Thursday, January 11, 2007

You had me at hello

It was the day before New Year's Eve 2005 and Mark was trying to convince me of the merits of this beagle called Timothy he found on I was coming around to the idea of a boy dog so that wasn't a problem any longer. Timothy had a nice amount of eyeliner so that was a selling point. He looked very handsome and attentive from his online photos … Mark and I were in agreement on his looks 100%. His profile used words like rambunctious and puppy-like. After Red, that was the last thing I wanted to read. But then it also used words like affectionate and "likes to be close to his people." Perfect! Mark persuaded me to call the foster home with a list of questions to put my mind at ease.

I talked to Karen, the foster "mom", on New Year's Eve morning and she gave me all the time in the world to ask questions covering the most minute details. I liked her. She was honest and I got a better idea of what Timothy might be like. She invited us to come by and meet him. Of course since she was on the other side of the state, three hours west of where we live, we agreed it would make the most sense to fill out an application and go through the approval process so, if we were approved, we could bring him home with us on the same visit.

We put together our application and e-mailed it off. CASA (Crawford Area Shelter for Animals, the shelter he was fostered through) contacted our references who gave us raving reviews. By early afternoon we were officially approved to adopt. Now the ball is picking up speed and rolling with it's own momentum.

Another phone call to Karen. When is convenient to meet? Either tomorrow, New Year's Day, or two weekends from then. Tomorrow? Tomorrow is awfully soon. But two weekends is to far. Tomorrow it will be.

New Year's Eve night 2005. Mark and I walked into PETCO for the first time together and shopped for necessities. We picked out the perfect crate, bowls, 6-foot leather leash, treats, toys, everything on our dog list. As we checked out, I verified that we could return our entire purchase in case the next day didn't go as planned. (Ever so optimistic!) We went home to eat our traditional New Year's Eve dinner of Indian curry and stayed up only until one minute past midnight to get as much sleep as possible for our long New Year's Day.

After a restless night, morning arrived. I went through the motions. I wasn't the least bit joyful. I was terrified! I wanted Mark to tell me he changed his mind so we wouldn't have to go. My feet were so cold, I may as well have been walking down the aisle ... and I didn't have cold feet getting married!

The entire three hour car journey I was silent, except for the occasional sniffling as I tried to conceal the tears. I worried about the commitment. I worried about screwing the dog up. I worried that this was just a passing phase. I worried that the house would be destroyed. I worried the dog would like Mark more than it liked me. I prayed that the decision of whether or not to adopt him would be crystal-clear once we got there. I was so tired of indecision. I was a mess. An emotional wreck.

Nearly there and as planned, we stopped at a very rural gas station to call Karen to get exact directions to her house. As my cell phone cut in and out of service, Mark went inside to see if anyone was familiar with a woman locally who fostered dogs. A man approached him saying he didn't know the woman, but he had a dog in a dog box in the bed of his pick-up we could have if we wanted. Mark walked by the truck on his way back to our car and saw a curious girl beagle, probably a hunting dog, peering out. Apparently beagles are a dime a dozen in rural southwest Wisconsin.

Armed with directions to Karen's, we finished our drive. Climbing up her steep and snowy driveway I got the first glimpse of the dogs, probably six of them, waiting for us behind a chain-link fence. As we walked to the house it was apparent who Timothy was. His body was shaking in a full body wag amidst this confusion of fur and tails around him. He picked up a rawhide bone from the ground as though he was presenting us with a prize.

Karen invited us in and let only Timothy slip into the house with us. Mark and I grinned from ear to ear with how cute he was. I kneeled down on the floor to say hello and *it* happened. Timothy calmly came to me, quietly put a front paw on each of my knees and stood there, propped up on my lap, gently wagging his tail, allowing me to pet and hug him. He knew how to work me. Timothy sealed the deal. He had me at hello.

When I told Mark and Karen that I wanted to adopt him I felt sure and calm. It didn't take more time than that moment (prayer answered, thank you!). I was still afraid, sure, but only of the newness, not of the decision. I expressed some of my fear to Karen and she assured me that the fact that I was taking this responsibility so seriously actually made Mark and I ideal dog guardians. Okay, I hadn't thought of it that way.

We said our good-byes and our thank-yous. Karen gave Timothy his blanket and we tucked it and him into his new crate in the back of our car. She also gave him a huge rawhide bone which he's still working on to this day.

As we travelled down the highway, I looked with sympathy back at this scared and confused little creature. Mark and I tossed out ideas for a new name, Mark reading words off signs and trucks for inspiration. When he said the word Diesel out loud we both looked at each other. That's it. It suits him!

Shortly after we left Karen's, the scared beagle in the back of our car had an accident in his crate. Mark pulled over and cleaned up as best possible. My reaction, rather than being disgust (which would have been typical), was an overwhelming concern for what Diesel must be feeling in this new car with these new people.

It was at that moment that I became a dog mum.


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