingly from out of nowhere, grabbing your heart to pound its message ceaselessly into your brain, like the relentless slap of waves hitting the firm surface of the beach, whispering, "Pick me, pick me..." you'll know exactly what I experienced when I found myself online, scanning photo after photo of available, adoptable dogs.

No doubt about it, I was in deep trouble.

We have two elder dogs: Jasper, our 9 year old, male Great Dane and Josephine, our 15 year old, female whippet. At this stage in their lives, they don’t require a lot of up-keep. Nor do they demand the almost constant attention that a young dog requires.

What was I thinking, sitting in the dark, in my study, intently focused on descriptions of temperament and size? I'd already figured out that this third dog would be female, that she’d weigh 20 pounds … or less. It's always good to narrow your search parameters, right?

I was still in deep trouble.

All during my clandestine internet search, I kept my findings to myself, deliberately keeping my husband in the dark. Not that he'd be opposed to a third dog. In years past, we'd had a pack of three dogs. (Several  times.) He'd be a pushover for getting another one, if that dog was a good match with Jasper and Josephine and as long as it tipped the scales at 35 pounds. Or more.

You see, when you live with giant breeds, you tend to look down your nose at tiny dogs. It's not that you dislike these diminutive guys, it's just that you can't imagine yourself living with one. Small dogs are for other people, not you. No one was more surprised than me when I found myself actively searching the web sites of local adoption groups for that one, special (tiny) dog that was speaking to me.
So much trouble.

I'd had some time to think about this. Over the years, I'd watched the daily parade of dog owners in my neighborhood as they walked their miniature Dachshunds, Yorkshire Terriers, the occasional Jack Russell or miniature Schnauzer. It was a slow falling in love process. I didn't even realize how far gone I was until I logged onto the internet one night, almost three years ago, and started reaching out to several rescue organizations.

I knew that my family's history of living with dogs was perfect; that any dog organization would fall all over themselves to adopt one of their dogs to us. I knew this for two reasons. I'd been on the other side of dog rescue for seven years when I was the volunteer Director for an ex-racing greyhound adoption organization. I'd done more than my share of screening prospective adopters, evaluating dogs, doing all that was humanly possible to make that perfect match between dog and family.

Like the volunteers I was now reaching out to, I'd lived the best and the worst of dog rescue. When everything works, it makes your heart sing. When it falls apart, it can break the strongest of us into pieces.

We had an impeccable pet owner history. All of our dogs had been well socialized. Some of them had gotten their Canine Good Citizen (CGC) evaluations; our yard was fenced, our cats were inside cats, and our vet loved us. If I was still running a rescue group, I would have given us any dog we wanted and never looked back!

As much as that whispering voice kept crooning, "Pick me, pick me, pick me....," I knew it was important to take my time; to put my feelers out there to see what might come up. How much trouble could I get into if I was just looking?

Suddenly, there she was in an email attachment forwarded to me by the woman who coordinates placing dogs for a local animal rescue group. She was coal black, so thin her ribs stuck out, leggy with a finely chiseled head topped by enormous bat ears. She had this saucy, baleful expression on her face despite the physical evidence of what must have been a hard-luck street life.

She weighed all of 18 pounds.

She'd been picked up by animal control in a town in Indiana. Not understanding how to evaluate small dogs, the shelter staff had decided she was too aggressive to be adopted out and had put her on their kill list. One of the outreach volunteers for the adoption group I was working with, walked by the kennel run she was in, looked more closely and decided to pull her on the spot.

While I sat in my office, late one night, looking at her photograph, she was on a transport on her way to New York. The email I read ended with this line: "Did I want to see her?"
That was three years ago.

Today, my Tessa hits the scales at a whopping 20 pounds. She is a fierce defender of my family and our home. We've spent a lot of time learning yard manners. I want her to know that it's okay to be protective but, it's not okay to rush the fence while barking non-stop at my neighbors as they walk by with their dogs.

It’s taken her almost three years to come to my husband for affection. When she arrived, she made it clear that she was scared of deep-voiced, burly men. With a lot of consistent behavior on my husband's part, she's learning that he's really a big softy.

She's opinionated, feisty, sweet and a warrior hunter in the backyard. Watching her, I see physical evidence of some kind of terrier mixed with sight hound. Like any terrier combination, she is always happy.  It doesn't matter how bad of a day I'm having, Tessa's having none of that.

Her gift to me is that she shows up, every day despite the fact that some things are still scary for her. She's learning to overcome and she's teaching me to do the same.  Together, we are an invincible pair. You might even say that "trouble' is our middle name!

About the Author: Kathy H Porter lives with her human, canine and feline family in a picturesque village in the Finger Lakes region of New York.  She’s a freelance copy editor, avid reader, soon-to-be-author and dog lover. She blogs at, Healing Rescue Dogs, where she writes story-driven content about how dogs can change your life if you open your heart and listen.

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