My Journey Not to Get a New Puppy

Nov 15, 2020 | Blog, Essays

The journey began when our local animal shelter posted a dog for adoption.  She was a Great Pyrenees mixed with Anatolian shepherd.  She was fully grown and ready to be dropped into the life of a loving family.

I’d looked into getting a Great Pyrenees before.  We’ve had a pair of Border Collies for about seven years.  Border Collies, in my opinion, are as close as you can come to the perfect dog save one thing.  They don’t bark at strangers.  They bark at squirrels, other dogs during play, old cobs of corn, June bugs and nothing.  Our oldest even barked the entire time we were ever absent from the house and yet, walk an axe murderer past those two and nary a sound sprung forth from their bark chambers.  Nary.

This annoys me since I am home alone with the kids a lot.  I’d like a warning when someone is approaching my house.  I’d also like said someone, if they have nefarious motives, to re-think said approach when they hear the low, guttural growl of a large, protective canine.

The only trouble with large, protective canines is that they’re not necessarily good with little kids.  Enter the Great Pyrenees.  Large, protective, loyal, smart and good with kids.  They are giant, white, stubborn Border Collies that bark.

My eldest Border Collie passed away this last spring leaving a sad hole in our two-dog family.  I thought the Great Pyrenees mix at the shelter might be a good fit for us.  She was billed as loving, playful and a great all around family dog.  And best of all, she wasn’t a puppy.

 Side note:  I’m not a monster.  I love puppies as much as the next person.  But I have so many little people to take care of right now, I’m not quite ready to take on a little dog too.  They have to go out every two hours, they chew up everything, they have to be house trained… which I guess is really only three annoying things but it’s a lot when added into all of my tiny human responsibilities.

After convincing my husband that it really wasn’t an insane idea to bring home a strange, 120-lb dog that we knew nothing about to live amongst our precious children, I called the shelter to arrange a meet and greet.

“I’m sorry, that dog has been adopted,” came the reply.  My sweet Mulva was taken home by some other lucky family.  (Mulva was the name I’d chosen for her; I stole it from Seinfeld.)

“Sometimes God says no,” I told myself.  He was probably onto something. Did I really want to bring a giant dog into our already near-bursting house of chaos?

It was too late for thinking practically.  I now had dog fever.  Luckily, a lot had changed since we’d last looked for a dog.  There are now websites that have every dog looking for a home in the country and you can choose to filter the search according to age, location, breed and whether or not they’re good with kids.

My next find was the dog find of all dog finds.  A Great Pyrenees mixed with a Border Collie.  He looked like a giant Border Collie!  This was definitely a sign from God.  I called.

“I’m sorry, that dog has been adopted,” came the reply.  My sweet Jerome was taken home by some other family.   (Jerome was the name I’d chosen for him.)

“Sometimes God says no,” I told myself.  And really, he was probably right.  I already had so much on my plate.

My daughter was teething and nursing around the clock like she was a newborn again.  I ended up searching the dog adoption sites just for something to do at 3 in the morning.  I found another possibility at a shelter about 45 minutes away.  I filled out the application and was approved.  Definitely a sign from God.  We piled into the van to go for our meet and greet.  It was a long drive to the shelter so my husband insisted I call ahead to double check that the dog was still there since the darn things seemed to disappear without warning.

“I’m sorry, that dog has been adopted,” came the reply.  My sweet Paul was taken home by some other family.  (Paul was the name I’d chosen for him.)

“Sometimes God says no,” I told myself.  And it was probably for the best because I was already behind on everything in my life.

It became obvious that God did not want us to get a dog.  So I kept looking, convinced I would eventually come across one that would change His mind.  

There were never more than 8 or 9 Pyrenees available at a time and as soon as one popped up on one of the sites, it would disappear, sometimes within days.  I had set my sights on the scarcest and, yet, most popular of dogs.  I would see litters of Great Pyrenees-mix puppies popup and disappear one by one within hours.

I finally decided that maybe another dog breed might be easier to pin down.  As a kid, my first dog was a Border Collie/German shepherd mix that was the best dog God ever made.   I added the breed to my filter.  One day, a German Shepherd mix popped up that looked eerily like him.

He was beautiful and not a puppy.  He’d had a hard start to his life either locked up in his kennel for the majority of the day while his owners were at work, or tethered outside.  And did I mention he was beautiful and not a puppy?  And he looked so similar to my first dog.  Plus, German shepherds bark!  

We arranged a tentative meet and greet because there was a family in front of us to meet him.  I knew that with our streak, they were probably going to take him home and that would be it for me.  I couldn’t take the heartbreak anymore.  I was finally ready to accept God’s ‘no.’

But then I got an email saying that the family didn’t want him.  So we drove to the shelter to meet the little guy.

He was as beautiful in person as he was in the pictures.  He got along great with our dog.  He didn’t seem to mind the kids.  In fact, though he seemed pretty sweet, he didn’t have a lot of interest in the kids after jumping up on them to inspect them and only focused on our dog.

The older woman at the shelter who was running the meet and greet had an instinct.  She didn’t come right out and voice it, but she made it pretty obvious that she had concerns about the match when she tried to steer us towards a puppy at the shelter instead of Jean Pierre. (Jean Pierre was the name I’d chosen for him.)

“Why? Is there something wrong?” I asked her as one of my kids was running around the pen like a crazy person, one was climbing the fencing, another was complaining about the smell, another kept trying to get in between the two dogs playing while yet another refused to even enter the enclosure remaining, instead, on the other side of the chain link door squawking like a bird.

“No, no, no,” she assured me in her low, gravely smoker’s voice.  “We haven’t seen any signs of aggression or anything from him that would raise red flags.  It’s just that he hasn’t been around many people and your house has a lot of people and sometimes that doesn’t make for a good fit with an adult dog.  Darling, with a household this chaotic, you need a puppy.”

“But puppies take so much work,” I said.

“They don’t take that much work.  Suck it up and get those kids a puppy,” she said, pointing to my kids who were oohing and aahing over a puppy she’d brought out.

It really was a very adorable scene and I could tell she’d worked in the industry long enough that she had an instinct that could be trusted.

“Okay,” I said, defeated.  I was sad to leave Jean Pierre behind and even sadder at the prospects of finding a Great Pyrenees puppy.  As I mentioned before, when I saw them pop up on the adoption sites, they disappeared pretty quickly.

“Sometimes God says no,” I told myself.  And I was glad he did because the only thing worse than the extra work that went with a puppy would be bringing home a dog that didn’t fit into our family and would have to be brought back.

That night, on a devastated, ‘what the heck I’ve got nothing to lose’ whim, I searched through the adoption sites and couldn’t believe the coincidence.  A litter of Pyrenees puppies had just been posted.  Knowing they were probably already in the process of being adopted out, I still filled out the adoption application. I was more just going through the motions than actually thinking we had a chance of getting one of them since our odds were so slim.

Side note:  The application had many questions that I thought, at first were trick questions.  I felt very insecure answering them because the answers seemed so obvious.  I later found out that these were common problems for dog rescue dogs being returned.
-What will you do with your dog if you move?  (Take him with us?)
-What will you do with your dog if you get married? (Keep it?)
-What will you do with your dog if you have a baby? (Keep it?)
-What will you do if your puppy chews up things in your house?  (Pick my stuff up better and keep it?)
-Will you feed the dog and give it fresh water?  (Yes?)

A day later our application was approved and two days later, we got a call from one foster telling us she had one meet and greet scheduled for her puppy but if that didn’t go through, we were next in line.

“Was this a bad time to call?” she asked, hearing all the noise in the background.

“No, this is how my house always sounds,” I said.  “It’s why we’re looking for a puppy.  A lady at an animal shelter told us to get a puppy, not an adult because our household is so crazy.”

“She was very right.  With that amount of crazy, you definitely need a dog to grow up used to it.”

“Puppies just disappear so fast.”

“You’ve still got a chance with this little guy.  The couple meeting him said they were really hoping for a female.”

She was very kind to try and give me hope but, once again, seeing how fast puppies were snatched up, I knew our chances weren’t good.

The next day was a Saturday and the kids and I watched the adoption site as one-by-one the puppies disappeared.

“Grey Lady is gone.  All that are left are Nan Tuck, Beetlejuice and Jacob Marley,” I called out at lunch.  Jacob Marley was our first choice out of the Ghost Litter (so called because they went up for adoption around Halloween).  Grey Lady was our second followed by Beetlejuice.

Nan Tuck was gone an hour later.  Beetlejuice and Jacob Marley held fast, but we knew at any moment, they could disappear.

At around 5pm, I got a text from Jacob Marley’s foster letting us know the couple that was interested in him never called back and would we like to meet him?  

“Of course!” I texted back.

Side Note:  The animal rescue with the puppies is entirely foster-based which, with all the online resources, seems to be the way many animal rescues are going.  So prospective families can adopt dogs that have lived in a home while waiting for an adoption rather than a dog that has lived in a shelter.  It seemed to provide a much better way to learn about the dogs temperament and personality in a home setting.  I was very much impressed with such an innovative way to find homes for stray dogs.

We met Mr. Pitt (that was the name we’d given him; I stole it from Seinfeld) and immediately fell in love with the little puff ball.  I told my husband I should send a thank you note to that woman at the shelter for giving me the straight dope and insisting I get a puppy.

“She’s probably not there anymore,” he said.

“Do you think she was an angel sent by God to get this message to me and now, her work done, has gone back to heaven?”

“No,” he said.  “She sounded like she smoked 20 packs a day.  I meant she’s probably dead.”

Ten days later, my journey to not get a puppy ended with a puppy.  Sometimes God says ‘no’ until you figure out what he was holding His ‘yes’ for.

PS. Beetlejuice and Jean Pierre were both adopted.

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1 Comment

  1. John Handrahan

    I really enjoyed the story and hope to meet Mr. Pitt in the near future ! ( along with our latest grandchild !)

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