At about 7 or 8 years old, and with his greying snout, he’s not a highly sought after companion. But something about him has drawn us in. I saw him first this weekend—a sad case of online dating where I kept telling myself I wasn’t really looking, just seeing what’s out there. Then I saw Rusty’s profile. Even after the pages upon pages of “rescue” dogs I saw next—beseeching eyes, mewling puppies you could cradle with one arm—Rusty seemed to have claimed me already. Part of it may be practical. I liked these words from his foster mom: “amazing quiet and gentle soul”, “fully house trained”, “soooo gentle with EVERYONE.”
But I can only partially explain why this dog feels so right. Saturday afternoon I showed his profile to my husband and held my breath. Was it just me? I walked away but his stillness at the computer, punctuated only by the occasional click (scrolling down), told me he was similarly engaged with Rusty and his story.
Having lost our own dog prematurely (she died at age 10 just over three months ago), Steve and I are not yet keen for the lightning jolt of a puppy in the house. Our son, small surprise, is desperate to get a puppy but, slowly, even he has become receptive to adopting a shelter animal. This older dog and particularly his mystery seem more right somehow. His foster mom says his eyes tell a story of “love lost”, writing, “I wish he could talk and tell us what happened to separate him from someone who obviously loved him very much.”
Perhaps that’s why we connect. Our dog Zoe left suddenly too. It was only in January that we learned her cancer had resurfaced, aggressively, and two weeks later we gathered to put her down. There was a great deal of crying around here, not to mention a great river of unexpected kindnesses: cards, pictures, emails, and even a food basket. Friends and family have visited and let us talk about her.
My way of handling that loss of dog love has been to walk our friends’ dogs—two in particular. The dogs lure me away from my hermit-like hunching at the computer. I rediscover walking and sunshine and that happy-doggie-love feeling. But that isn’t the real reason I’m about to go and stand on a stranger’s doorstep.
Oh no. My son got me here. Not sure how it crystallized—was it the page-long essay he just wrote at school all about his dog? Was it his occasional tears or his comment after we had a friend’s dog in for the day: “Mom when [so-and-so] was here, didn’t it feel like our family again?” He’s also complained that since Zoe died we’re always on him. Probably true. My son has been realizing the impact of loss, and reacquainting me with the benefits of pet ownership for a one-child family. When I add these things up it’s a strong case.
So—insert small sigh here—much as I’m enjoying wantonly setting appetizers on the coffee table and giving my vacuum cleaner a break, I’m accepting it. This house is likely to see sloppy dog bowls and fresh dust bunnies sooner than I expected. It’s just makes sense for us.
Will Rusty be the one? I admit I’m drawn to the poetry. He’s a dog who’s lost his family. We’re a family that’s lost our dog. Can we find happiness together? Will it be the dog behind door number 1? It can’t be that easy, can it? I’ve already prepared myself that something will go wrong—or weird. But even so, we’re heading out on the QEW tonight to give Rusty a chance. What’s going to happen? We're about to find out.