The One In The Back
The small California town we lived and raised our family in was idyllic in so many ways. To add to its’ Mayberry, USA appeal, there was an annual parade followed by a Fall Festival in the local park. Folks came from cities all around, just to experience the homespun charm that Exeter held.
It was either 2000 or 2001 (we’re not sure) when we again watched the extensive parade from our truck tailgate and especially enjoyed the local animal shelter’s entry of mis-matched, mixed breed, 4-legged home seekers ramble by. Later that afternoon, visiting all the craft and game booths set up in the park while local bands performed on stage, we got to take a closer look at the furry friends. They were grouped more-or-less by size in a variety of kennels and enclosed play areas. Usually 3 or 4 to a grouping.
We weren’t in the market for a dog. We had one. And besides, we knew it wasn’t really the right time or day to even entertain the idea because, well … funnel cakes. All that rationale still didn’t stop us from “just seeing” and the oooohs and awwwws coming from my whole family’s mouths was undeniably puppy love. But we KNEW better than to fall for it. “if f f f f f f we were to get one,” my husband said, “always pick the one in the back”. He went on to explain that the eager majority showing off, wagging and barking and flirting their way around the kennel, would most-likely get adopted sooner and easier, but the shy guy - the one shivering and cowering in the back corner - he probably goes unnoticed.
Was it those words or the chemistry I felt with this one dog in particular? I don’t know that answer, but I do know that (try as I might) I could NOT get this one little blonde fella out of my mind. I called the shelter later that week jusssst to inquire if they still had him. Sure enough they did and as luck would have it, they would be taking him to Toys R Us (remember them?) parking lot the following weekend. I could hardly sleep, waiting to “just go see” him again. We talked about it as a family and concluded that even though we weren’t necessarily needing a second dog, it would be a good idea to get one that Bailey could train in her ways, since she was such an awesome dog.
You can probably finish this story from here.
I went to Toys R Us and have never seen more needier eyes. I swear they were saying, “you came back??”. There was no way I was leaving this time without that little white snaggletooth furball. The staff told me they’d named him Joey because he would walk around the shelter on his hind legs like a kangaroo. I filled out all the forms and got all the info on the spay/neuter program they promoted and waited anxiously while they went and retrieved him for me from his cage. “Now” she said, “since you are surrrrre you want him and made your mind up yourself, I can tell you a little about his history…..”
I’d never adopted a pet from a shelter before so I didn’t know their protocol. She did not want to sway my decision, but once the ink was dry she let me know two important things. 1) Joey had been picked up by the dog catcher as some teenage boys were using him for a FOOTBALL in an alley. And 2) they’d had him quite a while with no luck of adoption so this was probably Joey’s “last show”. Gulp. Deal sealed.
Our poor baby had endured such a tragic beginning and it took YEARS for him to finally feel comfortable and secure with us. I still remember the first few weeks we had him, even the sound of the silverware drawer closing would send him running. And he HATED our son and any of his teenage friends that came over (I’m sure PTSD was an understatement), but little by little, day by day, we assured him he was loved and his new home was safe! He never did pick up on Bailey’s teachings but knowing all he had been through and how far he’d come, we gave him a pass on becoming the World’s Second Greatest Dog.
Instead, he continued to gradually relax and eventually even welcome a third dog into our mix. His mission wasn’t to become the next perfect boat dog or chase every chew toy around the house. His purpose in dog life was to do what dogs do best - love unconditionally. So ugly he was cute, an introvert in every possible way, and not many tricks to his name (other than hind leg walking), yet we bonded so deeply it was unbelievable.
He moved with us to Texas and was a huge part in the day-to-day operations of Oopsy Daisy. Whether at work or at home, he was never far from my side and always curious in what project we were working on next for the business. (not really. he mostly napped.)
As time went on (133 of them in dog years!) and his health declined, he still always wanted and waited to be by my side, especially in the evenings, unwinding from our day. We thought we were losing him two and a half years ago but with some luck, some great care, and doggy diapers, he stuck it out a while longer to bring us that much more joy. I’d say 18 years (or is it 19??) is a good long life for any dog, much less one that had so many close calls throughout theirs.
With the heaviest heart ever (I liked my dog more than I like some people - #sorrynotsorry) I kissed my little Joe’s head one final time last Friday. I’m hoping the pain is all mine and he is enjoying his even better home and even prettier gardens now - probably he’s just napping there, too. So long for now, my sweet friend. Thank you so very much for being the best little buddy I never knew I needed - just waiting for me there in the back.
I’d like to thank Animal Hospital of Denison and especially Dr. Alice Bradley for their complete concern, care, and compassion for all three of our precious dogs over the years. Also, if you are contemplating pet ownership, PLEASE #adoptdontshop! There are so many deserving animals that are more than anxious to bring you years and years of love! DAWG is a great local shelter that may just have your next new best friend!