“What about going to the dog shelter today?” I asked Mai that Saturday morning. I feigned a spur-of-the-moment idea when in fact I had been browsing through adoption listings on the ‘Pets in Need’ web site for the past hour.
Among countless canine profiles with catchy phrases and doggy-style photos, I kept coming back to an American Eskimo named ‘Pebbles’. Picture a sled dog, only smaller and cuter. Pebbles stared at the camera like a deer caught in the headlights, but a few words drew me in: “Pebbles is very active, and will love going on long walks in nature with you.” I imagined forest hikes, camping trips, running on the beach. Could she be The One?
“Let’s take her home,” I said after a five-minute interview at the shelter. Mai’s jaw dropped. We had never seriously discussed getting a dog, and in her mind our trip to Pets In Need was just an initial look into the remote possibility of adopting a pet, someday. But the little white fur ball had won my heart.
Was it the way she trotted towards me and took refuge behind my legs? Was it the cuddly softness of her fluffy coat? Was it her cute little eyes begging me to take her away from the shelter? The poor thing had been captive since they found her wandering in the streets with a diamond-studded collar around her neck, but no name tag. I just did not imagine driving home without her. It may not have been love at first sight, but close.
The main obstacle was the handicapped kid.
He saw Pebbles right after we did, and begged his mom. “Please mommy, I’ll feed her, I’ll take care of her. I want her, I want her, I want her!” I might have used the exact same words. Convincing Mai, however, required more subtlety.
“Do you really want to take this dog away from a kid in a wheelchair?” she said.
“We can give her a better life,” I replied. “She needs outdoor activities. We have a backyard and we often go camping and hiking. I know she’ll be happier with us!”
Mai stared in disbelief, wondering which of us could be the most stubborn.
“Worst case,” I concluded, “if it doesn’t work out we can always bring her back.” Curtain. Applause for the award-winning performance.
Fate was on my side: the shelter only allows an adoption if all the household members are present for the interview, and the kid’s father was nowhere to be found. So we drove home with a twenty-pound fur ball, half of which stayed in the car and covered our MINI’s black interior with a thick coat of white fluffy hair. I named our new family member ‘Biela’ after the color white in Russian.
Over the next few months Biela dug holes in our backyard, ate Mai’s wedding shoes, and chewed a cell phone. Separation anxiety turned her into a Tasmanian devil whenever we left home. These days are long gone, but even at the peak of her mischief we never considered bringing her back.
This little dog brightens our lives.