Monday, July 16, 2012

A Poor Orphan Dog Named Maria

For the last year and a half, I've been a border collie mix mama and since misery loves company I thought our adventures should be recorded in a blog.  Despite my love for stories that begin en medias res, I think the best place to start Barley's story is at the beginning . . .

Once upon a time, I lived a quiet life as an English professor at a small campus.  I had an adorable white cat named Sothlice (an Old English word meaning truly that seemed like a good name for the pet of an English nerd).
I mean, seriously, look how cute he is.
Soth and I enjoyed our afternoon naps in the sunshine and curling up on the couch with a book or student essays--Soth drools on the ones he likes the best (don't tell my students).  Neither of us was particularly fond of the snow--as evidence in the above picture of Soth soaking up warmth from the heat vent--and we were adjusting to our new lives in the Ohio snow belt; if we had a flannel blanket to hide beneath, it was bearable.

Despite my peaceful life and awesome cat, I wanted a dog.  I'm not really a cat person even though I am 100% crazy about my cat.  I got my first dog, Possum, when I was 2--before I even had a sister!
How could anyone not become a dog person with a first dog like this?
I couldn't remember life without a dog and after our last family dog, Snowflake, crossed the Rainbow Bridge while I was completing my M.A. life didn't feel right.  When I returned to my family's house on breaks from school, it felt like there was too much oxygen in the house.  I expected a dog to be waiting at the door when I got home and could never really wrap my mind around why it never happened.  That's how I got Soth--I needed a pet and a cat was the compromise I reached with my landlord.

When I moved to OH, I found a duplex that allowed two pets of any kind.  Starting a new job, I thought I should hold off on finding a dog.  I needed to learn the area, learn my students, build solid lesson plans.  But, by November--four months after moving in--I was searching on regularly.  I quickly fell in love with Beulah, a young puggle (who just happened to have a perfect name for someone with a background in American Poetry and a BFF named Thomas).  I wanted to get through finals and my trip to my family's house for Christmas before bringing home a dog, so I told myself (and my dad, who just shook his head) that if Beulah was still available for adoption on New Year's Eve, I'd email the rescue and see how she was with cats and how to go about meeting her.  I looked at her PetFinder profile many times a day, shared the pictures with my BFF and my sister, and had fallen in love.  When December 31 rolled around, Beulah was still available; she was staying in a shelter since the rescue didn't have a facility, so they weren't sure if she'd been cat tested yet, but said I could go meet her any time the shelter was open.  I rushed home from my family's house to pack up my own Christmas tree and further dog-proof the apartment because I was sure she'd be mine as soon as a home check could be completed.  

I drove over an hour to Novelty, OH to the shelter where Beulah was living and told the front desk I'd like to meet her.  They pointed me in the direction of her kennel and off I went.  When I got to her kennel, the first thing I noticed was a construction paper star that said, "I don't like cats."  I still loved her.  We could make it work.  I looked at the dog I loved and said, "Hi Beulah.  You're a good girl, aren't you?"  She turned her back and retreated to the bed at the back of the kennel.  She refused to look at me.  I was broken hearted.  I was so sure it would be love at first sight for both of us and she couldn't have cared less if I had never set foot in her shelter.  

I looked at the other dogs in the shelter, but none of them seemed like my dog, so I left.  I planned to go home and just wait to find another dog, but on the way something told me to go the Ashtabula County APL--the shelter closest to my duplex anyway.  The shelter was open until 5:00 and I arrived around 3:45.  There were at least 80 dogs at the shelter and I figured I'd find at least one I loved.  I walked up and down the rows of kennels looking at the dogs.  There were several who seemed sweet and I was just about to ask one of the workers if I could take a young male hound dog out to the meet and greet room.  I decided to make one last pass down his row and a crazy-looking, tri-color border collie mix named Maria just kept staring at me from behind her door.  She was one of the only dogs without a kennel mate--maybe this should have stood out to me then--so she had no competition for attention at her kennel gate.  Although I'd noticed her on my first pass, I hadn't paid much attention because she had tiny ears--and after growing up with Possum's perfect, silky ears, I'm an ear girl.  When her ears were back, it looked like she didn't have any ears at all.  Plus, Maria was an awful name for this dog (unless you start looking at the lyrics from The Sound of Music and then her name might have made more sense).
You thought I was lying, didn't you?
But Maria had an awesome smile and her tail was going 1000 wags a minute, so instead I found myself asking the shelter worker, "How is that little Maria with cats?"  The staff wasn't sure, but offered to do the cat test.  We took her into the cat room and I was told that most cat-aggressive dogs would bristle, lunge, and growl as soon as we walked into the room.  Maria simply sniffed each cage looking for fallen bits of kitty kibble; as someone who appreciates a good meal, I knew this was a dog after my own heart.  When the shelter worker was confident Maria wasn't aggressive toward cats, we headed to the meet & greet room for some alone time.  I was left with a few milk bones in my hand.  I didn't want to force the dog to love me (I was still feeling rejected by Beulah), so I decided to let her take her time and sat down in the one chair in the room.  Before I'd even gotten all the way in the chair, Maria was in my lap licking my face.  I relocated to the floor and she rolled around expecting a belly rub.  I stepped into the hall and said, "I'll take her."

I was sure I wouldn't be able to take Maria home until the following day at the earliest, so I had nothing--no collar, no bowl, no toys, no food.  I was certain they'd have to call my apartment manager to confirm that she was allowed in my duplex and the manager didn't get home from her other job until after 5:00--after the shelter closed.  However, the girl at the front counter took my adoption application, looked it over, and said, "How will you be paying?"  The adoption fees said a year-old dog should be $90, for adoption fees, microchipping, vaccinations, and spaying.  When I went to write out the check, they told me it would be $50.  I decided not to question it.  They took my check and then hurried me out the door and said someone would meet me around the side with her.  I assumed at the time that they were ready to close up shop, but looking back I think they probably wanted to get me out before I changed my mind.

So, a staff member and I stuck Maria in the back seat of my Chevy Cavalier and off I went, with a brief detour to Walmart to pick up the very basic dog necessities--with no idea of what I was getting myself into.

My new dog with the nylon "noose" they slipped around her neck in the mad dash to get her out of the shelter and into my car :)
To Be Continued . . .

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