Saturday, May 14, 2011

Origin Story

This is where it all began.

In August 2010, shortly after getting married and buying our first condo, I decided to get a dog. What I really wanted was a cat -- dogs were too emotionally needy, too beholden to their people; it was kind of creepy, I thought -- but the new husband was so allergic he couldn't look at a picture of Garfield without his throat swelling shut and his head exploding, so a dog it would have to be.

Except I didn't actually know anything about dogs. I knew enough to avoid pet shops and I had a vague sense that adopting from a shelter was the Right Thing To Do, but I'd also been reading books by the Monks of New Skete, who advocated getting a puppy from a responsible breeder as the surest way of ensuring a physically and behaviorally sound, well-socialized companion. And my parents' black Labrador, who was not only an ideal family dog but a top-notch hunting dog, had been purchased from a breeder of champion field lines.

Meanwhile, the only shelter pet I had personally owned was a big mean bully of a guinea pig who'd made my other two pigs' lives a complete misery until the day he died. I called him Cownose. My sister called him Killer. Her name was better. I'd never have believed that a creature so amiably ineffectual as a guinea pig could be a homicidal maniac until I met Cownose, but... well, that was the first unexpected lesson a shelter animal ever taught me.

Funny in a guinea pig, not really what I was looking for in a dog. So I sent inquiries to a couple of highly reputable Shiba Inu breeders in Delaware and middle Pennsylvania.

And, because I still wanted to give a fair hearing to the other side, I bought a couple of books on shelter dogs while I was waiting to hear back. One At A Time was among them. I don't really remember why I picked that one in particular; it might have just have been that I needed to add another book for free shipping and saw that that one had high ratings.

Whatever the reason, I got it and I read it. And everything changed.

I cancelled my calls to the breeders. I adopted a shelter mutt. He wasn't physically or behaviorally sound, and he definitely wasn't well socialized, but we worked through all of that and after six months, when we'd made enough progress on his major issues (and mine) that I could finally come up for air, I looked around and realized how many more dogs were in need.

And that's how I got into fostering.

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