This past holiday season, Mr. President and I decided not to exchange gifts and instead, spring for a really good coffee maker. And a dog.
We are now the proud parents of Princess Lucy Punkin’ Head of Castle Plotnick. She was named “Lucky” by the shelter, but we think we’re the lucky ones! Lucy is a classically beautiful blonde with wise brown eyes and an old soul.
We have been kicking around the idea of dog ownership for some time now, but we had convinced ourselves that it was not in the cards because of our four cats, none of whom have ever met a dog they’ve liked.
After a heart-wrenching visit to a local SPCA this fall that only served to confirm our belief that dogs and cats don’t mix, we turned to a local rescue organization, Home At Last. We thought we’d have better success with rescue dogs who are being fostered by people who can attest to the dogs’ temperament around people, other dogs and cats. We knew we would never buy from a breeder or pet store. In fact, we believe strongly that no one should ever buy a dog unless there are absolutely no more unwanted and unloved animals without homes in the entire world. We were willing to work with the unknowns that come with shelter dogs.
We spent many nights on the sofa with the tablet, scrolling through pages and pages of adoptable dogs, falling in love with their faces and imagining them in our home. We agonized at their sad stories, real and imagined, and we cried that we couldn’t save them all. We still do. Then we decided to attend a “meet and greet” event held by the rescue to meet a dog who had caught our eye. To make a long story short, the dog we went to see was wonderful enough that we wanted to introduce her to our cats at home. It.Was.Horrible. Two cats hid, one cowered in the corner and the fourth, my Sophie Joy, aggressively hissed causing the dog to take on an aggressive stance, barking and straining against her leash. We were scared and sad and we knew that it wouldn’t work – our cats were here first and their safety comes first.
We thought about another dog we’d met at the event, a pretty lab mix who had just been rescued from a high-kill shelter down south. We called our trusty pet behaviorist who has helped us resolve some serious issues with our cats in the past. We felt sure that she would have some suggestions for us about integrating a dog into our home, or at least making sure we had a successful home visit. Not only did she give us plenty of advice, she encouraged us to try again with the other dog.
The key to introducing dogs and cats is to do so gradually and in a way where none of the animals feels trapped or forced to interact. For the home visit with Lucy, we put three of our cats in separate rooms with the doors closed. We left Venus, our most mild-mannered girl, out and about. Tara, Lucy’s foster mom, suggested keeping Lucy on her leash in our home, just in case. We were not optimistic. In fact, we admitted later that we really believed things would go poorly again and the visit would put our dreams of dog ownership to rest, once and for all.
Only, things didn’t go poorly. Lucy’s visit to our home was quiet, calm and drama-free. We walked with Tara through our home introducing her to the cats one by one. While the cats did not have love in their eyes, they did not run and hide. They did hiss at Lucy though, and when they did, she calmly looked away or just laid down crossing her legs in front of her. We thought that if any dog could work with our cats, it was this one.
We sort of fell in love that day even though I wasn’t 100% bought into the idea of having a dog. In fact, on the coldest and iciest winter mornings, I used to say, “Isn’t is great that we don’t have to walk a dog outside right now?” I enjoy the calm of our home and knew that adding a dog would be a lot of work when we already have plenty to do. But, I wanted her.
I thought about Ezra, the little white dog I had during graduate school who, on my worst days, forced me out of bed, gave me a purpose and then comforted me right out of my bad mood. He’s the little dog I loved deeply and agonized over having to re-home when he became aggressive, only towards me. He bit me several times so badly that I needed surgery on my face and stitches in my hands. I ignorantly took the biting personally – it hurt my feelings. I cried about Ezra for years even though I knew he was in a loving, caring home. I have always felt that I failed him. He’s why I have tears flowing down my cheeks right now. I found out rather unceremoniously that Ezra passed away peacefully at 17 years of age, and it still hurts like a bitch. I knew I had more dog-love to give.
We trusted our gut and decided together to give Lucy the home she deserves. It’s been only two weeks so far, but we are following expert advice on creating a peaceful co-existence between Lucy and our cats. So far, there has been no drama. It’s true that none of the cats like Lucy yet, but we are getting to a place where everyone can be in the same room together with no hissing from the cats.
The weather sucks right now – cold and gray and rainy outside my office window. I know that pretty soon, I’ll have to take Lucy outside for a walk. I’ll bundle up, load up my coat pockets with poop bags and dog treats, get the umbrella. Later, I’ll notice that despite wiping Lucy’s feet after our walk, her paw prints will be all over the floor and I’ll find her hair on our sofa. But, when she trots towards me with that smile on her face, wiggling her blond behind and wagging her tail, I won’t give a damn.