by David McElroy
When a former neighbor asked me last year whether I was willing to adopt a dog who needed a home, I said no — and I was emphatic about it.
I already had more cats than I wanted to admit, so there was no room at the inn. I love dogs — and missed having them around, too — but I was determined not to have another dog as long as I was living alone. Dogs require a lot of work and since I no longer work from home, it didn’t seem fair to have a dog waiting all day for me to return.
I had absolutely no intention of adopting a dog yet. And that was final.
But one year later, my best canine friend is celebrating her first full year with me today. How did that happen?
Although I had no intention of adopting a dog last year, I agreed to take pictures of this needy dog and help spread the word on social media in an effort to find a home for her. My former neighbor told me it would be difficult to find the right home for her, because she was a “special-needs dog.” She had been rescued from life on a chain as a puppy and even after a couple of years, she was still skittish and terrified of the world. In the photo below, you can see the fear and submission in her eyes. It was the best picture I could get.
Her name was Lucy. She was living with a couple in a small apartment with four other dogs and several cats. The couple were having to move to a smaller place in order to take care of an aging parent. They were keeping three of the dogs, but they didn’t choose Lucy as one of the three. They had to move in another couple of days — so Lucy had to go, just like old furniture that couldn’t be taken along.
When I posted pictures of Lucy on social media, I wrote, “I’m trying to help find a home for this special-needs dog named Lucy. A friend had told me about her a few days ago and I got to meet her this afternoon. It’s going to be very difficult to find the right home for her, because she came from an abusive situation when she was a puppy and she’s still a very skittish dog two years later… If I were still working from home, I would adopt this dog in a heartbeat. Lucy was afraid of the camera, but was otherwise happy to meet me, which her current guardian said wasn’t typical. This couple have to move Saturday, so we have to work quickly to find the right place. Unfortunately, it’s going to take a special situation for her. She needs love, patience and understanding.”
Nobody expressed any serious interest in adopting Lucy. A lot of people felt sorry for her and wanted to help, but nobody stepped forward to take her.
I couldn’t stop thinking about Lucy for the next couple of days. Her eyes in particular were haunting to me. She seemed scared and there was so much need. So I made the fateful decision to provide a foster home for her — just until we found a good home for her.
I told myself and everybody else that it would just be temporary, but in my heart, I knew better. I knew this little girl would never leave my home.
On Jan. 25, 2016, I went to pick her up that evening after work. Lucy was terrified. All she knew was the small apartment and the couple who had cared for her since she had been rescued from the chain two years before. She clearly didn’t know what was happening. She was so scared that she defecated in the back seat of my car during the short ride home.
Over time, she became confident. Her tail — which had been down in a submissive posture all the time when I met her — was now proudly curled up.
Lucy seemed happy.
She obviously felt loved. I’ve come to jokingly dub her the World’s Happiest Dog®, because she always seems excited and happy about her life now. It’s hard to believe she’s the same dog.
She runs in the yard and chases squirrels and birds. She seems convinced she’s going to catch one of those squirrels one day.
Lucy loves riding in the car. She puts her back legs on the rear seat and her front paws on the center console next to me — and she rides around town as I do errands.
She always wants the sunroof open, even when it’s cold. If you see her riding down the road, there’s a good chance you’ll see her little black snout sticking out that sunroof — with her sniffer going full blast as she tries to take in all the scents of the world around her.
I didn’t want to adopt another dog — not yet — but Lucy adopted me. She didn’t leave me much choice in the matter. And it turns out that she was right.
I wish I were still working from home so I could spend more time with her. I feel guilty when I come home at the end of a working day and I know how long she’s been without me, but I know how much better off she is than what she was living with a year ago — or what her prospects were after having been labeled a “special needs” dog who would require a lot of work.
Lucy did have special needs. That’s true.
She needed love and consistent attention. She needed to feel secure about her environment. She needed a “forever home” she could count on.
In her heart, I’m sure Lucy knew she needed all those things. I just didn’t know a year ago today how much I needed her.