Back in May, after we made the sad decision to say goodbye to our lovely, 16-year-old lab-mix dog, Lucy, Douglas and I agreed to take a break from dog ownership. Although both of us have loved dogs all our lives and welcomed many of them into our respective families, it seemed like a good time to be deliberate about adopting another pup.
“I’ll let you know how it goes,” I promised my readers.
Today, I’m here to introduce you to Molly, a sweet, 12-year-old terrier-hound-something mix who last weekend found her way to our door and into our hearts, just in time for Christmas.
Here’s how it happened.
For the past couple of months, I had been moping around and missing Lucy. It was getting worse instead of better. About three weeks ago, Douglas asked if I would please just start looking for a new dog.
He didn’t have to say it twice. I hopped on the Internet and within minutes found a dozen dog rescue groups doing business in Maine. There were groups dedicated to rescuing specific breeds and others that offered a limitless range of mutts and curs. There were cute puppies and seasoned old veterans.
Some had heart-rending stories to tell of the traumas they had endured. Many were unreliable around children, men, cats and other dogs. Most of them had been trucked to New England from kill shelters in southern states. It was staggering how many dogs were available, and more promised with every passing week.
I browsed through these sites for a couple of weeks. I filled out lengthy, redundant applications to demonstrate our commitment and our fitness as dog-owners. My heart broke a little more with each description, every imploring photograph, every sad story. Suddenly, everything felt very urgent.
But I also felt overwhelmed by the responsibility of choosing just the right companion from this vast array of damaged and needy dogs. And I was surprised by the cost of adoption, which typically ranged from $350 to $500 or more, to cover the costs of transporting the dogs, vet-checking them and placing them in temporary foster homes.
Both Douglas and I were leery of bringing a dog into our lives that had been abused, that might harbor dark fears and prove unmanageable, untrustworthy and aggressive. In truth, though we felt deep compassion for the plight of these poor rescue dogs, we didn’t need a project. We just needed a pet.
So we stepped back from the juggernaut of the dog-adoption machine. Maybe after the holidays we’d try again. Surely, we said, there must be a good dog nearby — a friendly, local dog who just needs a friendly, local home. What we really wanted was for a nice dog to choose us, to just show up, scratch politely at the door and ask to move in.
Last Thursday, Douglas was notified by email of a new posting on the electronic bulletin board of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Belfast.
“A friend who is now at [a local nursing facility] for an indefinite period of time is looking for a home for her 12 yr. old lab mix female companion named Molly as soon as possible. Molly is healthy and playful, gets along with dogs and cats and is up to date on shots with the exception of Kennel Cough.”
You know how this story ends, right? We made a few phone calls on Thursday and Friday to learn what we could about Molly and her situation. On Saturday, we drove to Belfast to meet her, knowing in our hearts she would be coming right back home with us. Which she did, blanket, kibble, toys and all.
Molly Molasses — named by her previous owner for a notable figure of the Penobscot nation — is just about perfect for us. At 39 pounds, she’s fit, lean and energetic. Her coat is a wiry grey-brown color, like a terrier’s. Her ears are big and floppy, like a hound-dog’s. I don’t see a particle of lab in her, and I don’t care. She’s friendly, smart and eager to please.
She’s also a little traumatized by having been removed from the only home she’s ever known, with a kindly human companion who very evidently loved her dearly. In that home, she was isolated from the hustle and bustle of the everyday world. She was cosseted in her diet and forgiven for occasional toileting transgressions. As it turns out, she’s a bit of a project, after all — but a manageable one, we think.
We feel very fortunate to have intersected with Miss Molly, a good dog who needed a human family just when we needed a dog with whom to share our safe, loving home. We feel sure we can resolve any small points of friction and we look forward to having several good years with her.
Maybe this is what dog ownership will look like for us in the years ahead — not a 15-year commitment to a cute puppy, but a series of three or four-year commitments to good old dogs who need us as much as we need them. There’s an idea to celebrate, and one I feel sure sweet old Lucy would cheerfully endorse.
I’ll let you know how it goes.