Whether you believe in the concept of a “heartdog” or soulmate or not, the idea behind it is familiar with most dog owners alike; an intense, strong connection and bond with a dog like none other. That is what I have with Winry. Although now she is my Service Dog, she wasn’t always so. In fact, I didn’t adopt her as an SD prospect at all. I didn’t even know I could benefit from a Service Dog at this point. It was 2 years after my first dog had passed away and I was finally ready to take the step and bring a new dog into my life. The journey to find each other was rocky and many tears were cried until she was finally mine. This is our story.
It all started in the year 2012. I was ready for a new dog. Desperate for a new dog actually. We only had our cat at the time and were living with three roommates. When we first moved in, we agreed “No more animals.” So it was just Kye-Kye in the apartment, but they knew I wanted more. I talked about it a lot, but I also respected everyone’s wishes; though, it was just one roommate specifically that didn’t want a dog around. Our apartment did allow another animal, but I let it go. That was until… *enter yorkie puppy*
Oh yes, the roommate that was dead set on no other animals brought home a Yorkshire Terrier puppy without warning or discussion. Our lease would be up in just a few months anyway and I, for one, didn’t mind at all that he got a dog; however… I would get one too. I wouldn’t let anyone stop me now. I knew the time was right and I was ready. So I began my search. My previous dog, Buster, was a Golden Retriever, so I wanted something like him, but smaller. My search led me to a Duck Toller Retriever. I searched tirelessly for a breeder, but there were absolutely none in our area and shipping a puppy would be so expensive. Amongst digging for breeders, Petfinder.com popped up during my search. I had never heard of the site before, but I was trying to find a pet, so it sounded like it fit my needs. Boy, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into.
An endless sea of adoptable dogs of all shapes, sizes, age, and breed or mix all ready to go to a new home. Picture after picture, face after face, pleading for me to fill out an application and bring them into my life. It was then that I quickly decided I would rescue a dog instead of finding a breeder as...how could I not? There were so many. I was bound to find the perfect dog if simply..looked. I filtered my search as I did really want a puppy. I didn’t really have a breed in mind now either. The possibilities were seemingly never ending, so I just dove right in.
As I began my search, I oddly started to form this idea in my head of my perfect dog. Now, I truly don’t know where the image came from, but I saw a brown, fluffy puppy with a dark muzzle. With that in mind, I did start to search a bit more into German Shepherds, trying to find a dog with a similar appearance, but to no avail. I also was pretty dead set on a boy because Buster was a male and I thought that fit better with me. Puppy after puppy, I read each profile, examined each photo, and began putting in applications and contacting the shelter or rescue where each puppy was listed from. That’s when the heartbreak happened. Now, after working in a rescue, I understand. I understand how their systems would quickly deem me unworthy of a dog. I was in an apartment and I had no fenced yard, which to some shelters or rescues, was a no-go, so their application systems would nearly automatically deny me.
I was either denied because of my housing situation or the puppy I was trying for was already adopted. This went on for weeks. I started to think that maybe...maybe I was wrong. Maybe this wasn’t the right time. Maybe this was all a sign that I needed to just hold off and wait a few months and when our lease was up, we’d be moving into a new place. Then I found Augie. He was a tri colored Border Collie/Australian Shepherd mix and he was so perfect. He sounded like he would grow to the size I wanted and he was friendly and sweet, trainable, healthy, and ready to go right away. I filled out an application, then contacted the rescue. They said he was at a foster and the foster would reach out after they read my application. They said he was still available. My heart was so happy.
I still checked Petfinder though, always searching the pages, as I waited an email or call from Augie’s foster, but that’s when I saw my dream dog. The literal exact dog I saw in my head. Gracie. Brown, fluffy puppy, dark muzzle, but this one was female. I thought..oh well, I want a male, I fit better with males, and her profile said “Adoption Pending.” So while I was disappointed, I simply moved on, shocked that she somehow fit every check mark I wanted except being female, but she had a family lined up, so it wasn’t meant to be. At last, Augie’s foster contacts me. Yes, he is still available and it’s time to meet him! I was so excited and I waited outside as his foster brought him to our apartment so we could meet. A truck pulls up and out comes a man holding a sweet little puppy...who is most definitely not Augie. A precious hound pup, but not what I wanted. Perhaps if I hadn’t been so dead set on Augie, I could have fallen just as in love with this puppy, but at the time, my head was firing red flags.
I questioned him. I asked where Augie was and why he brought this puppy. He told me that Augie’s foster sent him over instead. He said Augie’s foster runs the foster program and since Augie had been adopted today by a family, he wanted to show me another puppy instead. I was so taken aback I actually stumbled. It felt like I had been shot. That was my puppy. At least it felt like he was. For weeks I thought of him as mine while his foster and I talked back and forth and finally set up a time to meet...why would he not tell me he was meeting another family first? I politely declined the puppy and the man told me the foster director would be in touch if other puppies fit what I was looking for, so he asked… “What are some key points you want.” On the verge of tears, I said simply, “I just want a fluffy puppy.” He smiled and said okay and carried the very short coated pup back to his truck and went on his way. I made my way slowly back inside and up our five flights of stairs into our apartment, went directly into our room, closed the door, and collapsed defeated on the bed, bursting into tears at the loss of a puppy I never even knew.
... to be continued ...
— The Wayfinder