How we found the Wondermutt

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a news story about how animal rescue organizations are being inundated with unwanted pets in the down economy. I didn’t, however, get a chance to say why I care. So here’s a happy story about how we found our wondermutt and how she found her forever home...

I resisted getting my own dog for a long time. Bethany started suggesting that we adopt one after moving to North Carolina in November. But really, we both thought, how could we get a dog? You can’t vacation with a dog. You have to walk them a million times a day. They take time and money and long-term commitment. What if we move again? What if it hates the cats?

Some of our questions were excuses and some were valid concerns, but, looking back, I realize we were goners at that point.

We followed for a few weeks and eventually found our way to the Sarge’s Animal Rescue Web site. It’s fun looking at dogs online. How much is that doggy in the window? Free, well practically, with a small donation to a rescue organization.

Maybe I want four huskies so they can pull me through the streets on skis in winter. Maybe I want a German shepherd I can train to start my car for me or pin down marauders. Maybe I want a golden retriever to fetch my slippers... I’m sure Bethany had her own fantasies as we grew up around different breeds. We both knew that we wanted a big dog.

There is something abstract about online shopping, even for objects, so, on a chilly gray weekend in January, we went to one of Sarge’s Saturday adoption events. Lena was standing in a cage in the back. Her name was Buttercup then, and we had already identified her as a potential candidate for our family from her headshots.

There were other cool dogs at the adoption. A pair of black German shepherds. A tall redbone hound. An adorable Plott mix. But Lena stood out, a leggy blonde on her hindlegs with her big paws resting on the edge of her cage.

Come see me, she was saying, wagging her tail and smiling. I know that all dog owners claim their dogs can express emotions, but trust me, Lena can smile.

I went to her, and she put her paws on my chest and started to speak.

Aaaaar aaaar aaaar. Lena speaks Malamute.

That was it for me. I was hooked. Lena rubbed her head against Bethany’s chest, and I could see she was hooked too.

We couldn’t take Lena home right away, but Bethany and I talked it over and decided that we wanted her. We had to figure out some logistical stuff, gather dog supplies, and figure out what to do with the cats. The application process was thorough. We emailed back and forth with Diana Ritter, a Sarge’s volunteer, and talked to her at length about Lena.

Diana told us what she knew of Lena’s story. They found her at the Haywood County Animal Shelter. She was later adopted twice from Sarge’s and returned. Diana’s theory was Lena had scared her first owner’s other dog, because she was so dominant. The second couple to adopt her had a hard time keeping up with her exercise requirements.

The wonderful thing about Sarge’s is that they don’t give up on the animals they rescue. If something doesn’t work out, you are free and encouraged to return the animal at any time. So Lena was safe from being turned in to the pound again, but her failed adoption trend was worrying.

We went to visit Lena once more at a local kennel where she was being boarded. She wasn’t the same dog we met the first time. In fact, she freaked out. She wouldn’t come near us, no paws on our chest, no talking, and no smiling. I didn’t know if it was a smell or the surroundings or what, but that instantaneous recognition I had felt the first time I saw her was gone.

Still, she was so beautiful. And now she was intriguing too. Mysterious. A long, lean mutt who smiles and talks... when she feels like it.

After spending some time with her at the kennel we were able to get a few face licks, and she showed a willingness to be scratched. And so, seeing as how no one wanted her and we still did, we took her home.

Lena is now a full member of our family and a best friend to us both. She and the cats are getting along... almost. She sleeps in our bed. She comes with me to work some days. She wakes Bethany up with kisses. She requests belly rubs on a regular basis. She speaks Malamute to us and smiles. We have our very own Wondermutt, and we have Sarge’s and their dedicated volunteers to thank for it.

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