by MD Maurice
a couple finds more than a canine companion.
|Word Count 1265
Seven months ago, my husband and I noticed Turk, our three year old Min Pin, growing depressed. Turk would plop himself on the couch and drop his small head down between his front paws. He would look at us with eyes that seemed to quiver with moisture. He ignored our pleading voices and the enticing toys and treats we proffered. Turk was lonely. We had to do something.
Turk needed a friend, of the four-legged variety. There were thousands of animals looking for homes, I was certain we could find the perfect match for our family. The vast array of canines available for adoption was staggering. We spent our days scrolling through pictures and descriptions. We had never been through the adoption process before. It was more difficult then we imagined. A great many of the dogs we initially liked were not local. We were nervous about transporting a dog all the way across country, only to find he was not a fit for our family. When we did locate a dog within driving distance, we were often too late. A suitable family had already adopted the animal. It was heartbreaking to get so close, only to find out our timing was off again and again.
It was my husband that first discovered Ricky. Described as a “loveable, Terrier/Shepard mix”, Ricky was a medium-sized, honey-colored, short hair mutt with an incredibly sweet face. He was house-broken and, we were delighted to find out, had just come in Connecticut from Tennessee. We sent in our application and a few days later, I received a call from Ruth, Ricky’s foster mom. She said our application had been approved and she asked if we would like to bring Turk to her home and meet Ricky. Excited, we loaded Turk into the car and made the forty minute drive. We arrived to a chorus of animated barking and several canine heads bobbed up in open windows as we made for the front door with Turk in tow.
Ruth invited us in. As Ricky regarded us from a safe distance, Ruth explained that Ricky had been found abandoned in a cemetery with his littermates. The women who had taken the puppies in had lost her home. She had managed to find forever homes for all the dogs but Ricky. Fearing Ricky would end up in a kill shelter down South, she contacted the rescue organization for adoption.
Far more interested in Turk, Ricky made passes by each of us, fixing his warm brown eyes on ours but dodging our outstretched hands. For both my husband and I, it was love at first sight. Ricky was nearly three times as big as our little guy, but was gentle and sweet beyond compare. When we let the dogs into the yard, he and Turk began racing about at breakneck speed, romping around despite the difference in their sizes. Turk was more playful and excited than we had ever seen. Ricky seemed intrigued by our small dog, and ran circles around him, barking and enticing chase after chase.
Ecstatic that our dogs had clicked, and confident that Ricky was just the right dog for us, we were disappointed to learn there were two other families being considered for his adoption. My heart was in my throat as Ruth explained that the rescue league had a policy to interview all prospective families. As part of the process, Ruth would take Ricky to visit each family in their homes next. After the visits, she would review her findings with the agency and they would select Ricky’s new family based on her recommendations.
Our home visit took place two days later. Turk met Ricky at the door. Ricky was less timid this time. At one point, he walked up and stared into my eyes as if he could see right inside me. His breathe was sweet on my face and I threw my arms around him, “I just love him!” I told Ruth, my throat thick. My husband, in an uncharacteristic display of emotion, bent down at the door and gave Ricky a warm embrace of his own; telling him how much he hoped he would be back.
We watched, stricken as Ruth led Ricky away. She promised to have her decision by mid-week and would let us know as soon as she could. We waited out the days, tense and worried. I contemplated what having a second dog would do to our lives and tried to come up with alternatives in case the news was not in our favor. I could not see our family going through this process again, not after so many disappointments.
Two days later, my cell phone rang. It was Ruth. Her voice was animated and I could tell she was all smiles on the other end as she delivered the good news. Ricky would be coming home with us! I kept jumping up and down, gushing tears of joy and relief.
Ricky came home for good three days later. He cautiously explored the house with Turk prancing along at his heels. That night Ricky followed Turk into bed with us. At almost fifty pounds, he took up a lot more space that our little guy, but neither one of us could send him to his crate. That first morning, I woke up to find the two dogs curled up along side each other in a pool of sunlight and my heart just swelled.
Adopting a rescue has been a wonderful and rewarding challenge. It has taught my husband and I valuable lessons about patience, understanding and unconditional love. The other night, my husband and I were curled up on the couch. Turk was snuggled in my lap and Ricky, who has since been dubbed Ricky Bobby, was sleeping soundly with his head and one big paw resting on my husband’s chest. We both looked down at Ricky’s sweet face, the dark liner around his beautiful eyes, and his soft, flopping ears, and felt eternally grateful. We had found much more than just a friend for Turk, we had found the heart of our little family.
Several years ago, we lost Ricky Bobby to an aggressive cancer. When it became clear he was suffering, we made the difficult decision to have him put to sleep. We stayed with him until he closed his beautiful eyes for the last time. There were no words for the heartbreak and loss we felt, watching our gentle giant slip away from us. He had been such a soulful and loving companion. He had known when to be the fierce protector and how to be gentle and patient with our growing toddler. I never imagined he life would be so brief, his time with us so abbreviated. We miss his sweet, handsome face. We miss the way he bounded into the new snow drifts with joyous abandon. We miss the way he could sneak on to the bed, curling his big body up tightly at the foot so he would not be noticed until the morning. I miss the way he laid his head on my expectant belly and how excited he had been when we had brought our baby girl home.
It is difficult to think about rescue again. Turk is older now and we need to think about what may be best for him in his twilight years. We all miss the presence of another, more active dog in our lives but it is daunting to think about and our sweet Ricky Bobby has left some very big, very special paw prints to fill.