Heel to heal

My writing routine has gone to the dogs.

Really.

Real dogs — the kind with floppy ears, demanding appetites and insatiable wagging bodies hungry for exercise. I haven’t written more then three paragraphs in my journal in nearly a month.

The day I asked my husband to join me at the humane society to meet a possible adoptee, he surprisingly agreed. I had been making regular visits for about four months. Since the death of our black Labrador a year and a half ago Wes had resisted my campaign for a companion for our 14-year-old Australian shepherd.

“Let ‘Paje’ enjoy his twilight years,” he’d tell me.

Then Paje died last month and my humane society visits became more frequent. At first I agreed with Wes that we needed time before inviting another dog into our hearts and home, but after a month, I couldn’t stand the empty lanai and solitary walks.

Finally on a recent visit I met “Lulu,” a 5-month-old super ball of energy and affection. Having never had a small dog, I was drawn to the portability of a Chihuahua-terrier mix. Wes met me after work one evening to meet her. As we sat in the small dog visiting area with Lulu we got to talking through the fence with a couple of volunteers who were in the adjacent enclosure with another dog. They asked us if we were sold on a small dog.

“There’s this wonderful hound in the big dog area,” one of them said. “Her name is ‘Lady Bird.’”

I recognized the name at once. I’d seen her two months before — a hound-beagle ex-hunting dog was not on the top of my list. I wasn’t looking for a specific breed as much as temperament. I shied away from a dog I suspected of being a runaway.

The first time I met Lady Bird she was leaning into the wall of her kennel with wet rings beneath her weepy brown eyes. Two rows of nipples stretched into black thumbs hung from her belly. She wouldn’t look up in greeting or acknowledgment. I felt bad for her misplacement, but was not tempted to rescue her. She looked like more work than I had energy for.

So when Wes and I agreed to pay a visit to this hound I had met two months before, I didn’t hold much hope.

“We’ve worked with Lady Bird a lot,” the volunteer told me. Then she went on to say how Lady Bird was a “Critter Camp” participant. “Critter Camp” at the humane society is a program for school-age children who come in to learn about handling and caring for animals.

Lady Bird’s transformation was obvious as soon as we approached her kennel. She stood quiet and attentive at her gate with her tail up and wagging. When we took her out to the yard for a romp she went into a puppy bow and then swung her body in grateful undulations. When we leashed her, she walked at a “heel” by my side.

We sat on the grass for awhile discussing the attributes of the two canine candidates — loopy Chihuahua pup or recovering hunting dog. Then Wes did something completely out of character: “Let’s get both,” he said.

Two dogs and three weeks later I am getting back into walking shape and neglecting my journal completely.

I couldn’t be happier.

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