Brad and I were ready for a huge step in our lives… a dog. I had been slowly chipping away at his wall for a couple of years. He was perfectly content with the two cats. Madison had despised me from the moment I woke him up at the animal shelter and adopted him. I think he was smart enough to add two plus two equals neutered cat and has hated me ever since. Crook was a stray and still afraid of us. I wanted a dog. The final wall collapsed shortly after Christmas when my expensive watch stopped working and Brad had to return the present to the store. I demanded a “watch” dog as my replacement present. To my surprise, he agreed.
I knew that I wanted an English Setter. Several years before, I was in charge of three dogs: a black lab, a Springer Spaniel and an Orange Belton English Setter. I felt that Labs were too hyper and I knew that the Springer Spaniel had an enormous amount of energy. I fondly recalled the English Setter and how she would roam contentedly through the salt marsh each day on her adventures. I also remembered how she would bring me little surprises: a raccoon, a blue heron, a deer. I’m pretty sure the deer had already departed this earth and she merely dragged it back for me. My dog, I decided, would be properly trained so he would not bring me gifts.
Brad had other ideas about the breed of dog. He wanted a beagle. He fondly remembered his childhood dog and insisted that he have one just like Frisky. I finally won the “Battle of the Breeds” but Brad attached conditions. We could only have a white and brown dog. No black at all. His conditions puzzled me because he really wanted a black cat; however, I was not going to argue with him about colors.
After some internet research, we found a rescue organization for English Setters and began the tedious process of completing the adoption application. Once the application was submitted, a phone interview was completed, our vet was interrogated and all of our references were checked out, we would be subjected to a home visit. If approval was given, we would be assigned a case worker who would help us find the proper dog. It was an intimidating process.
We started with the seven page application. There were many questions that warranted more in depth answers with no extra space given. We had just moved into our house and had only been in it for a few months and worried that this would be frowned upon as it didn’t show a connection to our community. There was no additional space to elaborate and no other addresses were requested. I had to remind myself that this was an application for a dog – not a job or a baby.
We then needed to list our occupations. I again worried about writing “Storm Chaser” on the line for Brad. Would this negatively affect us as a dangerous occupation?
The application had an area to list all previous dogs owned and what had happened to them. I affectionately recalled my childhood dogs: Keeshonds who had both died of old age. I knew Brad was fond of his beagle and I asked him what had happened to the dog. He told me that he had the dog for a few weeks before his dad ran over it with the car. I was horrified! How could I put that on the application? I considered my options: omit the beagle or explain that it couldn’t happen again because Brad’s father was no longer alive. As I erased “beagle” from the application, I wondered how Brad could have so many fond memories of a dog he only had for three weeks.
After completing two pages, my hand hurt from all of the writing. It was disclosed on page three that preference was given to a fenced-in yard. In fact, while it may not be held against the applicant, it was strongly encouraged to have a fenced-in yard. In this section, there was plenty of space to clarify why an applicant with no fence should be considered. I used the entire space to explain that we lived on a large amount of land with no close neighbors and six-acre pond acting as a natural barrier. We also had a dirt road leading to our house…the only house…and no traffic.
The remaining questions on the next few pages were bringing out my sarcastic side: How will the dog get exercise? Where will the dog sleep? Where will the dog be during the day? Where will the dog be at night? If you are not at home where will the dog be? Where will the dog go when you are on vacation? I tried out a few answers in my head such as “the dog will work out on the treadmill” and “the dog will sleep in his own bedroom” and “the dog will lounge on the couch eating bon bons and watching soap operas during the day”, but in the end decided that I should perhaps come up with answers that were a little more serious.
A favorite trick question was “Where will the dog go if you move?” I held back the sarcastic answer and simply wrote that the dog would move with us.
I listed references, wrote a check for the application fee and mailed off the packet. I found out that our references were checked because the persons listed called me. The vet was also contacted. I finally received a call from our case worker who told me that a couple who lived near us would be conducting the home visit. If we successfully passed the home visit, we would be matched with potential dogs.
The home visit day had arrived. The husband and wife team stood in our living room and stiffly asked questions on a clipboard. The visit was very surreal and only five years later, when Brad and I were recruited to conduct a home visit, did we understand the “why” behind these questions. We are now enlightened but at the time we found it most peculiar. We didn’t really “connect” with the couple but they gave a good report and we were ready to find our dog.
I told the case worker that we only wanted a male dog with white and brown coloring. We were interested in a young dog between the ages of two and five and he had to get along with cats. Our very specific requirements should have been daunting but the case worker was fantastic. Several prospects were quickly ruled out after the case worker contacted the foster parent and learned the dog did not like cats. A few months went by with no successful matches. The case worker called me and told me about a litter of puppies that had been given to a shelter in Mississippi. The litter and the parents were transferred to Tennessee where the puppies were diagnosed with Parvo. Both parents were adopted. Only one puppy survived. She felt that this puppy would meet all of our requirements except for the age. We could train him to respect the cats. She believed it was a perfect fit. I convinced Brad and a few days later, I was on my way to Nashville to pick up my puppy from his foster mom.
It was love at first sight. He was five pounds of fluffy white fur. His head was bigger than his body. He had floppy ears and a button nose. One leg was still shaved from where the IV had been. It looked like a funny leg warmer from the eighties. Nothing mattered but the fact that we had our dog. Chase.