Puppy in a Tote Bag : Storytime

**Fair warning, this is a long one that is part storytime, part puppy pictures, part rant**

Eight months ago, eight months and eight days to be exact, we woke up at some God awful time and volunteered at the Mission of Mercy dental event. We had signed up for the event months before. I didn’t know much about it, I don’t even know how I found the site, but the event details said that the MOM would be providing free dental care to anyone who could make it to the event. This included xrays, cleanings, fillings, extractions, partial dentures, and all medications following the procedures. I have been extremely fortunate to always go to the dentist when I needed to but I know that not everyone has that luxury so it’s a cause I strongly believe in.

I know, what does this have to do with a puppy? I’ll get to it, I swear.

I’m a pretty big believer in self-fulfilling prophecy and the manifestation theory at the same time. I believe that if you put good into the world, you should get good back in one way or another. When I volunteer my time I don’t expect a miracle to occur but it helps me smile a little brighter when the Starbucks barista gives me a free drink. So, after volunteering with the MOM we promptly went home and took some much needed naps. During the week before the event we had been talking about getting a puppy…

When I say puppy, I mean that we were willing to rescue any dog up to a year old. We knew that with rescuing we weren’t going to know what we were getting into, we wouldn’t have all the answers, we wouldn’t even be able to really pick the dog we wanted. We visited the Jacksonville Humane Society and unfortunately none of their dogs made the cut, it was also our first visit to a shelter.

We talked about the kind of dog we were looking for, something big. Both of us agreed that we didn’t want a small dog, it just wouldn’t really fit into our lifestyle, but that we weren’t opposed to a small dog if it was perfect.

The day after MOM we went to SAFE (Saving Animals From Euthanasia) in St. Augustine, Florida. We agreed before we left that we were just going to look, we still needed to set up the house and yard for a dog, and see if this shelter gave us better vibes than the other one we had visited.

SAFE has two locations in St. Augustine (they’ve opened a third since we adopted Lucy) and the first one was in a strip mall. We went in, kind of skeptical, and we were pretty disappointed. The woman who was running the entire location was a bit flustered when we walked in but we thought that it was just because she didn’t have any help. While we were wandering about three volunteers showed up and she was just as frazzled with them. We looked at the big dogs, then the smaller dogs. There was a family of three black and gray dogs in one larger kennel, and they were just the kind of dog I was looking for. The lady told me she didn’t care if I got in the kennel with them so I did.

The mom sat in the corner, patches of fur were missing and she looked so tired. My heart went out to her. The sister of the family was absolutely terrified. She had chunks of her side and neck completely scabbed over… And the brother was insanely aggressive. The younger two were estimated around six months old, the perfect age. From what I could gather, the dogs had been rescued from a fight breeder. The male had so much energy and it was clear he wanted to play but it came out in the form of biting and scratching. In my mind, we could train a dog not to be aggressive and play in a healthy manner, but we didn’t have the time to devote to the girl who needed a fountain of emotional support…

While I was all for adopting the boy, Eduardo convinced me that we should go look at the other location before we went home and talked about the decision. Looking back, adopting him wouldn’t have been a good idea… I walked out of the kennel with scratches down my arm and a hole in my jeans, the woman running the location told me “that’s normal, he’ll calm down with age.”

In the second location there was about an equal number of dogs and the lady running it was super nice and calm. Again, we looked at the big dogs, then the small ones… I went into the room and looked into all the crates… And then I saw her. I knew from the minute I laid my hand against the crate that she was coming home with us. I didn’t care what Eduardo had to say, she was ours… And then I looked at her papers, she had been in the location since late February. I didn’t believe she had been in the shelter for two months, obviously she had something wrong with her.

Her papers said “Hound mix” well, she was definitely not a hound. We brought her out to the yard… She was afraid of the tennis ball and tried to eat several rocks. Eduardo sat down on the bench while we waited for the lady running the location, Sandy, to come back. She couldn’t jump up onto the bench but when Eduardo lifted her up she just plopped down between us.

Sandy came back and told us that “Lady Gaga” (the puppy’s name) was the sweetest thing she’d seen, they would all be sad to see her go. I just smiled and waited for the bomb to drop, why had anyone else turned away from this beautiful girl?

“Before you make a decision, I do have to let you know…” I gave Eduardo a look and he shook his head. I was right, something was wrong with her. “She was adopted once before and the family brought her back because…” What!? Someone adopted this baby and brought her back!? “Well, she had some worms when she was brought in. We gave her the medicine and we told the family that she would be sick for a few weeks while it ran through her system and they brought her back to us in a tote bag and said she was too much to handle.”

I just sat there. “Did you say tote bag?”

“Yep, one of those big, ugly purses women carry around at the beach. We just want to give you a fair warning that she is still a puppy so she might have some residual effects of the medication…”

“How much do we owe you?” I didn’t even let her finish explaining the situation to me. Most parasites are completely treatable! The fact that someone had the audacity to adopt her knowing she was sick and brought her back because they couldn’t handle the short term recovery shocked me. First, she was only about five or so months old, so she was going to have house training issues anyways. Second, a tote bag?!

The first thing to go was the name “Lady Gaga” and we were forced to pick a name on the spot when we took her to Petsmart and got her tag engraved. Her first visit to the vet she weighed twenty-three pounds, she has since sized up and now weighs in around fifty pounds. We think she’s a mix of pit bull, pointer, and probably a few other things. She has a forty-eight inch crate and sleeps in the room with us. She’s house trained for the most part. She doesn’t chew on shoes or furniture. We make her treats from fruits and veggies. She loves my mom’s eleven year old Shepard mix. She goes on car rides remarkably well and runs hard at the dog park… Lucy is the best thing that happened to us in this past year, we couldn’t imagine our lives without her.

Why write this post now? Why bother bringing it up? Well, I’m sure you’ve seen those posts that are along the lines of “Hey guys, in four or five weeks we’re going to see the rehoming posts from people who got pets as presents and can’t keep them… You’re an *sshole if you don’t keep your pet!”

Lucy’s estimated date of birth is November 10th. Which means, let’s say the estimation is off by a couple of days, a week max, she would have been rehomed on exactly Christmas day, maybe Christmas Eve… Making her a present puppy. The family that originally adopted her didn’t take such great care of her and she got a parasite. They couldn’t handle it and abandoned her by a dumpster. Someone picked her up and brought her to SAFE in February, about ten weeks after Christmas… We are so lucky to have found her but her journey wasn’t easy. When I think about the fact that someone abandoned her I just want to hug her and never let go (yes, most dogs hate hugs, ours gets mad if we don’t hug her).

Ultimately, what I want to say is this, there are people out there who will gladly take in your unwanted pets. There are people out there who would be ecstatic to be able to talk to the person who owned the animal, to see pictures of the time you spent together, and who would want to update you if you so choose. Yes, it might take some time but it’s not impossible. You have no excuse for abandoning the living creature that relies on you.

If you adopt a kitten and have a two month old baby and you thought it would be okay, I don’t blame you for putting your baby first. I do blame you if you get the cat declawed and throw it outside.
If you adopt a lizard and a few months later the tank it needs is out of your lease restrictions, I don’t blame you for not being able to move immediately. I do blame you if you keep the lizard in a tank far too small for its body.
If you adopt a puppy and later find out you’re allergic, I don’t blame you for not wanting to keep the puppy. I do blame you if you don’t find it a good home.

Until next time, Xx.

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