When Ari, our Jack Russell Terrier of 13 years passed in late May I told myself the last thing I wanted was another dog. It had been a rough year. She was the third pet we had lost (all of them elderly) and the second dog. The loss of our American Eskimo, Sprite, had been hard, but it was
nothing compared to Ari who had always cuddled with me at night and was one of my ‘girls’. Several people told me right away to bring another dog home, but I brushed them off. It felt like I would be betraying her somehow – and besides, I still had two dogs.
One is the second of the two girls, Miley, a terrier mix of 17 years. She’s completely blind and sleeps most of the day, and although I love her dearly she hasn’t been much of a companion for several years. In fact, the day Ari died was the first day I had been able to get her to sit in my lap in at least two. She never sits still when she is awake and being off the floor seems to make her nervous. The other, Boots, a Border Collie that was once my dad’s before he passed is sweet and loving, but she is devoted to my husband. For someone that had been used to having that needy, unconditional love waiting for you when you walked through the door it almost felt like no dog at all.
Then I caught myself ‘just looking’ on petfinder.com. I had said for years that the next dog I wanted was a water dog – either a Standard Poodle or a Portuguese Water Dog. I wanted a larger dog, nothing close to a Jack Russell, a sporting breed, and narrowed it down to those two because they don’t shed. I’ve always adopted or taken pets in that no longer had a home and so of course I planned on doing the same this time around. I told myself it would take forever to find one of these breeds through a rescue or at a shelter so I might as well do the research and start watching for one in my area. Never mind that I began to search for anything remotely close to what I wanted. I believe my eventual search was female, young (no puppies please), and medium to large sized, not at all specific.
This continued for about a week when I saw the face of Lilith at our county shelter. Eyes bright and looking up at the camera with a face something reminiscent of a Brittany and the body of an Australian Cattle Dog. It was a face I spent several days trying to get out of my mind, but finally allowed myself to move from Petfinder to the shelter’s website itself. I needed to know more about her and was shocked to find that she had been there for two months. That was enough for me, I had to meet her and was petrified by the thought that she could be put to sleep after being there for so long. (I didn’t find out until much later that the shelter is now one of the many no-kills throughout Utah).
I called, set up an appointment for her to meet Boots (Miley rarely leaves the house), and made my husband swear to me that he would not let me bring her home if he thought she would be too rambunctious around Miley. When we arrived it was easy to see why she was still at the shelter. A sensitive dog, Lilith was backed up against the wall of her kennel, frightened by the people standing outside of it and ‘grinning’ – a slight bare of her teeth without the sound of a growl.
Despite her initial impression we stayed long enough to take her outside away from the barking, yelping and confining cage. Outside she relaxed with her handler, but remained almost indifferent to us, there was no immediate joy, no head in the lap staring up at you with adoring eyes, but watching her fetch and run back and forth to her handler I somehow knew she needed to come home with us.
It took my husband a bit longer to warm to her – after all, it was his job to keep a steady head throughout the process – but once she met Boots (more indifference) he finally agreed to take her home.
I was asked by the staff, “Why her?”. It was difficult to answer, you can’t tell someone because you just know. I found out that she had been returned once for jumping (bringing her total amount of time in the shelter up to three months) and they were nervous about letting her go into a home that was not prepared for her activity level. I explained I wanted an active dog, one that was smart and could excel in obedience training and eventually agility. It wasn’t about a specific breed for me (who needs a dog that doesn’t shed?). Most of all, I didn’t bring dogs back, I wasn’t going to give up on her. Once an animal comes into your home it’s for life.
Before we reached home the two year old Australian Cattle Dog/Pointer Lilith was rechristened Luna, and had a new collar and shiny tag to prove it. The indifference towards me melted away as we rode together in the back seat, that “knowing” only intensifying. I commented that it was unbelievable that anyone had ever taken her back, and my husband stated the obvious, it was because she was waiting for us.
She had been waiting for my precious Ari to move on, for me to find her and for her to help me heal. Today Luna rarely leaves my side and every day I am more amazed at how much it feels like she’s always been a part of our family. It doesn’t make the loss of Ari any less painful, but it helps to know that if she was still here the two of them would have loved each other. In fact, I’ve often remarked that if Ari and Sprite had had puppies they would be Luna in personality.
I’ve also learned a lot since she came to live with us, first that the crazy jumping was real. She’s almost broken of it, but get her too excited and she’s jumping right in your face, mouth open. I had forgotten how much energy a young dog can have, but how much fun that energy can be. She keeps the whole house livelier. It’s clear she’s never lived with cats, and although she doesn’t chase them she still stares at them continually when they are in the room. Best of all, I hadn’t needed to worry about her with Miley, she came in knowing the unspoken rule of the household – Miley is the elder. They interact little, but whenever they are around each other Miley always gets a little submissive lick on the chin.
Luna is also the perfect dog to teach me basic training. It’s something I’ve never done in the past but she’s an excellent first time dog to run through it with. It never ceases to amaze me that when we are in class or simply out back running through the paces she turns into a working dog, completely focused and ready to please. Training has only strengthened that bond that formed between the two of us on that first day and I can’t imagine where it will take us.
Lisa (and Luna)