(Today marks the one-year anniversary of Maggie coming into our lives. This is how it came to pass.)
Two weeks back from a year ago tonight, I found myself with a couple Ambien and a bottle of wine in me, browsing Facebook. I was on another dimensional plane of impairment. Because my wife subscribes to every animal page on Facebook, one called Urgent Part 2 – Urgent Death Row Dogs came up. On it was featured an adorable pitbull puppy called Buster, set to be put down the following day. With my impulse control set to negative-zero, I put in a bid to foster him, and somehow remembered to follow up the next day. Buster had been placed already, but one Lynn Rogers (an untiringly dedicated volunteer who works with rescues) reached out to me and asked if I’d consider fostering another dog, Claire. Claire was 6, which made me worried about “adoptability” (i.e. that I’d be stuck with the dog), so I declined. Claire had a sister, and they were trying to place them both together. I don’t know what happened to them. I still think about them today.
Lynn reached out to me again a week later about fostering another dog, Maggie, who had been found dumped, mauled by other dogs, and was in the hospital fighting for her life. Maggie was a “more adoptable” 4 years-old, and had already been claimed by and adopter even; they just needed a temporary foster for a few days. Maggie would be in the hospital at least a week, if she survived. Still feeling very guilty about Claire, and the reality of this Maggie seeming pretty distant and fuzzy, I said I’d absolutely foster her. I’d buy her a new wardrobe. Hell, I’d send her to college.
A week later, Lynn reached out to me and said Maggie, who I’d entirely forgotten about, was ready to be released from the hospital, and needed to be picked up immediately because there was another dog coming in with “parvo”. I’m still not totally clear what that is, but Lynn made it sound like any dog within 50 ft of a parvo dog would burst into flames, so I agreed to pick Maggie up right after work. I hadn’t actually ever checked Maggie’s Facebook posting, so I clicked over to see what she was about. She didn’t look like much, frankly. Most of the postings have pics of the dogs with colorful bandannas and a playful expression. But it seemed that no one at the pound thought Maggie really stood any chance of getting placed, so they just snapped a mug shot of her, looking up blankly, with her tongue sticking halfway out her mouth. Hmm, pretty dull dog, I thought. Further evidence that I’m not much of a thinker.
It occurred to me then that I’d never run any of this by my wife. I dialed her up. It went like this:
Me: “Hey hon!” (This immediately puts my wife on alert.)
Wife: “What have you done?”
Me: “Nothing! I swear! Oh, hey, remember how we’d talked about fostering a dog?
Me: “Um, well, I’m going to pick one up now.”
Wife: “I’m so mad.”
Me: “It’s only for 3 days!”
Me: “Say something hon.”
Wife: (Through grit teeth) “There’s. Nothing. To. Say.”
Now, don’t misunderstand. My wife is a genuinely insane dog person. But she’s also sensubul, which as you see I can’t spell. In any case, she didn’t say no, so into a Zip Car I hopped and off to the vet I went.
When I got there I checked in and looked in anticipation towards the door Maggie would enter into my care through. The door swung open and out trotted… the shortest pitbull I’ve ever seen in my life. I actually had to look down. Well, she won’t be much trouble to handle, I thought, reinforcing that I’m not much of a thinker. Maggie was all smiles and wagging tongue and hurtled over to me (or, rather, into me) in a way I’ve seen her great other strangers countless times now. “Hi, I’m Maggie!” (sniff sniff) “OMG, I love you! Excuse me a minute, I’ve gotta go over here and love these other people!” Introduction made, I checked her out and drove her home, where she met the kid (love at first sight) and we waited for my wife, whose words to me on arriving home were, “I hate you. Can we keep her?” I had the gall to reply, “Well, you know, a dog is a lot of responsibility and blah blah blah” fooling absolutely no one, and somehow managing not to get slapped.
We immediately forgot about the “three day foster” and settled in to take care of Maggie until her adopter (recovering from surgery) was “fully healed”; “no need to rush the recovery!” we told the rescue. The early days with Maggie were… eye opening. She was still ill, and we stayed up with her the first night because her rate of respiration was about 250 breaths per minute. (We now understand that’s Maggie’s “normal” resting rate, but my wife, a nurse, was up with her stethoscope while I was on animal sites trying to discern where a dog’s lungs were.) Because Maggie had been recuperating, she wasn’t fixed, and was, in fact, in heat. Nor, it seemed, had she been housebroken. (We speculate now she’d been a fighting dog, and kept in a crate most of her life.) Our apartment that first month could fairly be described as the House of Fluids. I’ll spare you the many memorable anecdotes, but I learned that Maggie never stops smiling, even when she’s covered in everything you wish she wasn’t covered in. (Note: for anyone this might put off from adopting, the above is very atypical. Most rescue dogs are fixed, healthy, and housebroken.)
The fostering farce went on for about 3 months until one day my wife and I found ourselves dining outside, Maggie at our feet, and my wife remarked, offhandedly, “Well, of course, we’re keeping the dog.” “Oh, yes, rather,” I replied, pulling off an imaginary cigarette. The adopter was kind enough to relinquish her claim, and that’s how Maggie found her forever home, with us, one year ago. She’s not much of a lady, in fact her nickname is “Grunt Snort Fart”. We’ve made terrific progress with her, but describing her as spastic would be understating things. (My mom calls her “an enthusiast”.) She is, however, the most relentlessly happy creature on Earth, and now that she’s with us, life would seem grim without her.
To anyone thinking of adopting a dog, obviously, consider whether you’re logistically and financially capable of meeting the commitment, though, note, there are many lower-cost programs available, especially for pitbulls (only the best damn breed ever). But if you’re hesitating over whether the trade-off in freedom lost is worth it, I will tell you this: I haven’t had a bad 24 hrs since I adopted this dog. No matter how shit my day, when I arrive home, whatever the hour, Maggie’s tail starts twitching and I’m soon drowned in dog kisses. She can turn any dark day bright. That… is miraculous.