It wasn’t ever my intention to keep him. Really, it wasn’t. If you go all the way back to the beginning, he was going to come to my house for just a week or two. Because he had had such a traumatic past I said that I would take him for the short term, ‘to feel him out and decide whether we want to place him with a foster (and who that foster would be) or do a compassion hold.’ Some dogs can recover from being starved, beaten, and neglected. And some can’t.
I stretched those one or two weeks to a month. Once we made the month, I negotiated with Brian that since we’ve had him for a month, why can’t we just keep him until he’s adopted? For some reason he agreed with me. This was a major thing as in his heart of hearts Brian really only wants one dog. It says a lot about this little white dog, he was special right from the beginning.
When I foster, and subsequently adopt out my fosters, my standard is that I want my foster dog to go to a better home and a better life than I could give them with me. No, that’s not some sort of impossible standard where by default I get to keep all of the dogs. I know my limitations, I know the limitations of the dogs who already occupy my home.
The little white dog received a lot of adoption applications. There were even a handful of good applications. There were people who could have easily loved him and given him a good life. We did a few meet and greets with these people. And as we moved forward, I kept coming back to the raw fact that no one out there could love him like I did. The simple reason being that no one knew him like I did. The world may see an outgoing, bouncy white dog that occasionally shies away or startles at loud noises, but for the most part he recovers quickly so it’s hard to see that he’s not ‘normal.’
What no adopter could ever see was:
- The little white dog that had to be carried into my home because he was too afraid to walk in on his own. The little white dog who sat on the floor next to the three of us that afternoon as we talked about him, dog rescue, and life in general. And when he had an accident, Brian went to get the paper towels and the floor cleaner. Upon using the last paper towel, the little white dog was handed the cardboard roll to shred. The little white dog took off at a mad scamper across the room to crouch in fear of being hit by said cardboard roll. Humans were not to be trusted and sticklike objects were items that humans used to hit the little white dog.
- The night about 3 weeks in, when we took him upstairs to our bedroom to sleep in the bed with us. If you’d seen him that night, you’d have thought that he had morphed back into the terrified little white dog that he was the day he came to us. Any progress that he had made over the last few weeks vanished. He froze at the top of the steps. The ceiling fan was certainly going to come down from the ceiling and eat him. The bed, well he had no idea what to expect when we lifted him up and set him on the bed. We made it through that night with the little white dog curled up (or frozen in fear) on the pillows between the two of us. And when he did finally fall asleep, we smiled at his little snores in our ears.
- The first day at doggie daycare….By the time I made it to work, sat down at my desk and brought up the webcam after leaving him off, he had shutdown. The little white dog was huddled in the corner, next to the gate. I had tears running down my face. What was supposed to be a happy, fun, socializing experience was too much for him. I wanted to leave work to get him and take him back home where the world was safe. I called another ARLP volunteer for support and reassurance and to talk me out of running to save the little white dog from his day at doggie daycare. I wanted, and needed to hear, that I was doing the right thing by leaving him there. That if he never leaves the comfort and safety of our home then he will have no opportunity to grow.
- Then there were the dates. The little white dog was terrified of entering new places in the beginning – new homes, new shops, new offices, and any dog friendly place that you’d want to take your dog. So we set up dates to go visit ARLP volunteers’ homes. We’d spend about an hour going in and out the front door, checking out the house, exploring each room, making our way to the back door to go in and out. Once the little white dog was comfortable, or as comfortable as he was going to get, we’d call it a day and head home. When we had (mostly) mastered the concept of going into new places then we turned the dates around and had people visit us because for a while, new people at our door were very scary things for the little white dog.
- And finally, there was the month or so at the beginning when the little white dog was actually more of a shedding stink bomb with four legs. It took him forever to work the crap of the first 18 months out of his system. The results of this process were white hair everywhere and a stinky stinky dog. I’d sweep and the next day we’d hair white hairballs scattered throughout the house. We’d find white hair in places that we had no idea how it’d gotten there. And if you touched him you’d have to wash your hands as the stench would then be on your hands. We’d give him a bath, put him to bed in his crate, and the next morning his blankets would smell again.
These, and so many more things, are all the things that an adopter could never know. And no matter how much explaining I did, they could never understand what we went through to get to the little white dog that throws himself in joy into a person’s arms. Or that 90% of the time will walk through a door without being carried or coaxed. Or that bounds into doggie daycare happy to see his dog friends.
It’s not necessary for an adopter to know all of the details of a dog’s past in order to give him a good and happy life. Heck, I don’t know the beginning stories of two of my dogs and we’ve done just fine over the last years. But the little white dog isn’t your normal dog. This world has already failed him tremendously. By some great testament of his temperament and his character he made it out the other side with only shadows of the past that sometimes lure their heads into his now life. He may not realize it, but he’s lucky. Really lucky. His yard mate for the first 18 months of his life was not so lucky. She didn’t make it.
A dog that can come from a tragic past and have such an intense desire to be a ‘normal’ dog and to still believe in spite of it all that the world is good and safe, that dog deserves a one hundred percent guarantee that the world isn’t going to fail him again. So…going back to my standard of a home better than mine, well, I know that I can promise the little white dog that. That no matter what it’s going to be okay, he’s going to be okay. Life will be good, it’ll be more than good, it’ll be amazingly fantastic.
And in return, even though he has no idea, he makes my world okay too. On those days when the rescue world can be overwhelming - the need so great, the options so limited, the people either so selfish or so cruel - I am comforted by the snores of the little white dog sleeping on my couch. And in that moment, in my heart and in my mind, everything is okay. Having him be okay makes everything else okay for me.
The journey with the little white dog has been heartbreaking. It’s been amazing. It’s been frustrating and fun all at the same time. And after the journey that we’ve been on, I guess that you can say we’ve come too far to let him go. When I told Brian I was writing this little announcement to the world, I asked him what I should call it. His reply, ‘To Squish or Not to Squish, That is the Question.’ Our answer - we’ve decided to ‘Squish.’