How I Met My Dog - Chosen
My dog wasn’t the one I wanted. My husband and I had “pre-screened” the dogs at the shelter beforehand, perusing through photos on petfinder.com, until we found the one that we wanted to meet—a white fluff ball, part Labrador, part something BIG. But as we followed the shelter employee down the aisle of cages, a pair of eyes drew my attention, stopping me in my tracks. I reached my hand out, underhand, for her to sniff, and instead she gave me a huge lick—while her eyes pleaded, Save me from this place.
“Hey Nick,” I called, as I scanned the sign on her cage. “Check out this dog.”
It read: “Leah. Spayed, four-year-old female shepherd mix. Found roaming with male Labrador.” A second sign indicated that her wayward companion, Fozzy, had since been adopted while Leah remained incarcerated for the past four months.
Returning to my side, my husband took one glance in the kennel and laughed. “You said you didn’t want anything with shepherd in it.”
He continued onward, shaking his head as he went, while I stared at the dog in front of me, knowing he was right. My mom was a “German Shepherd person” and while I always thought they were great dogs, I also related them with vacuuming….and brushing…and still more vacuuming. In fact, I had come to call them German “Shedder” Dogs.
I didn’t want one in my home.
Withdrawing my hand, I turned away, feeling her eyes boring into my back as I hustled to catch up to my husband and our guide.
We met the white dog. He leapt against the bars of his kennel to greet us and seemed friendly enough, yet there were no sparks. Not like with the “other” dog. But I could find no fault in him either. Telling the employee we would think about it, we exited the shelter, passing Leah’s cage a second time. I snuck a glance at her on the way by, and saw her still watching me with those eyes…
Those eyes that I could not get out of my head.
On the way home, we discussed the dogs we had met, and I called the shelter later that night. “Do you think you could cat test the white dog that we met earlier?” When the woman I spoke to agreed, I thanked her, started to hang up, and found myself adding, “And while you’re at it, do you think you could cat test Leah too?”
It was as if some force was driving my words, the same force that stopped me in my tracks in front of her kennel. The employee promised I’d hear from her the following day, and I slept fitfully that night, wondering what tomorrow would bring.
“He was a bit too interested in the cats,” she reported of the white dog.
I breathed out, surprised that I felt relieved. Then, hopeful, I asked, “And Leah…?”
“She completely ignored them.”
My breath caught again, and I glanced at Nick. “Can we come spend some more time with her today?”
“Of course. I was hoping you’d say that. And if you ask me, I think she’s the better dog.”
Back at the shelter, as Leah greeted us with exuberant kisses, I wondered if she recognized me from the day before. Were my eyes burned into her soul as hers were in mine? We took her for a walk, and each time one of us addressed her she either flopped to the ground—or she peed.
“What’s wrong with her?” Nick asked. “Is she sick?”
“I think she’s being submissive.”
I looked at her, lying there on the ground, belly up, staring back at me with her tongue lolling sideways out of an upside-down grin, and thought, Who in their right mind wants a 95 pound dog that will shed fur like a sheep being shorn and pees puddles if you speak above a whisper? Well, after just losing a dog whom, though I loved with all my heart, was dominant to a point that I was sometimes afraid of him, it seemed a welcome change.
We took her home that day.
As it turns out, the shelter was wrong about her being cat-friendly, although they’ve somehow managed to coexist in “relative” peace over the years. And while the submissive peeing eventually faded, I was right about the shedding, which I’m reminded of as I sit here typing this, watching her graying fur float across my floor, the same as it has done for the past ten years, not one of which I regret. Today, at 14, Leah is so entwined in my heart that it unravels at the thought that one day she’ll no longer be here—this dog that I never wanted.