Today marks the one-year anniversary that Big Red and I brought Olive home. And what a year...
It was definitely my push to go get a dog, and Big Red made it clear that it would have to be me visiting these dogs as he would never be able to do it. He was once reduced to a tearful snotty mess after watching one of those jerk at your heart-string shows about dogs in shelters. If he went looking for a dog, he'd come home with the oldest saddest case only because he knew no one else would want to give it a home. While I adore Big Red for his BIG heart, I was not prepared to bring home a medically challenged dog. Sorry. Just couldn't. So, with his blessings, I set out in search for the right mutt.
I visited search sites multiple times a day, viewing hundreds, if not thousands, of pictures of sad faces with longing eyes that pleaded pick me, I'm worth loving. I came across one that spoke to me, and then went to visit her. She was a lovely dog, but something was amiss. I passed. I kept searching, clicking on pictures, and reading their stories. And then a gorgeous honey colored lab mix popped up. She looked sweet. I made an appointment immediately to go see her. But, nope, still didn't feel right. Then I set up an automatic search via Petfinder. For a few days I got emails alerting me of one match or another, but none of the dogs that appeared were right. And then this picture:
Her name was "Harbor," she was a German Shepherd mix, and she had been living in a foster home. That face. Those ears. There was no question. I immediately responded by filling out an online application and then calling Animal Friends. I had been the very first to respond and was able to set up an appointment just a few days after the end of the school year. "Harbor" had been at a high-kill shelter, and was brought to Animal Friends. She was underweight and terrified of everyone. They said she wouldn't make eye contact and when called, she crawled on her belly, a shaking timid little girl.
Upon meeting "Harbor" a few days later, I was smitten. I was convinced. I set up an appointment for the following Sunday, June 27, 2010, the Sunday that Big Red would get to meet her, and if all went well, we could take her home.
And home she came with the new name, Olive:
There aren't words enough to describe how much both Big Red and I adore this dog. She brought a smile to Big Red's face during a period in his life when he found little to smile about. They are the best of friends and have regular playtime every single day. She's smart when it counts, silly in a little kid kind of way, and incredibly loving. She willingly endures my need to squish her with tons of hugs. I find I crave her sweet doggie smell. Both Big Red and I make sure she's well taken care of; we feed her quality food and treats, and she goes to the vet routinely. Summer is our time for daily walks, and I marvel at her strong little body as it trots along the sidewalk, her nose to the ground inquisitive of everything. She was just a tad over 30 lbs. when we first met her and she's now a sturdy 57 lbs. She's terrified of garbage bags, the vacuum cleaner and baths. She'll chase the wild turkey and deer in our yard with reckless abandon, but returns promptly when called - or when exhausted from chasing the elusive. She yawns like she's human, can stand up on her hind legs for seconds at a time, knows almost all her toys by name, and will devour both cantaloupe and sweet potato when given the chance. She is as much a part of our home, as we are of it.
Initially I was nervous of the responsibility, of how having a dog would change our lives. Turns out yes, our lives changed a little. Although we still go out and partake in socializing, definitely in the backs of our minds, we always have her. We check our watches more frequently, and we are simply more aware of her. Olive is the first being I've had that has depended on me entirely for her needs. Not that a dog is entirely like having a child, I can't help but believe that having Olive has helped to condition me, condition us, for something bigger. I have never loved a creature more in my life, and there's little, if anything, I wouldn't do for her. She has taught us to be more patient, and when on the rare occasion she does do something wrong, we temper our reactions.
When the dog trainer I visited asked me about her name, she asked, "Did you name her Olive because you love ALL OF her?"
Olive is love personified and everything we give her, she returns with unfaltering loyalty. I can only hope that by the grace of whatever it is that rules us, we are lucky enough to have many, many, many more years with her.
Yes. We love all of her.
post script: Olive is an amazing example of what can be found at shelters. If you're thinking about getting a dog, or a cat, or even a bunny, please consider adopting. There are so many wonderful animals out there who need homes. Avoid supporting puppy mills, avoid spending hundreds (and sometimes thousands!) of dollars, and go find your best buddy at a local shelter.