Puppy breath. We could barely wait for it. A Weimaraner, a Golden Retriever, a German Short Haired Pointer. We tossed breeds and breeders around for six months. Weighed the pros and cons. Debated if the time was right with our unpredictable schedules. We wanted a puppy to love. A young, tiny thing to raise and snuggle and yes, even potty train.
And then we met Loo.
On a gray, unseasonably warm Sunday at the end of January. Both dog lovers, in need of a fix... We wound through stalls at the shelter, kneeling to love on each one. Saying their names in our baby-talk voices. Wiggling our fingers through the chain link fence, even though the signs say not to.
She was tucked on the far outside corner. We sauntered down her row, past some rather vocal dogs... a cripplingly shy dog... an enormous dog named Brutus. And there she was. With a look on her face that almost read, "where have you been all my life?"
Her fishhook tail shook back and forth with a voracity that suggested we had pockets stuffed with treats. (We didn't.) She pressed her wet, black nose against my palm. Danced in circles as we called her name.... Loo. Short for "Love," said the laminated note on her kennel. Her markings - feet and tail dipped in white, like she'd scurried through wet paint; and a similarly white arrowhead that stretched from her forehead to her snout. Her ears - perky, both standing at full attention until something caught her attention; then one would fold in half, cocked back in earnest, as if she too wanted to understand.
She had to be ours. We knew it. (We'd figure out the logistics - like how to install a doggy door... and who would sit her when our seasons overlapped - later.) But when we asked about adoption, the volunteer said it'd be another week or so before she was ready. We shrugged.
"Call back then."
So we did.
To the tune of, "she's already been adopted."
Crushed, we moped for a few weeks. How did she slip out from right out underneath us? Would her new family love her as much as we would've? (Not possible, we reasoned.) And then we revisited our "puppy" conversation. Scoured the web and paper and Craigslist for spring litters. Nothing jived. Nothing felt right. And truly, a little piece of my heart was still tied up in that silly, sweet-spirited, strawberry blonde Carolina dog from the shelter.
So much so that I quietly checked the APA website every couple days. A morning ritual of sorts. A cup of coffee, fingers crossed.
Upon my second sip four Saturdays ago.... I leaped up with the laptop.
"Is this her?! Is she back?!"
"I'll be damned."
Frantic, I banged out an email to Austin Pets Alive. "WE WANT HER." Worried that every precious second in between was a chance she'd be spoken for.
Refresh, refresh. I checked my inbox incessantly, waiting to hear of her status.
"This has to be a sign..."
"Don't get your hopes up..."
She was available. Currently in a foster home. And would we like to meet her tomorrow? Turns out, Loo had been a busy girl. Pregnant, birthing and nursing six squirmy pups since we'd seen her. (Unbeknownst to us.) Now her babies had been spoken for, and she was ready to find a home.
We sped south down the interstate the next morning, chatting of dog beds and obedience techniques... (Who will be the softy? Who will be the strict one?)... arriving 20 minutes early to our "meet and greet"... like two antsy kids on Christmas morning. Her foster mom showed us pictures of her babies, a video of her solving a treat puzzle ("She's brilliant!") ... Filling in the blanks since we'd last seen her.
But I wasn't fully attune. Instead, my eyes were on this dog, whose eyes were on a squirrel... and then a bird... and then me. She came in for a hug, tiptoeing on her hind legs, all 32.5 muscly pounds.
"Gotcha, Sweet Loo. Finally."