It’s been six weeks and I have looked at photo after photo of cute little wagglies, reading their little dating profiles to glean a sense of whether they are a soul mate.
It’s disturbingly like online dating, except thank god there are no bearded role-playing office creeps (with body odour you can detect through the Wi-Fi) wanting to know if I wear white undies and have access to a Jiffy bag and a stamp. The worst experience I can get physically from my visits to the dog shelters is that slobber-sticky feel on your hands and a damp musty smell to my coat. All part of being a dog owner I think, and amazingly, my OCD doesn’t mind a bit.
Now I am an experienced dog-seeker I know better than to trust those little snippets of info on the shelter websites – I go straight to the source and chat to them directly. What’s the history? Are there any medical exclusions? It’s a whole different story from the one the website tells you.
So now I have people at some of the big well known shelters who are looking out for what we think I need.
The next stage is “the Meet” and here is where I’m getting dejected. The hope on the way there, already planning how the pal in the photo might look in my kitchen, thinking about the big list of goodies I need to buy. And then the reality, and a crushing sense of panic about making the wrong decision.
Most recently, I travelled 40 miles to walk a cocker spaniel who acted like she had never seen trees and leaves before. At one point, I shuffled some dry leaves and she became hysterical with delight and began bouncing up and down, eyes rolling and mouthing anything she could reach. She had to be calmed down with lots of soothing crooning noises and careful stroking. My heart rate went through the roof – luckily my daughter was there and did the emotional heavy lifting while I just tried not to freak out.
The decision? I made it instantly – no. I ran through all the possible scenarios and kept coming back to the same thing – I would be scared of her. I would walk on egg-shells around her. Yes, she might calm down eventually, but not likely with me around trying to be brave but giving off the “oh god” pheromones like a fire extinguisher.
Before we left we had a stroke and fuss with a Saluki who was virtually catatonic. Here now, I thought of waking in the night, sweaty and upset from one of my PTSD-moments and in need of doggy reassurance. Looking around for a concerned but silly face, grinning and saying “Hi mum! everything’s fine – tickle me!” This dignified, placid Saluki would just stare at me with her limpid pool-eyes saying “you tell me… are we doomed?” before yawning and going back to sleep.
The following day (ah the weekend of a rescue-chaser) I travelled 80 miles to a different shelter to register my details with them and ask about a Doberman-cross who sounded lovely. I filled in the forms and looked around the showing area.
I admit, I was a little freaked out. Far from being the outdoor, functional but friendly kind of area I had seen in other shelters, this was a whole different wag.
The floor was tiled throughout in serial-killer-friendly white tile. If Dexter went to Topps Tiles, this is what he would have picked. Overhead, Radio 3 played softly. The dogs were almost all in their beds snoozing or looking dejectedly at the walls. Perhaps they had all just been fed, or just come back from bouncy fun in a forest of kibble? I hoped so. I stared in at them through clear Hannibal-Lecter-style Plexiglas (little holes near the floor so they could sniff the outside people) and tried to keep an eye on all the exits.
“Sorry guys,” I whispered as the ambience finally got too much for me and I made a break for the reception again.
There I found out that the Doberman I had wanted to meet (who hadn’t been in the public area) was a neurotic mess and wouldn’t be right for me at all. I asked about some others, thinking maybe I could break one of them out. But no. The closest was an older Shar-Pei cross who had a list of medical conditions and only a handful of years left. It was heart breaking but I knew that financially I would struggle to pay for potential treatment (he wasn’t one of the dogs who get supported by the shelter after they leave) and that my heart wouldn’t cope with losing him after so short a time.
I know dogs die, but in ten years’ time my life will look quite different from the way it is now. In contrast, in a couple of years I will still be close to where I am now and that’s not a place that can cope with more loss.
A final possibility occurred to me and I asked about a little terrier that was listed on the website as a “special” dog. Turns out he bits the legs of any stranger he comes to. Ah. O–K.
It was a long drive back, and a lonely house awaited.
(Image: Alexas_Fotos, Pixabay.com)