74: Destiny Dog

74: Destiny Dog

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dog Did What?

Destiny Dog

A person who has never owned a dog has missed a wonderful part of life.

~Bob Barker

My kids love animals. Over the years, we’ve collected a menagerie of lower-maintenance critters: fish, aquatic frogs, hamsters, and even briefly, a praying mantis. But those weren’t enough. My kids wanted a dog.

Getting a dog posed several problems for our family. One is that three out of five of us are allergic to dogs. So any dog we adopted would have to be the hypoallergenic type.

The second hurdle was my husband. After watching our kids grieve the other critters’ deaths—even the praying mantis—he didn’t want more drama.

But the third and biggest obstacle was me. I had no desire to get up at night with a puppy just when my kids were finally sleeping through the night, or to worry about a dog chewing my shoes. The inevitable vet bills would surely strain our already tight budget. And I wasn’t excited about dog smell in my house. But mostly, with three kids and a growing writing career, I didn’t have time. I didn’t need the stress of something else to take care of.

Then I started noticing dogs on the street. Kind of like when I started noticing babies shortly before I decided to become pregnant. Uh-oh. Maybe somewhere deep down, I wanted a dog too. One morning I met two gorgeous Portuguese Water Dogs outside a coffee shop. They were sweet and, according to their owner, hypoallergenic and great with kids. Hmmm.

I mentioned this encounter to my oldest and within seconds she was researching Portuguese Water Dogs. The first fact she uncovered was that they cost around $2,000. Yikes.

I told her we couldn’t possibly afford that.

But my daughter had correctly sensed the crack in my resolve. She hounded me day after day, showing me online pictures and research. But after a couple of weeks passed, I again came to my senses. I didn’t have time for a dog. Especially as my youngest was headed to first grade. I would finally have the house to myself. No kids to take care of during the day! I could get work done!

I also knew that my oldest wouldn’t leave me alone. So, thinking that I could pacify her, I made a list of all the criteria that would need to be met for me to agree to getting a dog. I told her that if she found a dog with everything on my list, we would adopt it. My demands were ridiculously specific and—I thought—absolutely unattainable:

• Must be a Portuguese Water Dog. Because of the dander allergy.

• Must be an adult. In fact, must be middle-aged. Old enough to be calm but not so old as to have health issues.

• Must be fully trained. No way did I have the time to train a dog.

• Must be inexpensive. We have a tight budget.

• Must be good with kids—in other words, must tolerate my five-year-old son.

• Must be black in color. I like black. Black is slimming.

I figured that no one could ever find a dog that met my specifications. I was very pleased with my own cleverness.

One week later, my daughter rescued a sick, abandoned cat on our block. A neighbor drove her to the local animal shelter to drop off the animal. While there, my daughter cruised through the adoptable dog section.

That afternoon, she came bursting through the door, babbling about a Portuguese Water Dog at the shelter. Yeah sure, I thought. But I called anyway.

“Yes, we have a Portuguese Water Dog here,” the worker said. “If you’re interested you’d better come now because purebreds go quickly.”

My son and I drove to the shelter. We walked up to the kennel, and sure enough, the sign read Portuguese Water Dog.

Portuguese Water Dog, check.

I looked down at a mess of an animal with dark, matted fur. A long, black nose poked through the chain link and a wet tongue licked my hand.

Black in color, check. She is really cute, I thought.

I took the rug-with-a-tongue out in the yard and she chased a ball for me and my son, gently but enthusiastically.

Good with my son, check.

Then the dog jumped up on me and I nearly fell backwards from the odor. She smelled horrible, worse than any dog I’d ever encountered. As I backed away, I snapped a picture with my phone and sent it to my husband, who was out of town.

We walked the dog back to the front desk, and I flagged down a worker.

“I have some questions,” I said. Surely this purebred dog wasn’t up for adoption.

“Are you interested?” she asked. “If you are, you should start on the paperwork.”

I didn’t touch the stack of forms she slid in front of me. “Did you know she’s trained?” the peppy worker continued. “She sits and walks on a leash.”

Trained, check. Seriously?

“The vet thinks she’s about five years old. Lots of good years left,” the worker said. “That breed lives to be eleven or twelve.”

Middle-aged, check. You’ve got to be kidding me.

I finally got a word in edgewise and asked about the cost.

“Two hundred and fifty dollars,” she answered.

Inexpensive, check. (At least compared to two grand.)

The checkmarks were piling up fast. How was I going to get out of this?

Then a man walked by and pointed to the dog. “Hey,” he said, “is she up for adoption?”

I instinctively pulled the furry beast close. “No!” I said. Did I say that out loud? What was wrong with me? I reached down and pushed black curls from the dog’s eyes. She looked at me and my heart turned over.

I put a twenty-four-hour hold on her and went home to think it over.

As I lay in bed that night thinking, I made a deal with the universe. If my reluctant husband gave the okay, we would adopt the dog.

My phone buzzed. A text from my husband.

“Is she ours?” the message read.

The next day we drove to the shelter. When I arrived, one of the workers said, “It’s a good thing you put a hold on your dog. We got over fifty calls this morning asking for her.”

“Why now?” I asked. The woman explained that there had been a technical glitch, and the picture of our dog had just been posted on their website the day before. “That dog’s been here over a week,” the worker said. “Her picture should’ve been posted sooner.”

It felt like destiny. Our new dog blended seamlessly into our family and is an especially good companion to me. She sits at my feet as I write, and accompanies me as I chauffeur the kids around. Instead of adding stress to my life, she calms me. We’re two middle-aged ladies who suit each other.

The shelter named our dog Portia. But I changed it to Porsche, because I figure she’s my midlife crisis.

I didn’t want a dog, but apparently, I needed one.

~Tiffany Doerr Guerzon

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