October is Adopt-A-Shelter-Pet Month

I grew up with dogs.  At least one at a time, always adorable, never really fully my problem or responsibility.  Then life happened: I went to college for six years and two degrees, co-founded a company, worked full time at said company (and at a “real” job for a while in the beginning), and travelled a lot… I didn’t think I could fit an animal into my life.  But then my husband and I cat-sat for friends that were going to be out of town for a couple of weeks.  She was adorable.  A calico.  Cuddly, for a cat, and she loved yarn.  She mostly stayed out of our way, but would lay on my tummy in the morning, knead my collar bones, and purr.  Suddenly I realized there was a rather large, furry hole in my otherwise very full life.

So I started broaching the subject of getting a pet.  At first I was focused on getting a cat.  After all, it was recent experience with a cat that inspired my urge to have an animal in my life.  And I had proof that a cat would fit into my life without me having to make too many adjustments.  But my husband wasn’t really into cats.  (Said cat had developed a habit while she was staying with us of coming up from behind him while he was watching TV, then jumping silently but ferociously onto the arm of his chair, thus scaring the fur balls out of him.  She also landed on his head once when she fell off the windowsill over the head of our bed.)

He suggested we think about a dog.  I guess he thought there was a lower chance of surprises.

But a dog requires lots more attention.  Training.  Walking.  Letting them out.  You can’t leave them home alone with a bowl of Fancy Feast and a fresh litter box for a couple of days at a time.  There’s poop to be bagged and carried about, not just odor-controlled and scooped.  But the idea had sprouted roots. We were going to get a dog.

We agreed on the rough size and shape we were looking for and I started looking online for a pet to adopt.  (It frankly never occurred to me to go to a pet store.)  It seemed like what online dating must be like.  The animals all had photos and profiles written by some kind volunteer in the voice of the dog: “I love belly rubs and running in the yard.”  “I am good with kids but need someone who’s willing to continue my training.”  “I play fetch and like snuggling on the couch.”  They’re all looking for their “furever” home and have soulful eyes.

Then I saw Layla.  I don’t remember her profile.  I just remember her eyes and thinking: this is my dog.  I reached out to the rescue agency, filled out the forms, and arranged for us to drive to the other side of the metro area to meet her at her foster family’s house.  (Side note on pet foster families: these people are amazing.  They save so many animals, love them, train them, help them overcome their past, and then give them away to near strangers hoping, believing, that it will all work out.  Hats off.)

The other dogs in the family were barking when the doorbell rang.  Layla was just looking, paws up on the top of the baby gate that was separating the living room and kitchen, clearly thinking, “What took you people so long to find me?” The other dogs lost interest.  We sat and talked with her foster parents, tried to convince them we were good people.  She lay down, chin on white paws, patiently waiting for us to be ready for her.  When they let her out of the gate she came right over and hopped up on the couch between us.  She snuggled in and that was that.

We went by the pet supply store on the way home and outfitted ourselves for the new addition to the family even though we hadn’t been officially approved for the adoption yet.  She was, quite simply and after all, our dog.

This month is the anniversary of when she was rescued by local animal control when a SWAT team did a drug and illegal arms raid on a house.  She was in the basement with sixteen other dogs, most of which were very sick puppies, some of which were hers.  They think she was about a year old when they found her.  Animal control and rescue agencies around the area came together to get the dogs healthy again.  The puppies were adopted out.  Then Layla went to foster care.

Knowing how rough of a start she had to life and yet how sweet of a little soul she is breaks my heart sometimes.  But it also makes me extra happy to see her comfortably ensconced on the couch – or the bed, if we’re being honest – knowing that it wasn’t always this way for her.  And all those lifestyle changes that I was worried about?  They all happened.  And it was a really good thing.  She helps me stick to a new, sustainable, healthier pace.  She helps me take time to pause and enjoy a snuggle now and then.  She helps me be grateful for the wonderful life we all have together now and for all the people out there that are helping animals like her.

You can be one of those people: if you’re thinking about a pet, dog or cat, please adopt.

THIS is the agency that helped us find Layla.  They're wonderful!