It all started with a trip to the animal shelter in the summer of 2013.
In 2013, I was 23 and Alan and I had been dating for about year. When I first brought up the idea of getting a dog, Alan hesitated. I didn’t blame him for his delay – he’d never had a dog before and didn’t know what to expect.
I, on the other hand, had grown up around dogs. I assured him a dog would be a great addition to our active and outdoorsy lifestyle.
I suggested that we visit the Humane Animal Rescue (formerly the Humane Society) in Pittsburgh. I’d seen a newspaper article earlier that day that there were a litter of puppies up for adoption. I’ve always had a soft spot for rescue dogs, most likely because my lovable childhood dog, Riley, was a rescue.
At the shelter, we walked through the rows of kennels. I quickly spotted a crowd of people hovering around the new puppies. I remembered hearing somewhere that puppies were always the first to be adopted, and that it was harder to find homes for adult dogs. Remembering this, we decided to let that area clear out and see what other dogs were available for adoption that day.
When I first saw Maddie, she was curled up in the back of her pen. I learned later this position is actually a trademark of the breed and is affectionately called the “Coonhound Curl.” She looked at us wearily and there was a sadness in her eyes that broke my heart.
A note was stuck to her kennel that explained her history: she was found abandoned somewhere in West Virginia, then moved to a pretty rough shelter in Baltimore, then put in foster care for a while. She’d recently had a litter of puppies, although nobody knew where her puppies were now. Her foster mom noted that her favorite foods were boiled chicken and rice.
Her story was heartbreaking. It was clear that this dog had already been through so much in her short life and I felt like she really needed a fresh start.
We asked to take Maddie out for a walk around the building. She seemed really sweet and quiet. She was also very scared. I remember her being afraid to cross through the doorway.
Alan and I sat on a bench and talked for a while. Could we see this dog joining our family? Would her personality be a good fit? Even though she obviously had anxiety, we both had a good feeling about her. Heck, the anxiety made her and I kindred spirits in a way. We signed the paperwork and made arrangements to bring her home the next day.
When we first brought Maddie home, she was nervous and scared, as I had expected. She wouldn’t cross through doorways and, most alarmingly, she wasn’t eating.
Thankfully, after a trip to the vet and special prescription dog food, she finally began to eat and regain her strength.
It took several months for her anxiety to subside. Even though it’s mostly gone, she still has strange, fearful reactions to things that I can’t quite figure out, such as the flicking sound of a lighter or the sound of toast popping up in the toaster. I don’t like to imagine what awful events triggered these fears in her.
As I’m typing this, I can hear her snoozing away in her bed. I’m thinking about how much we’ve been through over the last 6 years together: Alan and I getting married, moving 5 times (yes, 5!) and welcoming Daphne into our lives.
I’m so happy we chose Maddie that day at the kennel. She can be a bit mischievous at times, but overall she’s been a wonderful addition to our family. This post is dedicated to you, Maddie! Happy National Dog Day. Love you.
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