My husband and I had never assisted with or even witnessed a canine labour before, so when the efforts of our foster dog Maizie were not progressing as fast as our labour adviser (read: the Internet) indicated they should, we took her out for a potty break and a little walk on the lawn in the hopes of moving things along.

Maizie seemed fine with this, and after a few minutes of snuffing around in the patches of melting snow characteristic of a Nova Scotian early winter, she “assumed the position” and we paused to let her do her business. It was then that I met my dog, as his little body was delivered onto my lawn.

The chaos that ensued (“Honey, do something!”) was thankfully brief, as a minute or so later Maizie was back in her kiddie-pool whelping box, cleaning off the little tyke who proved to be none the worse for his unexpected and rather undignified arrival into the world. Six puppies followed that night, with a surprise seventh addition revealed at head-count and weigh-in the next morning, bringing the total up to eight adorable, multi-coloured Pit Bulls who would share our home and lives for the next eight weeks or so before they were ready to be adopted.

The first-born came to be known as Cavil. With one very notable exception, our foster-not-failure track record had survived over 100 pets by that point, pets we’d loved but nonetheless seen on to adoptive homes. So when we’d learned of Maizie’s condition and made the decision to let her raise her pups with us, we were not intending to keep any. But when my husband started suggesting that at least one should remain, my resolve lasted about five minutes. The difficulty came in choosing which would be the one to become a permanent part of our family!
Cavil wasn’t our first choice, nor did he make the short list. Frankly, he wasn’t even in the running through the many weeks of deliberations. This lively brood was full of personality, but it seemed he’d drawn the short end of the stick in that regard. Where his siblings were curious and social, he was more apt to find a lonely corner and watch their interactions with the streams of people who came to visit.

And while I know that you can’t technically FAIL a puppy-temperament test, he really may as well have: when the tester called him over in an excited voice, he walked away. When the tester picked him up, he went limp (and not in a good way). When the tester threw a toy, he ignored it. While his siblings’ scores identified them as the “adventurous one, or the “independent one, or the “loving one,” Cavil’s score indicated that he was breathing. And that’s about it.

So what tipped the scales in his favour, with seven other contenders all more interesting than he in a variety of ways? In EVERY way?

I know it couldn’t have been JUST his eyes, which we called “people eyes” and spoke of often. We certainly would not have made our decision based on such an arbitrary characteristic, considering all of the things we’d dreamed that “our dog” could be. And yet whatever else won us over in the beginning I have simply forgotten.

But almost three years later, I have no problem articulating why I’m certain we made the right choice, and all the ways that this hilarious, ridiculous, adorable, affectionate, confident, handsome, stubborn, strong, loyal, amazing dog has enriched my life. I love to brag about how loving he is (when he used to be so disinterested in people) and show off all his impressive tricks and manners (when he once couldn’t be bothered to even pay attention). He’s my 70-pound hot water bottle. My muscle-y teddy bear. My walking partner, driving partner, working partner, and napping partner. My cat-chasing, rock-collecting, ladder-climbing, gnome-fearing, bed-hogging, kid-loving, kiss-giving, kind-hearted boy. The anti-“pick of the litter,” to be sure, but the best dog I could have ever hoped for.

One of my favourite lines from The Wizard of Oz is when Dorothy declares, “…if I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard.” Cavil was technically born in our SIDE yard, but considering what I found in him, I’d say that’s close enough.