In January of 2011, I had hip surgery number six. Two months later I was still home recovering/slowly losing my mind from boredom. Somewhere in this span of time, I was able to convince Vin that we should adopt a dog. Our friends Rach and Rob (of Team Hips fame) had just rescued a sweet Beagle/Lab mix, Mac, and the longs days of PT and pain management had me yearning for a pup of my own to keep me company. In retrospect, this was an absolutely insane time to bring home a new family member, but with Vin’s unending patience (with the both of us) we made it work.
I started Googling rescue organizations and scoured Petfinder for a medium sized mutt that would be well suited for apartment living, but it quickly became apparent that adopting a dog while renting (most rescue groups prefer that adopters own their own homes) was virtually impossible. In the meantime, Vin decided that if we were going to adopt a dog, he wanted to adopt a Lab like his childhood dog, Princess. We reached out to our colleague and friend, Joanne who had just rescued a lab of her own through the now defunct Adopt-A-Lab.
Joanne, being one of the kindest people I’ve ever known, immediately reached out to them with a letter of recommendation on our behalf. That letter was enough to skip a home visit and put us at the top of the application pile. Within a day a volunteer named, Wendy contacted me to do an informal phone interview in order to match us with our perfect pup. We ended up talking for almost two hours. The emotional toll of surgery had me a little fragile, and I shared with her about my RA and my recent surgeries. We agreed that I needed a pup with a nurturing soul who would stick by my side on my toughest days. As we closed our call, Wendy told me that she would start looking for a potential match, but that I should keep my eye on their website and email her about any dogs we were interested in. A day later I emailed her about a pup with sad but sweet eyes named, “Mandy”.
I always thought we would end up with a yellow or black lab, but I couldn’t get sweet, Mandy, a Chocolate Lab, out of my head. Almost immediately Wendy called me. As my email came in she was in the process of writing me an email too… About Mandy. On the phone, she kept saying “There’s just something about her, Anna. I really think this is your girl”. Unfortunately, other people thought she was their girl too, and Wendy told me that with the amount of applications they had pouring in we had to make a decision – fast. I emailed Vin as soon as I hung up the phone, and for the next few hours, I sat there refreshing my inbox for his reply. Finally, in the absence of his approval, I called Wendy back and told her “We’ll take her”.
We had to wait an excruciating twelve days before she was transported to New England from Indiana. During this time I pitched dozens of names to Vin before we narrowed it down to “Harper” or “Penny”. I bounced back and forth between the two, but Vin never wavered from Penny. The future “Wonder Pup” had a name. On adoption day, Penny came bounding off of the transport (in true Wonder Pup fashion) and dragged Vin across the parking lot as if she was looking for the car that would take her to her forever home. I climbed in the backseat with her and we drove the almost two hours from Connecticut back to Somerville.
When we got her home and bathed her of the yucky rescue facility/transport smell, I was struck by how skinny she was. It was evident that even her time at AAL couldn’t erase the past mistreatment she had endured. While Vin did the majority of the heavy lifting during that first bath, I just kept rubbing her ears and telling her “It’s OK, baby girl. You’re home now”.
Penny was two years old when we adopted her, and, like most rescue pups, she came with a good amount of baggage. The first year was
challenging for all three of us as we worked on leash training, basic commands, manners, separation anxiety, (failed) crate training and habitual counter surfing. I have learned to redefine the meaning of the word “edible” when Penny proofing the house before leaving for a few hours. Lest I ever forget, today she ate a bar of soap as a reminder. But somewhere along the way we became a family. Four years later Penny remains the nucleus of our little family – the happiest, goofiest pup you’ve ever met, and my unofficial therapy dog.