Ella’s Gotcha Day

(continued from this post)

After a fitful night of sleep, I woke up before my alarm on the 14th filled with anticipation. Most things were set: everything I needed to bring with me was in a bag, my questions were written down, all things I didn’t want destroyed by a dog were thrown in my extra bedroom. In theory, I was totally prepared.

I got ready, sat, paced, checked my watch, and finally the time came to leave. My friend Emily arrived to again help me through the process. The day before they told me they couldn’t hold Ella for me, so we were poised to get there 15 minutes early.

We arrived and sat in the car outside the Humane Society. There was another car next to us and I remember thinking I would run ahead if I had to in case they were also there for Ella. After exiting our vehicles, we both expressed interest in different dogs so I calmed down slightly.

After we were let in, I strode right up to the desk and they remembered me from the day before. I was there for Ella. They went to get her while I filled out paperwork. Everyone was so kind and made the process really easy. If you’re in the area and want a furry friend, I highly suggest the Humane Society of West Michigan. If I recall correctly, Ella had only been at the shelter for about a week and they all knew and loved her. That warmed my heart so much.

After paperwork and payment (thanks to the Bissell Pet Foundation, her adoption fee was only $25. Best deal ever) she emerged from the back. I was hoping for her to be really excited to see me again…but there was just too much stimuli to sniff and she was all over the place. My gut dropped a little, what had I done?

As we were about to leave we tried to pose for a great Gotcha Day photo, but she was still investigating the environment. Knowing her now, this is totally her. At the time I was a little disappointed we didn’t get a perfect photo keepsake, but the memory was captured as-is and looking back it was perfect in its own way.

She jumped right into the backseat of my car for Emily as I was finishing up a few things. Just in case, I talked to them about if they’d take her back if it wasn’t the right fit. They said yes. That made me feel good that they wanted her to be in the right home like I did. I hoped that home was my home, but needed that verbal permission slip just in case.

I went out to my car and suddenly I had a dog. She was going home with me. She was excited, panting, and drooling. Driving home I was keeping my eyes on the road while also checking in on her. Thankfully Emily was my co-pilot and making sure Ella was doing okay.

When we got home I let her into her new home and I just stared at her for a while. She sniffed around, checked out the different spaces, but almost immediately settled by the sliding door in my living room. I figured she would love that space, and I soon after rearranged so she could have full access to watch the world.

Emily stuck around for a while and then once I felt more settled she said her goodbyes for now. Little did I know that would be the last time someone would be in my house for a while.

After she left, I just stared at Ella some more. My house felt very small with this big dog in it. As I sat with my thoughts I was worried I’d made a terrible mistake. I wasn’t capable of taking care of a dog! I couldn’t give her the perfect environment! I was going to fail her!

It didn’t take long for her to be comfortable on the furniture. Also, you can see the wounds on her snout from being constantly muzzled. Those have since healed beautifully.
She is such an affectionate girl. It was startling at first because I was not used to big dogs and knew she had some past trauma, but now I know she just has big emotions lots of love to give.

Thankfully, I have wonderful people in my life who I opened up to about my fears and insecurities. Most were other dog owners who told me what I was feeling was natural in this season of change. Others were trusted friends who talked me through rough times.

I didn’t sleep much that night. I was still filled with adrenaline and worry…and now I had a creature in a cage at the foot of my bed. Was she going to be okay? Would she need to go out in the middle of the night? Was she scared? Was she happy? My mind raced.

We made it through that night, and now we’ve made it through 364 more. It took a few weeks for the fears to subside and a few months for us to be truly comfortable with each other. I look back now and smile. I can’t imagine my life without Ella in it, and we arrived in each other’s lives at the right time.

The whole time I’ve had her we’ve literally spent almost all our time together. I’ve worked from home since I got her, and only gone out when I needed to, and half the time I bring her. I would not have made it through the past year as well without her by my side. She’s taught me so much about myself, her, and the world.

You’ll see me write about her more here in the future. I’ve got lots of stories and wisdom from this now 6 1/2-year-old dog. If you’re considering adopting a dog, I highly suggest it. Also, if you have any questions please leave a comment. I would not have made it through without my support system. Thanks for reading our story, and Happy Gotcha Day, Ella.

Ella today, on the 1st anniversary of her Gotcha Day.

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