Zack and I had been talking about getting a dog for quite a while*. We were thinking it could be nice to get one right after we got back from a trip to Europe we’ve planned for 2013.** We assumed we’d be living in our “dream apartment” on Red River, in a complex that’s incredibly dog-friendly, with a gorgeous dog park and trail. However, our “dream apartment” is not much of a dream anymore, since it and other condos like it are pushing out some of our favorite music venues, and all of the music is moving east***. Another factor that made us decide to move up dog adopting was our schedule changes: I was hired into a rotational position that would keep me Monday-Friday, 8-5 fairly regularly for 6 months, and Zack was officially hired on at Apple on a Sunday-Thursady, 3PM-midnight shift. Although this shift has made us miss each other more, we figured it was the perfect time to get a puppy, because we’d only be leaving him at home for a few hours**** during the day.
*I honestly can’t remember a time where we weren’t talking about getting a dog. I know we talked about a joint Halloween costume on our first date. It wasn’t much later that the dog talks began.
**Caitlin’s been diligently putting away $20 a week for Europe Trip for several months now. I’m a few hundred dollars behind, but I’ll catch up by mid-summer once my credit cards are fully paid off.
***I wonder if we’ll look back on this in a few years and roll our eyes at our “Austin is changing! It used to be cool!” attitude. I’m hopeful there will always be tons of venues for live music in Austin.
****It’s so hard to even leave him for two hours. The only times he barks or whimpers are when we leave. I make sure to give him treats and tell him he’s a good boy, but he’s so sweet, I don’t want to leave him.
After Zack made an official resolution to have 2012 be the “get a dog*!” year, we had to figure out the right timing. We thought getting a pup before SXSW was a mistake, because we’d be leaving it home so often that week that it just wouldn’t be fair. Still, that didn’t stop me from peeking on Austin Pets Alive! one day, falling in love with the photo of a little cute furry guy, agonizing over whether it was the right timing, finding out our apartment had a 40 lb. weight limit and that this guy was gonna be too big, and then finding out he and his brothers and sisters were all adopted before we could even meet them anyway. It was a heart-breaking, eye-opening first look at dog adoption, and had me even more stressed out** than I normally would have been about the whole process. I promised to stop my search until after SXSW then, but swore I’d start again right after the conference.
*Our friends took a hilarious video at around 1 am outside the bar on New Years Day, having us all say our drunken resolutions. Being characters, the resolutions ranged from drinking more chocolate milk and not quitting smoking to “Don’t be lame” and “Praise Tebow!” My exact resolution was, “I want to get a dog. And I want to finish everything I never finished yet. (Finish what?) Finish everything I haven’t finished. And start everything I haven’t started yet. And a dog…again.”
**There was quite a bit of crying. Caitlin has such a big heart, she’d fallen in love with a dog from three tiny pictures.
We didn’t have to wait long. My friend Brittany retweeted Austin Pets Alive!, saying they were having free adoptions all weekend at their Town Lake location. I went crazy very quickly, looking through all the pet profiles of the pups who were under a year old, and found 3 that I was certain could each be our puppy. Two were adopted before we could even meet them, but the third had just come out of foster care, and was set to do meet-and-greets this past Friday, so I talked to Zack and we agreed to meet on my lunch break that day to see if he’d be the right one for us. I sent in our adoption application the night before to get a leg up, since I had been informed there were multiple inquiries about the pup, and then watched feverishly from about 9:15AM until 9:33AM to see what location he would be at. When I didn’t see his name or photo coming up under “available dogs,” I started to worry. “Surely, nobody would have snatched him up in the 12 hours since I e-mailed my application, and I was told we could meet this little guy? There’s no way!*” I e-mailed Austin Pets Alive!…and sure enough, he’d been adopted at some point before we even got to meet him.
*I slept through all of this, thank god.
Sad puppy face
Zack agreed to still check out the Town Lake location with me on Saturday, even though I’d already been there Thursday night and didn’t think I’d seen our dog. We went in with no expectations; just the thought that we wanted to look around and see what there was to see. We get up early enough to arrive at Town Lake just after they open. I introduced Zack to Tony Romo, a cute, 2 year old terrier mix with a big smile who I’d met on Thursday*. He didn’t quite feel right, though, so we wandered around a bit more. There was a pretty sleek black puppy named Tulip who caught our eye, and we figured we’d meet her after we had a walk around the rest of the place.
*Even before I met him, I knew Tony Romo wasn’t the one. He’s not good in the clutch. You can’t trust Tony Romo. Sorry, Cowboys fans. Also, he wasn’t cute.
We turned the corner, walked down the row, and saw a dog with a handsome face, gorgeous smile, and curly, waggly tail looking up at us. He looked like a puppy, and given the fact that he was already right at our apartment’s weight limit, I figured he’d be a no-go. But then, I bent over to pet his face and read his papers…and he was actually 3 years old, fully grown. He was an Australian/German shepherd mix named Scooby, and Zack and I started to coo at him. There was just something about him*, something immediately enticing. He had a red card hanging on his kennel cage, which meant we needed to ask a volunteer for help in getting him on a leash to hang out with him, so we wandered around the corner, kind of looking at the other dogs, but mostly ready to spend some time with Scooby.
*For me it comes down to one thing: Do I want to pet him? I like a fluffy dog with a smiley face with a kind disposition. That’s Scooby in a nutshell.
One of the volunteers, Jess, walked back to Scooby with us, and explained that he was a great dog, not fantastic on the leash and didn’t know the “sit” command, but he was very friendly, loving, and loyal and, being a shepherd, would be more than willing to learn all of the tricks we wanted to teach him. She had us go back into a run with him so we could let him off the leash — and he did pull on that leash very hard, almost choking himself* because he was so excited to be out and exploring. We got him safely in the run and let him off the leash, and although he was curious about all the smells, sights and sounds, he immediately was into us. He was jumping up on Zack and me, and when we’d sit down, he became butter in our laps, a big, soft lap-dog just wanting to be cuddled. He didn’t seem too interested in fetching right away, but we chalked that up to being in a very distracting environment. Zack seemed to know right away**; I took my time. I had reservations, fears, concerns. We wanted a dog we could walk, and he didn’t seem great on the leash. We were assured he could learn, if he got some training. I was worried about the fact that he’d been returned to APA! twice, but we were told that the first family had moved into a non-pet-friendly home, and the second had 3 young boys who teased poor Scoobs.
*It wasn’t so much that he was bad on the leash, but it was hard to control him because with his current leash, you had no choice but to pull him in a way that choked him, and you felt really bad about doing that, so you didn’t want to be in control too much.
**I had my doubts as well. I certainly questioned it more than I debated whether to delete Caitlin’s semi-colon and turn it into a period or whether to comment on it in a footnote. Damn semi-colons.
The more time we spent with this smiley, loving, curious, smart guy, the more it felt right. It was like he was picking us, and we just had to accept it. We took him back to his kennel and walked inside to talk with another volunteer about his specifics, asked some pointed questions, and then made one last walk around, just in case there was someone else*. There wasn’t. In fact, we rushed around the side, heart pinging for the sad eyes we were met with on the other dogs so desperate to be adopted, but knowing we had found our guy. We rushed back to Scoobs and took him back into the kennel to spend a few** more minutes and really secure in our minds that he was the one, and then headed back to the office to sign the paperwork***.
*I knew no other dog could beat Scooby. I had zero interest in walking another one.
**30 more minutes.
***I spent most of this time telling the Internet we had found our dog.
We had hoped we could adopt Scooby that day, and pick him up the next, so we would have time to get all of his goodies and organize the house properly. However, we were told that wasn’t an option — this was same-day adoption because they needed the space since it was free adoption weekend. Crap. I panicked a little, but Zack stayed calm and assured me we could take Scooby to Petco with us, and all would be well.
Scooby was great in the car*. He’s got an adventurous spirit, so that shouldn’t surprise us – he was just smiley, sniffing out the window, relaxing the whole way. When we got to Petco, he was ready to roll, and we got him into a harness before we did anything else. I found myself telling everyone I saw about him — APA! was actually at Petco that day, giving away cats, so I went up to a volunteer and informed her excitedly that I’d just adopted one of their dogs. She smiled sweetly and congratulated me, possibly thinking to herself that I was a nutjob but mostly seeming genuinely happy and excited on my behalf.
*People asked us if he was timid or shy around us at first. Not in the slightest. He was psyched to be in the car, loved getting petted and alternated between sticking his head on the center console to get air conditioning and putting his head a little out the window (Caitlin makes sure it’s never more than 1/4 open.)
Hey mom! What are you putting in there? Is this our car?!
We spent a whopping $516.48* on Scooby in our first Petco run, getting him a large enough crate, 3 toys, a Furminator, water dish, food dish, collapsable travel water dish, soft bedding for his crate, shampoo, stain & odor remover just in case …we went all-out for our boy. We will also have to pay a $300 pet deposit, and add $15/month to each of our rent checks, but it all feels worth it. The happiness he gives us is more than a greater return on our investment. He is the sweetest-faced, kindest-hearted pup of all time.
*Free adoption! This is why I really wanted a free adoption. $150-$200 comes in handy when you’re going to drop over $500 more on his supplies.
We started straight away with a little obedience training, using bacon-flavored organic treats to teach the “sit” command. Scooby didn’t seem to know it at all in the beginning, but after just two sessions of me saying “sit” sternly, pushing his hind quarters down gently to help him sit, and reinforcing with the treat and a “Good boy! Good sit!” he got it all on his own*. He’s still hit-or-miss at times, but to have learned it that quickly is beyond impressive**. He’s a huge people-pleaser, wanting to complete his tasks successfully to be showered in love, affection and delicious treats. He’s got just a little bit of separation anxiety at this point, since Zack and I both have had to leave him in his crate a couple times, but really only barks then, and sometimes with other dogs. Overall he doesn’t bark much, and doesn’t make much noise other than his happy panting when we’re playing.
*Caitlin laid the groundwork for his training, and is our expert dog trainer, but I can’t help but note that he first did the “sit” command without needing help when I had him do it. No big deal.
**His current status is he’ll do it right away on first command. When you try to get him to do it again a second time, he’ll be like…”C’mon, man, I just did that.” The third sit command is hit or miss.
Of course, I’m a nervous wreck at times. When Zack and I were at a movie* last night, I was able to enjoy it somewhat, but in the back of my mind just wanted to get back home to our Scoobs. We went to a concert and, for the first time since I’ve been a young adult, I stood at the back of the show, taking it all in but ready to exit the second it was over so that we could go home to our baby**. Zack and I have joked that this is just a fraction of a peek into how crazy I’m going to be when it’s time for babies. Thank goodness, we’re nowhere near yet.
*We were at a screening of “Harold and Maude.” Caitlin was also nervous because of all the fake suicide attempts Harold makes.
**We can be dog “parents,” but Scooby is not our “baby.” I’ve hidden friends from Facebook for talking about their “kids” when they mean “dogs.” I’m sorry, but words were invented for a reason. To, you know, describe things accurately.
Most of all, it’s amazing to me how this has already affected my relationship with Zack*. We have our own little family now, with mama, papa and Scoobs, and we feel like a complete, happy unit. Zack helps calm me down and keep me breathing when I’m nervous about Scooby, and I’m helping to bestow some of my dog-owning knowledge from my younger years to him (without driving him too** crazy, hopefully). It’s a great big adventure starting right now, and seeing my boys napping together and being so loving warms my heart and lets me know there are only good things to come.
*It is really sweet. It’s lovely to see Caitlin as such a caring, warm, loving dog owner. She’s the best partner I could dream of to be my co-pup owner.
**I truly do appreciate all the tips. One out of four times I’ll take it personally, but I need all the help I can get and she’s a dog whisperer.