My life was finally in order. Now I could get a dog. I had a great apartment with a dog run. My girlfriend, Cindy, and I were solid, even talking about “plans.” I could get a dog. I had a good job teaching at a small college, the kind of place that would not object to me bringing my dog to my office, the kind of place with a dozen pet-starved students away from home eager to walk my new puppy. I could get a dog.

I could not, however, justify the puppy in front of me at the Indianapolis Humane Society.

She was not so much a dog as a beast, a dynamo of paws, ears and teeth. They had named her Asti. No, I needed a small dog, someone under 40 pounds. This puppy was not even 5 months old and was already 45 pounds, and if she ever grew into her ears and paws, she was going to be a monster. Those ears…one drooped at the tip even when erect and alert: friendly-tipped, a fault in pure-bred German Shepherds. This little girl was not a pure-bred, though. She was German Shepherd and…something. Australian Cattle Dog, maybe? She had the body of a GSD, but was brindled on her face and back. She was cute, but also striking and unique. She looked at me with slightly mismatched eyes and had me figured out in a minute.

Cindy wandered over to me, obviously curious about who had so captivated my attention. “That’s going to be a big dog,” she said very matter-of-factly. “Look at those paws.” The dog reached her hand-sized paws under the chain-link kennel gate and batted at my shoes. Cindy was no dog expert, but she was right: those paws prophesied 50-pound bags of kibble, the need for six-foot fences, accidents the size of lakes, and dislocated shoulders from battles over who was going to walk whom.

The puppy looked up at me with brown/grey/green eyes and obvious confusion as to why she was not already in the car with me. I’ll leave it up to fate, I said to myself. If she’s here next weekend, I’ll bring her home. I didn’t tell Cindy that; she would not have understood. I told her I’d think about it.

The next week that was all I did. I thought about those paws, the ears, and those clever, brilliant, weird eyes. I knew she was trouble. Some people, usually people who don’t have one, will extol the virtues of the smart dog. What they think of as a smart dog is a well-trained, not especially bright dog, a dog willing to do whatever its person requests of it, or a smart dog with a LOT of training or a job to do. No, when I think of a smart dog, I think of power struggles and the constant need to entertain and distract, or replace furniture, shoes, and car interiors. Can I get that dog?

A minor emergency pulled me out of town the next weekend. Fate, I thought. I shouldn’t get that dog. I wasn’t meant to get that dog. There was no way she would be there after two weeks. She was a cute puppy. Were she an older dog, she might stick around, but a puppy?

The weekend after that, we were back at the shelter. And there she still was. I couldn’t believe it. One of the girls who worked there and knew me from the dozens of other reconnoiters saw me playing with the dog through the chain-link.

“So sad. Someone took her home last week, but she didn’t get along with their dog, so they brought her back.” Great, I thought. She’s not good with other dogs, alpha female, probably. The word bitch played in the back of my mind. Someone wasn’t ready for a smart dog.

The dog licked my fingers and I could almost hear her. You said you’d leave it up to fate. Well, here I am. Those other people didn’t like me. You can do this. I’m the chaos you need in your life. I’ll be your smart dog. You think too much, too. I’ll get you. I looked at Cindy and she said “It’s up to you. It’s your dog.” I stood up and walked away. I could imagine this shaggy creatures confusion as I walked to the adoption counter: why doesn’t anyone like me?

I got the dog.