It all started when I got caught up in the swirl of speculation surrounding the Obama puppy. A few days after reading Laurie's post about it
, I got to wondering how hard would it be to find a so-called hypoallergenic dog in a shelter. (To find out why I say 'so-called', check out this NPR piece
So I toddled off to PetFinder.com
to have a look-see. On the front page, they had a Happy Tail for Charlie, a 10-year old, blind, huge dog
who bore at least a passing resemblance to my beloved Kodiak. That got me thinking about older dogs and special needs dogs, so I did a search for older special needs dogs and came across Reno
, a 6 year old Great Dane in Findlay, Ohio.
My parents have been without a dog for about a year now. I know they both miss Kodiak terribly but I suspect they're relieved to no longer have the responsibility of his care. A big dog, especially a big old dog, is a lot of work. Even so, a tiny part of me has believed that if a Kodiak-esque dog found them, they'd open their hearts and home to him. I'd never push a dog on them, but I think Kodiak and they had a nice symbiotic relationship - they provided care and love, Kodiak provided company and a reason to go for long walks.
I sent my dad the link for Reno as a trial balloon. He agreed that it was a lovely dog, but gently made it clear that he was not in the market for a dog. Fair enough. But now my dog-seeking gene was activated and I began to idly troll the various rescue sites in Ireland. I didn't really expect to find anything of interest. Peter and I love big dogs, giant knock-over-the-postman-steal-food-off-the-counter-shock-passersby sorts of dogs. (Well, better behaved then to knock people over or steal food off the counter, but physically capable of it.)
As a rule, Irish dogs just aren't that big. Even the labradors over here are smaller and more barrel-like than US labradors. So I didn't expect to find a dog that would fit the size criteria. And even if I did, most rescue places here (even the SPCAs) require home visits, which Peter and I both find a bit intrusive. Sure, I understand why they do it, but I still find it unnecessarily intrusive.
But then I happened across Molly, whose owner's best guess was that she was a Wolfhound-Alsatian mix. Intriguing. When I got home, I showed the link to Peter, fully expecting him to say 'no'. That's how things work around here. I come up with wild, crazy, half-baked ideas and Peter has to be the grown-up and put the kibbosh on them.
This time, Peter said 'yeah, looks good to me, give him a call'. Now wait just a minute, I was counting on him to say no. Now that this second dog lark might become reality, I was overcome with apprehension. (Even when I initiate change, I still get a little freaked out and don't like it.) But I rang the guy, who was all the way on the opposite side of County Kerry, so logistics were going to be an issue. We made arrangements to meet half-way last Sunday, just for an introductory meeting between Toby and Molly.
For several days, my mind was a tumble dryer full of images of us with Molly. I was so excited to meet her. I loved the name Molly - there's so much you can do with it. Molly Malone. Good Golly Miss Molly. Mollified. Mollycoddle. How fast would Mollycoddle become Mollycuddle with all of the doggy-goodness that implies?
I'm the sort of person who likes to think things out, to picture the potential outcomes of a situation. I was thinking about meeting Molly, about what it would be like, about how we would know if she was the right dog for us. I asked Peter what he was looking for in a new dog. He turned the question back on me, claiming that I'd asked it in such a way that made clear I'd already given the matter a good bit of thought. I took a deep breath and answered with my heart. 'I'm looking for the reincarnation of Kodiak.' He nodded and said 'At least you're honest about it.'
After what felt like an eternity (but was only four or five days), Sunday rolled around. About an hour before we were meant to leave (and while I was at my football club's All-Ireland semi-final match), I found out that Molly had been hit by a car. She was okay but her paw was injured and she was having some discomfort moving around, so her owner wanted to see how she healed up before proceeding.
Disappointed doesn't begin to describe it, but it's a good starting point. I also began to have some doubts about Molly. Would her injury cause undo long-term trouble? She was already heading into middle-aged for a giant breed. How exactly did she get hit by a car? Was she a runner-offer?
Peter found the contact information for the Irish Wolfhound Club and sent them an email explaining that we were looking to adopt an adult dog. I was not convinced that this would come to anything because about a year ago, I emailed the Bernese Mountain Dog Club and got no response. (Which was frustrating because they post their website address in the classified section of newspapers, warning people to contact them first to learn about the breed and breeding lest you get taken by an unscrupulous breeder.)
But Peter was put in contact with a woman who does Irish Wolfhound rescue and she just happened to have a pair of two-year old, spayed females. (Everyone here quite happily calls girl dogs 'bitches', which I suppose is their proper name but it makes me as uncomfortable as when the blue tits
visit our garden and I want to tell Peter about it.)
We drove two-and-half hours out to the far fringe of County Tipperary to meet PND, Potential New Dog. We were met at the gate by the woman's husband, who briefly showed us the two wolfhounds for rehoming.
Then he invited us into the house, along with two of their eight (yes, EIGHT) wolfhounds. Peter and I greeted the woman, who quickly ushered us onto the couch because she told us that if we didn't sit fast, Liam, their oldest dog, would take over the entire couch. We sat and Liam wasn't long in crawling up onto the couch, making a spot for himself between us, and flopping down to sleep with his head in my lap.
I often said that Kodiak had no idea how big he was. I'm nearly positive that Liam knows exactly how big he is and just doesn't care. It was grand though - very calming and cozy. We talked to the people for a long while about wolfhounds and a trip they had to the US. Then it was time to go outside and introduce Toby to his potential sister.
Given that Toby is sometimes unreliable in his reactions to other dogs, it went swimmingly. The size difference factor intimidated Toby a little bit, but only not necessarily in a bad way. There was a little bit of romping, a lot of butt-sniffing, and a good bit of newspaper reading. (Which is what Peter's sister calls it when dogs sniff certain areas for a long time.)
On the drive there, Peter and I discussed how we would make a decision between the two dogs. With his typical pragmatism, he shrugged and said that we'd just pick one. The dogs looked nearly identical, although one had a white-tipped tail and the other was slightly larger, maybe an inch taller. We watched them frolicking with Toby and I noticed that the larger one was much more outgoing and pushy. She was quite forward with Toby and produced two little scuffles.
When the time came to make our decision, Peter seemed to be leaning toward the larger one, so I quickly pointed and said 'The one with the white-tipped tail.' Right after that, the larger one came over and put her head under my arm, nudging me for pets. I had a moment of doubt, wondering if it was her way of saying 'no, no, I'm the right dog.' But I realised that this was just part of her forwardness and we would be better off with the more laid-back dog.
Two-and-half hours in the car later, we were back home with Real New Dog (RND) and Toby. We also have a houseful of guests, since four of Peter's friends are visiting, so it's going to be a busy and interesting couple of days.
RND does not have a name yet. The name she came with is horrible (Lily Lady) and we haven't happened on the right name yet. We were calling her Sarah last night, because I had a dream a few weeks ago (before I started looking at dogs) about us having a Toby and a giant dog named Sarah. But everyone was calling her Sarah Palin, which will not do, and Peter mentioned late last night that the name feels weird to him to say it, which is how I'd been feeling about it as well.
We've also eliminated Molly, Maeve, Wheaton, Danada, Wrigley, Sky, and Sundance. Aisling and Pluto were both debated and filed under 'Maybe', but I'd say that if you don't love a name straight away, it's not the right one. Any suggestions will be carefully considered.