According to PetSmart.com, this week is National Adoption Week. I suppose that’s appropriate, because I’m getting a dog.
For some reason, I became obsessed with the idea of finding a canine pal a few weeks ago. I can’t really explain why, though I do have some theories, but I think it’s the same obsession my father succumbed to last summer when he purchased a rat terrier puppy, Atticus (née Mike). After dog-sitting my girlfriend’s German Shepherd, Lily, for a week, that desire only deepened.
I was looking at my county’s humane society, which has a number of very adorable pups up for adoption. I really fell in love with an old Shepherd mix named Mattus, who has now been adopted and sent to a new life in Vermont (their politics aside, that sounds a bit like paradise).
But then I began searching a bit further afield, and stumbled upon a very old dog, Riley, who is fostered in a town nearby. Riley is a bull terrier, the breed perhaps best known due to the Budweiser mascot Spuds MacKenzie or the Target spokesdog, Bullseye. I was not considering the breed at all, as they are quite mischievous and can be a handful for newcomers to dog ownership, but the description of old Riley—a chilled dude nearing the end of his life, just looking for a place to crash in comfort and snacks in his final days—seemed like a good fit.
After notifying the Bull Terrier Rescue Mission of my interest in Riley, one of their placement coordinators, Anja, contacted me for an in-depth discussion about the breed, Riley, etc. Among other things, I learned that some bull terriers suffer from a form of obsessive-compulsion that causes them to chase their tales for unhealthily long periods of time; in England, they’re known as “nanny dogs,” as they will watch children under their care with an eagle eye; and that the breed possesses an unusually high pain threshold, meaning it doesn’t feel pain nearly as soon as other dogs.
We also determined after our hour-long discussion that Riley would not be a good fit for me. Indeed, I’d woken up the night before contemplating the life changes necessary to care for an extremely elderly dog with a heart murmur. Anja stressed to me that the Rescue places animals and owners together with the best possible fit, and that no owner should have to totally upend his life just to take in a dog. I agree completely, but it was good to hear it from someone whose life is, arguably, consumed with dogs much of the time.
So after a long, productive conversation, Anja had all of my information and my preferences, and told me to be patient—it could be a couple of months before the right dog showed up in my area, but with bull terriers coming in all the time, she would be in touch.
With that, I made a small donation to the Rescue, and continued looking at the local humane society, if for no other reason than to whet my appetite. I did go ahead and purchase a copy of Jane Killion’s When Pigs Fly!: Training Success with Impossible Dogs, figuring that having the authoritative training text for bull terriers would come in handy with most dogs, but especially if I ended up with a bull terrier. Then I went about the business of moving my girlfriend to Athens.
It was on the long drive back to Columbia Friday afternoon, after completing our first run down to Georgia, that I received a text from Anja: there was an eight-year old female bull terrier named Murphy who’d just been taken to a shelter in North Carolina. As soon as I saw her picture, I knew that my life was going to get much more interesting:
Those beady little eyes (bull terriers are the only canine breed with triangular eyes)! That ridiculous egghead! That beautiful coloring! When Anja asked if I’d be willing to foster her for a few weeks, I leapt at the chance.
So, as of this point I’ve gotten a crate, food, some toys, a leash, and a collar for the sweet girl. I’m also reading When Pigs Fly! as much as possible to prepare. As of the time of this writing, I will be going late Thursday afternoon to meet a volunteer halfway to pick up the old girl, and then the thirty-day foster period begins. If the pup and I get along and we like each other, I have the option to adopt her; if not, they’ll find a good home for her.
The Rescue covers vet bills and the like during the foster period; I’m responsible mainly for food, as well as some of the aforementioned items. My hope is to take advantage of the waning days of summer vacation to work with the dog and to get her vet visits and such taken care of before resuming full-time teaching. I’m also going to work on crate training with her, and figure out how to get her accustomed to me being gone all day.
If I do keep her—and, really, how could I not?—I will also look at constructing a fence around my house. I sit on a nice half-acre lot, but I don’t want to fence the entire thing in (which would cost a fortune). Instead, I’m contemplating constructing a fence around the house itself, leaving a bit of lawn for running around. My plan is to approach it in phases so as to break up the costs: the first phase would extend to cover a small section on the side of the house, and I would eventually expand that into a fence all the way around the house itself. I’d like to do a white picket fence, but with lumber prices what they are, I might have to explore other options.
The initial costs for the pup are a bit steep, but manageable. I spent around $175 getting a crate, a mat, some toys, some treats, and food for her, and there are still a few small items I need to procure (somehow, I forgot to get her food and water bowls). There’s also a $400 adoption fee that goes to the Rescue; considering the work they do with their dogs, and that they cover vet bills during the foster period, that seems reasonable, but it’s nonetheless a bit stiff for a schoolteacher/part-time musician/blogger.
(If you want to kick in a few bucks to help me care for this angel, I wouldn’t object.)
What’s amusing to me is that a year ago, I would have balked at the idea of adopting a dog, much less shelling out a few hundred bucks for one. Now, it all mysteriously makes sense. As I joked with my mother, my failure to produce human grandchildren for her is now manifesting in getting her a furry one. Lord, I hope there’s not too much Truth to that self-deprecating joke.
Regardless, that’s the big news! Here’s hoping I can give Murphy a good home, temporarily or otherwise. I’m looking forward to long walks and long naps—and plenty of playtime, too.