“After a death, there is always a birth,” my mother-in-law used to say.
A couple of weeks ago, our rabbit died. I won’t go into details. Suffice it to say that when you see a vulture perched on your fence staring at something on the grass, and your bunny is not in its cage, it is not a good sign.
After the initial shock, the request came in: “Can we have a dog now? Pleeeeeaaaase”
To my surprise, Jean-Marc said yes. He had been the one resisting the idea of a dog, worrying about the responsibility that a pet implies, what to do when we’re on vacation, who would walk him every day. Above all, he wanted to keep the house clean and smelling good. It’s not that he didn’t like dogs. He liked them as long as they were well behaved and didn’t stink.
We quickly agreed on adopting a dog from the Humane Society. We liked the idea of giving an adult dog a second chance, and we weren’t looking for a pet with a higher pedigree than our own.
The following Sunday after spending the afternoon at the beach, we stopped by the Broward Humane Society. I was not expecting what I saw. The place was spotless. A beautiful building with large, very clean kennels for the dogs. Dozens of volunteers petting the animals, offering to help. Two minutes after we walked in, the girls fell in love with Goofie, a 2 year old yellow lab mix, that licked their fingers through the door, ran from one end of his kennel to the other and jumped in excitement when they spoke to him.
One of employees informed us that Goofie was a good dog but a little bit rambuctious -which we had already figured out- and that he would need quite a bit of training and lots of exercise to burn all that energy.
We let the girls know that we were looking for a dog that was a little bit more calm.
“Look, mommy, this one is good for us. He doesn’t have a lot of energy,” said Zoe, pointing to a small dog that was sleeping in his kennel.
Then we walked into kennel #2 and I saw him. Maddox was a German-sheperd mix, with a beautiful brown, black and white face and somewhat of a comic expression. He was thought to be around 2 years old and had been transferred from a shelter in Mississippi. When we talked to him though the plastic doors, he seemed interested but not overly excited.
I inquired at the front desk but they barely had any information on him.
“If you’re interested in him, we can take him over to a room so you can interact with him,” the lady explained. “Only that it would have to be another day because we’re closing in 15 minutes.”
The following week I checked the Humane Society’s website every other day to make sure Maddox was still there. The more I looked at his picture, the more I liked him. He was around 45 pounds, perfect size, and seemed very friendly. I could picture myself going out for a morning jog with him. The girls had gotten over the Goofie dissappointment so by the time we were able to go back, we were ready to give Maddox a chance.
We waited in one of the private rooms while the lady went to get Maddox. He walked in the room, sniffed the wall, lifted his leg and marked his territory.
“Looks like he might need some training,” said the lady. “Let me take you to another room and clean up.”
In the next room, Maddox sniffed under the door, lifted his leg, and repeated his routine. The lady cleaned up again. We offered him treats, which he quicky ate and proceeded to stare out the door, interested in everything going on around him – except us. We pet him and talked to him. He let us touch him but didn’t make eye contact.
“Do they usually react like this?” I asked the lady.
“I’ve shown him before,” she said, “and he seems particularly aloof today.”
Fifteen minutes later he was still ignoring us. I had to admit that love at first sight is overrated, as anybody who has watched the movie Frozen knows. Maddox was not the dog for us.
The second candidate was chosen by Julia. Kiki was an 11-month old female lab mix, almost as rambuctious as Goofie, only that taller and black (not the best choice for a house with white tile in the living area). The private room was not big enough for her to express her joy when she saw us, she tried to jump on us, on the bench, licking, turning, wagging her tail.
It wasn’t easy to say no to the “Please, pleeeeease, pleeeeease”s that followed, but we weren’t ready for a pup.
Feeling hopeless, we went back to the kennels to take one last look.
“What about this one?” said Jean-Marc.
Catrina was a 2 year old brown labrador mix, with a pretty, rather sad expression in her dark eyes. She was lying down in her bed, and looked up when we talked to her. We were told she had arrived to Florida the day before, from a shelter in Georgia. They had no background information on her.
When they brought her to the private room, she sniffed us, refused the treats, and lied down with a sigh.
“She doesn’t seem very playful,” said Julia, although in Catrina’s defense I don’t think any dog would have seemed playful compared to Kiki.
“She’s probably confused; it’s been a big change for her,” the lady said. A couple of minutes later, she rested her head on Julia’s lap and started wagging her tail.
“She’s so cute. I want her!” said Julia.
The next step in the process was to go out to a grass area, where Catrina did two things I loved. First, she immediately started playing with the girls, running after them from one end of the area to the other. Second, she walked over to the side of the grass area and did number 2.
Jean-Marc and I looked at each other.
“I think we have a dog,” he said to the lady.
After much deliberation, we settled on the name Muffy, a suggestion from Zoe based on a character from Arthur, her favorite TV show.
Muffy had to be spayed. When we picked her up she was drowsy and red-eyed and slept for hours. She’s still recovering from the surgery and from her overall condition. The vet told us to take it easy for a couple of months. She is heartworm positive (a disease that is being treated but can be fatal), she has an infection in her respiratory system (very common in shelter dogs), she’s malnourished and weak.
Even so, every day she warms up to us a little bit more.
She follows me around the house all the time. She wags her tail when I talk to her. In the street, she walks beside me and doesn’t seem threatened or scared when she hears other dogs barking. The only time she pulls on her leash is when she sees ducks but she backs off when I say “no”, and Zoe adds “Muffy, the ducks are your friends.”
She is very gentle with Zoe and hasn’t chewed on any toys or furniture. So far, she blends in very well with us. She loves to sleep (like me), and she clearly prefers the couch or a bed to the floor (also like me). She’s not interested in food. She’s starting to eat now but only out of my hand, not out of the bowl (like Zoe). She’s not much of a talker (we’ve never heard her bark, actually).
We still can’t give her a bath because of the surgery and as much as I love her I admit that she stinks.
But, what can I say?
In Princess Elsa’s words:
Let it go, let it go
That spotless house is gone
Here I stand
Muffy’s here to stay
Let the house smell bad
hair dog never bothered me anyway