Dread descended upon me as Lee and I were driving home from an evening out.
This was my fourth return to my house for the day. The earlier three times Brino, the current doggie love-of-my-life, bounced down from his lookout on the spiral stairs to meet me at the door and bark his greeting. He looks so cute sitting at the window where he can smell, hear, or see someone approaching..
As is his custom, Brino barked unrestrainedly, expressing his joy and love, until he had circled Lee once or twice and then run out the door to greet me, all the time circling in a frenzy, circling back to circle Lee, and then circling around me and in front of me and wherever space allowed. I sat down on the bench and started to pet him and told him what a good dog he was. He quieted down, trying to be a good dog, trying so hard to please me by not barking because he has learned that it turns me into a crazy woman. His face and body showed that he was really sorry that he forgot. Strange strangled sounds emerged from deep in his throat. He looked pleadingly up at me, gurgling and croaking, his eyes saying “Love me, don’t leave me, love me, stay with me, love me, don’t go away again.” Even though it’s amusing, it’s hard to take. It’s exhausting for me. It’s exhilarating for him. He’s so happy we are home. He’s so cute.
A little history —
The foster mom who had “Spike” before he came home with me in January and turned into “Brino,” wrote in his online profile that he would sing and dance for you. That sounds cute, doesn’t it? She said he would pick up each foot and point it. He does do that and looks like a little ballerina. So cute. She also said he yipped with glee to see her. After having one disappointment after another trying to adopt a dog I was desperate, and a little yipping was not going to deter me.
Surely Lee and I could break him of this unappealing small dog behavior that he had most likely picked up from those mini poodles and things he somehow got mixed up with and was fostering with. K, his foster mom, had twenty-one dogs at her home. Spike, a twenty-five pound Pomeranian mix or whatever he is, was the big guy at this mostly mini dog rescue (hereafter called TMMDR). The last time I checked, the largest dog available at TMMDR was a 19-pound Pekingese, Miss Becky, unless you count the bonded pair Kaylee and Mikki, two shih tzus who together weigh 26 pounds.
Most of the dogs at K’s slept on the lower bunk of a trundle, but a favorite few got to sleep up on her bed. Spike wasn’t one of the favored. My grand delusion was that K, with twenty foo-foo dogs — as my family disparagingly labeled any dog that was too cute for words, yippy and spoiled to boot, that resembled a chew toy for one of our 100 pound labs — just didn’t have the time to retrain Spike herself.
Spike had been on my short list for a few months, but never at the top. My heart ached over a few dogs already during the search, and my life was stuck in a deep loneliness without a furry companion. My days were spent scanning adoptable dogs on petfinder.com, scouting local kennels, completing applications, studying breed characteristics and temperaments, and feeling sorry for myself.
Spike filled most of my requirements. He was older, small enough to fit on my lap, large enough to walk with the big dogs, and not a constant shedder. He was house trained, neutered, and had no allergies or health issues. He got along with the twenty little dogs at K’s, K’s grandchildren, and cats, and he didn’t cause mayhem when left alone in the house.
Spike got low grades on my barking and yipping requirements, his adoption fee was pretty high, and his foster home was too far for me to visit him ahead of time. But he was cute. I decided to apply for him.
TMMDR seemed keen on having found someone to take him.
Petfinder is the most popular site for finding your pet soulmate, It is similar to dating sites, and just as humbling and depressing. Each pet has a profile. People read profiles and pick a pet. One difference is that prospective adopters or rescuers don’t have profiles.
Each rescue organization requires a separate application, and some won’t even answer a “Is Buddy-boy” still available?” inquiry until they have received and reviewed your application. That could take a week or more.
So I filled out yet another application form, answering questions such as: size of yard, height of fence, dog experience, disciplinary strategies, training plans, hours away from home, name of groomer, other people and pets in the home. Did I ever return a dog or put one down? and why? Who would take care of the dog if I went on vacation or died? How often do people, children, dogs visit? Most wanted to call the vet, some wanted to call neighbors, a lot wanted to make a home visit. I felt terribly guilty inflicting unnecessary intrusions into my vet’s day at her clinic.
The application process is a bit overkill. These are dogs looking for new homes. We treat abused children coming across the border and our mentally ill and homeless with less concern.
Petfinder claims to list over 340,000 adoptable pets in over 13,000 adoption centers and shelters. Surely the web designer could streamline the adoption process by setting up a questionnaire for each prospective pet owner to compose a profile. That’s what dating sites do. If the system works for finding a husband or wife it should be good enough for finding a pet.
The adopter profiles could be secure so that only rescue organizations approached by the prospective adopter could see them. Individual rescue organizations could have the option to add a question or two if they deem it necessary. A single secured recommendation from the veterinarian could also be posted online. Harvard and Yale do it. More than 500 colleges choose freshman with a Common Application. Why can’t doggie angels have faith that a common application will work for them also?
Some rescue agencies just don’t respond. They put up barriers. Do they like to play god, are they scams, or they are just incompetent? Many are staffed by unpaid volunteers, but I’m an unpaid volunteer and consider myself competent.
Finally the application was in and accepted, the home inspection went fine, and all we had to do was sign the contract. There were off-putting clauses in the contract, such as —
“The adopter hereby declares that no representations about the nature of the adopted dog . . . have induced the adopter to sign this contract.”
What else would have induced me to choose this dog and sign the contract? All I had were his cute pictures, the profile, a few conversations and emails. We hadn’t even met yet, and they were also asking for pre-payment.
Obviously I had more trust in TMMDR than they had in me.
The contract goes on to dictate what kind of collar he should wear and couldn’t wear, where he should be allowed in my home and outside my home. It threatens to take action to retrieve the dog should I give him to my children or my best friend.
Tuck – my doggie-love before Brino – would have been a very miserable dog if he had to abide by certain rules. How about this one?
This dog will not be kept outdoors during the adopter’s working hours, or at any other time left alone outdoors while the adopter is not at home.
Tuck was happiest in the fenced-in area behind the house where he could look out over the river. He showed his displeasure by being extremely destructive if left inside alone. Tuck’s foster mom warned me, but I had to find out for myself.
Another rule in the contract stated that the dog had to be protected from the elements. Tuck loved the snow, the cold, sleet, rain, the wind, the outdoors. He slept on the deck at night. He never went into the shelter we built for him He was constantly on alert, listening, watching. Even the owner of the kennel where Lee’s dog, Uncle Jack, and Tuck stayed finally gave in. At first he thought it imperative that Tuck stay indoors with the pack, but finally he let him sleep outdoors.
Tuck, by the way, rarely barked, and if he did, whoa — it was scary. He looked like a wolf. Nobody ever called Tuck “cute.”
Perhaps rescue agencies don’t know what is best for all their dogs and their new owners. Perhaps they should have a little humility and allow adopted dogs and their owners to find their own way. The contract includes threats of recall, attorney fees, and fines. It is as if TMMDR doesn’t want to relinquish ownership of their dogs. In paragraph one it states that the “donation” is not a fee or sale price.
It’s a very invasive contract. TMMDR can visit my home anytime, call my vet for information anytime, demands that I notify them if I move and if Spike/Brino dies.
But I signed the contract, just like I sign my life away over and over – when I open a bank account, or get insurance, or go to the doctor, or buy a cell phone, or download software, or now, adopt a dog.
I do love my Brino. Except for the fact that I later learned that TMMDR kept the entire fee, including the extra $50 I paid to “help defray the cost” of getting my dog to me, and did not give any of it to K, I do appreciate their efficiency and the work that the organization does. K feeds 21 dogs and gets them their shots and meds. She brought Spike to a groomer so that he’d be cute as could be when I picked him up, drove to meet me half way for the pick-up, and definitely deserved a big chunk of that fee. K and other foster moms and the transport volunteers who ferry the dogs around have very big hearts.
It’s been a few days since the dread and it has slowly dissipated. Brino was able to come along with me on most of my errands since that night so he hasn’t been overwhelming at the door. Everyone he meets on my travels thinks he is so cute.
He is lying by my desk on the tower deck as I write. He’s been a good little boy today, not barking too much, settling down quickly. He trotted gaily by my side on our walk with Lee and Uncle Jack – on the leash and off, he took a dunk in the stream and shook himself off before he came near. He sticks close, doesn’t bolt as all my other dogs did whenever they had the chance. It feels good.
Who knows what goes on in Brino’s cute little head? When I wrote to K to report on how he was doing, she twice asked me, “Is he still behaving like a gentleman?”
“Ooohhh,” I thought. “He’s got an ungentlemanly side???”
He has antagonized some, but not all, of the neighbor dogs, mostly the pit bull next door, and the Caine Corso who usually is very sweet but always very large. Wikipedia, although not necessarily the preferred source for information on such a grand beast, says it best: “Ideally the Cane Corso should be indifferent when approached and should only react in a protective manner when a real threat is present.” That’s what I keep telling Mina, since Brino is certainly not anything resembling a real threat. After getting bit on the bum by the pit bull (totally not the neighbor’s fault and no hard feelings) Brino has been much less feisty.
He’s lucky he’s cute.