The Day Things Changed

One year ago two very significant events occurred on the same day: it was the last day I worked at the office, and it’s the day I saw Ella for the first time.

We’d heard about this coronavirus thing but it was still new and still seemed to only be far away in coastal cities. There was talk of us working from home that next week, so I moved files and packed up things I’d need.

I went in saying I had no expectations but I really hoped I would find a dog. All my life we’d had small dogs, so that being what I knew, that’s what I hoped to find. Wandering through the first aisle, none of the dogs really captured my heart. There were a few puppies in another room, but that sounded like a lot of work and I was hoping to give an older dog a home.

It was a Friday and I planned to leave early so I could check out the “Empty the Shelter” event at the Humane Society. My friend Emily was helping sherpa me in dog ownership so she met me at my house and drove us there.

In the last row of kennels there was a beautiful brown-eyed dog pressed against the chain link who looked so sad. The sun was setting and drenched her in amber which only amplified her German Shepherd coloring. I passed her by, but kept my eyes on her. She was bigger than I thought I wanted, so I kept looking.

After I had seen all the dogs that were available, I went back to her. I crouched down and she stared straight into my heart. Of course I ignored the “don’t put your fingers in the cage” and gave her some scratches. She kept staring right at me. That connection I hadn’t found yet was there. While I stayed and kept petting her, Emily found someone to tell us more about this sweet dog named Ella.

They told me that she needed to go to a home with no kids and no other dogs. She was dubbed “low adoptability” because of these facts. As I saw families with small children wandering around, I saw first-hand what they meant. They told me she had been muzzled all the time, and trained aggressively. They said she would need lots of patience and lots of love. I confirmed I was ready to give her that.

Once I passed that screening, they said a room was open for us to meet. I was excited and nervous and ready and not. The door opened and she came straight to me for more attention. Gone was the docile, sad-looking girl that was stuck in a cage. She wagged her tail with her whole body and would have sniffed every inch of the room if we’d had the time.

It was getting close to closing time, and after speaking with me they said if I wanted to take her home tonight I could. Everything stopped and my brain and heart told me every reason why I wasn’t ready.
But. I could not ignore this connection with this sweet dog. I told them I needed to get my house ready, and that I’d love to come back and get her tomorrow. They told me they couldn’t hold her for me, and to get there first thing in the morning. No problem, I’d be back for my dog.

I still was holding all the feelings of nervousness and excitement. I had found a dog! Then I flung myself into responsibility mode and needed to get all the things ready for her to come home.

Emily and I went to the store and she helped me get all the essentials for Ella. Crate, food, treats, toys, leash, harness, more toys, more treats…a cart full of anticipation. There was an odd feeling in the store that we were on the edge of something. People shopping for essentials, thinking “should I use some hand sanitizer?” and knowing this might be the last time for a little while I’d be in the store.

We headed to Denny’s since it was close by and we hadn’t eaten yet. After settling into our booth we thought “are we supposed to be eating at restaurants right now?” and “oh now, we chose Denny’s and there are some older people in here…is this a bad idea?” but it was too late. Our evening breakfasts had arrived and we had a dog to discuss. Emily talked me through my fears and hopes and questions as I thought of Ella spending one last night at the shelter.

Emily dropped me off and helped me schlep my giant pile of dog essentials into the house. We made plans for when we would meet the next day to get to the Humane Society before their doors opened

Then I was alone with my house that was not dog proof…at all. I started throwing things into my second bedroom that could potentially be eaten or ruined. I set up the gigantic crate and second-guessed if I was ready.

Exhausted but adrenaline filled I got ready for bed. I laid awake thinking about how my life was about to change.

(to be continued…)

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