Part 2 - Finding MY Dog (if you missed it, here is Adopting a Dog, Part 1)
The first time I saw Katie, she was sitting at the door to the kennel. The sign on the door said her name was Charlotte. I thought about calling her Charlie, the female nickname for Charlotte, yet that wasn’t quite right. With red hair, she looked more like a Kate to me. She was dirty. Really dirty. She was matted and had an undercoat that needed to be combed out desperately. She had sad, suspicious eyes. I held my knuckle out to the kennel door and she growled a short, low warning. I walked on. That day I selected a small long haired mix and played around a bit and I left. My sprout was taking root.
The next time I visited the Cuyahoga County Animal Shelter I brought some dog grooming tools that were especially used for combing out mats and undercoat. I asked the staff to bring “Charlotte” to the visiting room. The first visit was on a Wednesday afternoon. They brought her in the room with me and left us alone to get acquainted. I called to her and she stayed put. I walked to her and she walked to the opposite side of the room. I offered a treat. She refused. I petted her head. She allowed me to pet her head. I tossed a rubber ball across the room and she looked at me like I was joking. . . like "What do you think I am? A Golden Retriever?" Bounce… bounce… roll… stop. I picked up the phone and called for her to be returned to the kennel. The dog officer came. “Charlotte” left willingly without looking back. I went home.
The following Saturday, I brought delectable treats, the same tools plus a brush. I felt like I was smuggling in a cake with a knife in it… bringing in contraband treats without permission. I was determined to at least get some eye contact. Charlotte was again brought to the visitor room and I tried again. I called, she stayed, I moved, she moved away. I played my trump card and pulled a delicious treat from my pocket and offered it to her. She made eye contact with me. And refused. I tossed the ball and she watched it roll by. I sighed. She sighed. She again went willingly with the staff back to her cell. Visiting day was over again.
The next Wednesday, having no new ideas, I just went in and sat down on the floor with my tote bag of supplies. Charlotte sat against the opposite wall and looked at me. I looked at her. She still had on the lead that she had on when she came into the room. I walked over, took the lead and sat down next to her. I started to comb. Brush, comb, pull, tug, comb. It was a never ending mass of dirt, sticks, burrs, thick, thick hair. I combed for at least an hour. I had a pile of undercoat the size of a bushel basket on the floor. I was only about ½ of the way there. It was a very satisfying hour.
On Saturday, I repeated the Wednesday visit. I was able to get more of the undercoat, another bushel or so… and she was putting up with me. She didn’t lay down comfortably, she didn’t lick my face. BUT her tail flipped once. One time. No wagging, no wiggling, no lickey face. The tail flipped once. One of the animal officers was walking by and looked at me and nodded. A little while later, another office came by, opened the door and said, “When are you ever going to take that dog home?” There was a lot to think about - I didn't know much about the process of adopting a dog. And I realized that the sprout had put down roots and was growing.
My seedling had gone from a Golden Retriever seed and turned into a little red Chow named Charlotte. She was beautiful to me and I was gobsmacked. I named her Katie, and I loaded her into the car to take her home.
On the way toward home, I wondered if people were looking at me. Wondering where I had found this specimen of canine beauty and how lucky I must feel. I felt so proud. We continued toward home. About 15 minutes from home we stopped at the farm where my friend was boarding her horse. I wanted her to see my beautiful new family member. I went into the barn and got my girlfriend, brought her to the car and opened the door, took the leash and let Katie hop out of the car. She jumped out, looked at me, shrugged her shoulders, slipped the harness and out of the restraint. We made eye contact. My eyes said, “Come”. Katie’s eyes said “I’m outta here”. She turned and ran away from me. She headed north on the side street across from the farm.
I didn’t know if I would see her again.
(next . . . the Search for Katie)
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