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Free to a Good Home
Wily's story, continued...
You do a good deed when you adopt a dog who needs a home. I looked in the newspaper. Two adult dogs were listed as free to a good home. I went to see one. She trembled and whimpered uncontrollably, wet herself, exposed her belly, and yapped incessantly. Whether by nature or by nurture I didn't know, but this was a ruined dog. The second situation sounded so sad over the phone --- the dog was unable to accept a newborn, and the owner's voice broke when she told me --- that I didn't trust myself to go to the house. I was afraid I'd leave with a dog I didn't want.
Meanwhile, we pursued the puppy angle, too. This was a happier project. We visited a beautiful pair of American Eskimos. The female proudly showed us eight ridiculously cute little marshmallows with legs. We almost fell for this litter, but first we wanted to check that one place where you can get an adult dog who really wants to be your dog.
When we told the nice woman with the puppies what we had in mind, she said, "If you find one at the pound, take him. He needs you more than we do."
So that was how we came to be there on that rainy Saturday in May. A brief interval of sun had raised a prickly heat. The dogs looked miserable. We went around a second time, slowly. The little dog with burrs looked up, and this time her eyes widened. We read her look as clearly as if she had spoken out loud in English.
"I know you! You were here before! Are you looking at me???"
The Burr Dog
She stood up and shook herself. She had nice straight legs and a well proportioned, sturdy-looking frame. She pressed up against the bars and sat. She licked my fingers, and again a comprehending spirit shone from her eyes. We called the attendant who had shown us in.
The burr dog was deliriously friendly. She hauled on the leash and jumped all over us, but she was sweet and self-possessed.
When I was growing up, my father used to travel in the far north of Canada. He was charmed by the arctic foxes that waited near the back door of the mess hall. He brought home a picture he had taken of a little vixen who came closer than the other foxes because she needed food so badly for her pups. When our little white dog dropped her curly tail, I remembered the picture and told Craig about it. We decided the burr dog would be the Wily Arctic Fox. Wily.
Here's a useful ploy to know about: the animal shelter staff were responsive to a reference from a reputable veterinarian. We were able to bypass the delay for neutering and take our dog away immediately by getting our vet to speak directly to our adoption agent. Richard affirmed that we were responsible owners with a good home to offer a dog, and he promised to spay Wily immediately.
Cinderella's transformation had begun. Alice the Groom Lady played the part of fairy godmother. Off went the burr-knotted coat, into the tub went the dog from the pound, and out came a fragrant new dog of pure white velvet. Shaved to a fraction of an inch, her fur was so dense that you could not see her skin. Wily was suddenly beautiful.
We dropped her off at Richard's office, which seemed blessedly cool. I looked back as we left. I couldn't see the bottom three feet of the scene that was taking place behind the counter. I only saw five white coats in a close circle, laughing down at two little white paws, a black nose and a pink tongue.
You can get a good dog at the pound
It is another rainy Saturday in May. How did it all turn out? Did I get what I thought I was getting? You bet. I got a beautiful young American Eskimo dog. Any surprises? Well, yes, she's a little bigger than I thought she'd be. She grew three inches and put on ten pounds. Debate has raged all her life: American Eskimo or Samoyed? She was, in retrospect, probably not more than eight months old. If you’ve ever had a dog of unknown pedigree, you know that half the fun is trying to guess what the dog really is.
Any surprise defects in temperament? No. She is what I knew she was: a sweet, self-confident dog. She only surprised me with her inexhaustible playfulness, which was not evident at the pound (no wonder). Behavior problems? I expected her to be poorly trained, and she certainly was. She was never destructive, and she was housebroken. But taking her out on a leash was more like flying a model airplane than walking a dog. She had plainly never heard of "sit" or "come," and she considered any food in leaping reach fair game. We went to dog school.
The fairy tale continues. The American Kennel Club recognized the American Eskimo dog in our first year of dog training. We applied for an ILP listing which would qualify us, not for conformation show, but for participation in obedience trials. My unregistered specimen of an unrecognized breed finished a respectable career with four titles.
Once Wily made friends with a golden retriever in our class. I arranged a play date.
"Wily is so beautiful," the other owner said, as the dogs romped happily away. "You must have paid a fortune for her."
You can get a good dog at the pound.