This story about Finn is the inaugural post of my blog Dogs Make Everything Better because she embodies everything that’s great about dogs. She will forever serve as inspiration for my business venture as well as being “the one that got away.” Apologies for the length, future posts will be much shorter.
Before I begin, I must disclose that I currently have a household with 4 dogs, and really had no business sniffing around for another, but…
One day I was looking at the available dogs online at my local county shelter. There was one that had caught my eye, in fact I’d read her bio on a previous visit to the site. She was described as a “Spitz Mix”, which ended up being a Chow Mix but I have learned since that shelter staff can get colorful when it comes to creating curb appeal. When I called, they said she was still available so I decided to stop in the next day on my way out of town (who does that?) to see her.
I had never been to the county shelter before, because it’s just too heartbreaking for me. So in the lobby I asked them to bring her out so I could avoid the trip to the back kennel area. She was beautiful, I knew she would be. The color of French vanilla ice cream and a very regal stance, curled tail and splotchy tongue. She ignored me at first, this dog called Sophie that was not at all a Sophie. I took her outside to the enclosure to spend some time with her and eventually she gave me the time of day, sort of. We watched together as people backed up their SUVs, popped their hatches and discarded dogs they no longer wanted. When the crowds left we went back inside and I told them that I was thinking about adopting her but I’d need a day or two to think it over. I was told that she had already been there for 44 days, which is a very long time for an over-crowded shelter. By law they must take new strays and keep them for a minimum of one week and therefore adequate shelter space is at a premium, so there was no guarantee that she would not be euthanized that very afternoon in order to make room for newcomers. And, as they pointed out, seven had come in during the last hour alone.
The dog looked up at me on cue and somehow made her eyes sparkle. She turned her head this way and that way, making eye contact and sparkling like I’ve never seen. Even if she hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t have left her there. I was going to save her. Somehow. The system, an irresponsible owner, a bad economy, the backing up of an SUV and a popping hatch, whatever circumstances had brought her to this point, I wasn’t going to let them to take her from this world. No way. In February I lost my dog Henry, a beautiful Malamute mix, to cancer and I did everything I could to give him as much life as possible, down to the minute and the morsel and literally the very last warming ray of sunshine on his body. So how could I justify turning my back on this beautiful healthy sparkling dog? I figured she was still owed a lot of rays of sunshine.
She had a good bath. A trip to the vet. A few hours with a trainer. Lots of good food and a nice bone. Brushing, ear scratching, massages. Walks. A few escapes (but who wouldn’t want to just run after being kept in a cage for 44 days, exercise limited to brief walks and only on Saturdays?). We had a long conversation one evening under the stars and we figured out that her name should be Finn. We said she was always Finn, and nobody knew that before, but we did. Finn.
And just as we settled in to be best friends forever, it became apparent that things were a little sticky at our house. Introducing her to my other dogs wasn’t so successful. And having just spent 11 years in a household with keeping two dogs separated that didn’t get along wasn’t something I could enter into again. The trainer’s advice was “you do not have to fix this…what you should do is take her straight back to the shelter.” Um, no. Because Finn is such a sparkly star and the heavens knew just what to do with a star like that (and also because I’m an extremely stubborn Capricorn) she ended up getting the best life instead. Ever.
My mom mentioned to me that her friends had been recently talking about the void left in their lives, their dog having passed away almost two years before and they missed her so much. Having no other pets at home and grandchildren that lived out of state, I knew that Finn would be the star of the show with them. And so they met Finn. She apparently turned on the sparkles and they all fell in love with each other on the spot. Now Finn (sigh, they changed her name to something else, but a rose by any other name…) spends her days and nights lavished with attention and love and ear scratches and you name it. What’s better than that?
Now I have to be honest: I was pretty blue the following week. We’d really bonded, Finn and I. But she taught me stuff, just the way dogs always do. I learned to let go and recognize my limitations. I reminded myself that she was better off with these people who were such a great fit and could give her the kind of home that I could not. And what a warm feeling to ease someone’s sadness with a new dog, never to replace the one they lost but to create a new perfect match. But what really took my breath away, what still takes my breath away, is the realization that I saved her! So yes, another victory for the underdog! It means that people popping the hatches on their SUVs and dumping dogs at shelters like garbage don’t win when someone does something to step up. Dogs like Finn can win. And win big. And that’s really huge.