Who rescued who?

I saw this sticker on a car the other day, and all I could think was, Amen.

We adopted our pooch from the Humane Society in January of 2003. She and her mom had been given up as a result of a divorce. From her paperwork, she had lived at a home with acreage about three hours north of where we lived. I'm not sure how she ended up in a shelter so far south.

We had been talking about getting a dog as soon as we had moved from renting an apartment to renting a house. We had broached the subject with our landlord when we first moved in in August of 2002, and he was noncommittally open to letting us get a dog. We got more serious about a dog around Christmas of '02, but hadn't brought up again with the landlord.

I had some time between shifts and decided to walk through the Humane Society. I saw our pooch (or more likely her mother) and the thing that especially caught my eye was that she was the only one that wasn't barking. We had an upstairs neighbor at the house who worked odd hours, so barking would be a real problem. I wasn't really looking to adopt that day, and was just kind of killing time, but I mentioned the dog to my wife and she dashed down during lunch the next day. And she put our name down to adopt her.

The Humane Society called our landlord before we did, but fortunately he was cool about it. We both went down to meet the pooch in a "meet and greet" pen where you can see them up close, pet them and maybe throw a ball. She was more drawn to J than I, but seemed friendly and non-skittish. When we said we'd adopt her, we found out more about her history.

She had been raised on the large property up north, and spent her days with other animals and the stay-at-home wife. She had actually been adopted out once since then, but the person kept her for only one day. Even though the pooch had never been crated, they put her in a crate the first night. Then when they went to work the next day, they locked her in the bathroom. The pooch, not used to being penned up or away from people for any length of time, tried to chew her way out. The people returned her the next day. Turns out we were lucky these people didn't know what they were doing.

We picked the pooch over the weekend so we would be able to spend some time with her in her new home. The Humane Society thought she had some separation anxiety issues (in addition to the crating problem) so we spent time easing her into things. One of us would leave for a half hour and not make a big deal of returning. We'd trade places, and then we'd both leave for a little while. By the time the weekend was over, she seemed to have adjusted to her knew home and new people.

Although the pooch was more drawn to J initially, she was soon following us both around. We bought our house in June of 2004, so she now had a fenced backyard all to her own (the rental yard wasn't fenced so she couldn't be outside by herself). As time went by she was a little more drawn to me, most likely because I would take her for more walks and toss the Frisbee in the backyard most nights after work.

When J asked for a divorce, and it came time to decide who would get the pooch, J offered her to me. I don't know what her motivation was, but I wasn't about to question it. We had been living apart for about six months at that point, and I have to say that having the pooch there at home was a life saver. J had moved out, but the house was not empty. I wasn't really alone. There was a happy face and bouncing enthusiasm at a time when I needed it the most. I could hear the sound of my own voice without feeling completely crazy. And she was someone that I had to take care of as well. And in taking care of her, I was taking care of myself.  She was someone to accept the love I had, and kept me from a complete tailspin.

There are therapy dogs trained for all manner of illness and disability, but I think that every dog is a bit of a therapy dog. They can be a salve to the soul, troubled or not. I won't be so dramatic to say that the pooch saved my life, but I don't want to imagine what life would have been like without her.

And she is still by my side, wagging her tail, as I figure out the next stage of my life.