“Honey, don’t be mad…”
Not exactly the first thing I want to hear out of my wife’s mouth when I get home. But I pause, take a deep breath, and prepare for what comes next. In a household with two teenaged boys, the possibilities are endless. And downright chilling.
“I signed us up for something,” she continues. “I hope you don’t mind. Look at this face. His name is Baxley and he needs a foster home while he waits to be adopted.”
She shows me a photo, professional looking, of a black dog with floppy ears, a muzzle speckled with white, and a regal stance. He looks, at the very least, well-behaved.
As I find out more details (pick up involves getting up at the crack of dawn to drive to Connecticut in the frigid December weather, for example), I start to relax. This is certainly way better than any of the thousand imaginary troubles I had pictured our sons getting into!
My wife knows I am just as much of a sucker for an animal in need as she is. After all, we already have two rescue dogs: Blue, a purebred Weimaraner with a sketchy past and a tendency to bite, who was given up by his previous owners and ended up with us rather than a shelter; and Cooper, a Puerto Rican stray mutt with a glitchy neuronal connection that occasionally causes him to spaz out and be afraid of everything from our kids’ voices to a falling leaf.
The day comes and off we go to Connecticut, where a van from a rescue organization in Tennessee drops off about a dozen dogs into the arms of the waiting fosters and adopters. Baxley bounds right up to us, perfectly happy and without a hint of care about his undoubtedly traumatic past growing up tied to a fence somewhere in Alabama.
After a quick vet check onsite, he is cleared to go home with us. He hops right into the back seat of our car, and, after a brief attempt at some inappropriate humping, promptly lets out a huge sigh, and falls soundly asleep with his head on my wife’s lap.
Back at home, it takes a while to make proper introductions to our other dogs. Cooper is happy with his new friend after a walk together. Blue is much slower to warm up and wants to eat Baxley every chance he gets. Lots of separation, gates, crates, and doors keep everyone safe.
Baxley walks in like he’s lived here his whole life. He has, in actuality, never been inside a home before. The first thing he sees is our Christmas tree and, excited at this conveniently located indoor bathroom, marches up to it and pees on it. Now he’s home!
A couple of weeks go by, and we hear from the rescue that an adopter has been found. My wife spends a lot of time talking to the adopter, she even put together a formal report on Baxley, and explained that, especially compared to our other two troubled canine individuals, Baxley is the perfect dog: friendly, happy, relaxed, sweet, cuddly, able to be left alone without causing any problems, and, once the admittedly confusing Christmas tree issue was clarified, fully housebroken.
We meet the adopter and she seems sweet and devoted and obviously will spoil Baxley rotten. After many tears, off goes Baxley to his new home.
The very next day, my wife receives a call from the adopter: “This dog is the devil. He has destroyed my house. He won’t stop barking. He refuses to go potty outside.” My wife tries to talk the adopter down, and gives her advice regarding some basic dog training techniques. They discuss transitions, giving the dog time, being consistent, all the usual stuff.
We felt a bit badly, as if we had deceived this poor lady, but really, Baxley was the best dog in the world during his few weeks with us!
A few more days go by and the adopter decides this is not going to work out. She wants to give Baxley back. Initially, we balk at taking him back. It was difficult to keep him and Blue separated, and there is still no love lost between them. But, reluctantly, we take him back…temporarily. Or so we told ourselves.
The day comes when we have to pick him up. We meet the failed adopter at a restaurant parking lot and as soon as we get out of the car Baxley sees us, slips out of his leash, runs full-speed across the parking lot, and quite literally leaps into my arms and starts licking my face. We get him into the car and once again, he takes a big sigh and falls asleep on my wife’s lap (this time without the humping.)
Once back home, Baxley is again the perfect dog. A few days go by and eventually, very, very slowly, he and Blue even become friends. Baxley has taken to sleeping in our bed, and his favorite way to fall asleep is with his paw right on my chest, as if he wants to touch my heart. Little does he know how much he has already done just that.
I don’t need to tell you how the story ends. It will be two years this January since we officially adopted Baxley to be a permanent member of our pack. Baxley picked us as his family the very first minute he met us. It just took us a little longer to realize he was right.