It's hard to believe that one of our best adventures began a year ago, give or take a week or two. We weren't there for the beginning, but somewhere around December 19th, a little black puppy was born. We'll never know if he was abandoned or if he was someone's pet but wandered off or if he was a stray from the beginning. We don't really know the story of him becoming un-stray, either. All we know is that during one of the most brutal, icy months in memory, he was found wandering on Curtis Road and someone either scooped him up and took him to the local animal control shelter or called for him to be collected. He would spend two months at the shelter, waiting.
Meanwhile, in the next county, MB and I were moving into our house, the timing of the purchase having been heavily influenced by MB's hope of adopting a dog. April, we said. By the end of April, we'd be settled enough and have enough money saved up to go out and find a dog. We cruised the local humane society's website more than we should've, and pointed out cute little black dogs to each other on Petfinder.com. We discussed several ideas for names, until one night one of us (I think it was me. I hope it was me.) suggested Indiana Bones, and that was the end of the debate. MB did research on training, on tricks, on discipline. I daydreamed about hikes and camping trips and a warm fuzzy belly to scritch on cold winter nights. And in the shelter, a little black dog's time was ticking away.
Luckily, blessedly, there is a group in the next county that takes dogs from the shelter when their time is up and tries to find homes for them. In April, they brought a group of dogs to Petsmart on a Sunday afternoon. We weren't in the store to find a puppy. We'd gone in to buy a pair of pet gates, with the idea that we'd put them up and give Kitters a few weeks to get used to them before we brought a dog into the house to further horrify him. But I saw the cages lined up along the side of the store, and knew it meant there were adoptable dogs in for the day. We hesitated, and almost didn't go look, and even when we did I told MB several times that I didn't want him to feel pressured by a cute face, that we needed to makes sure we were really, really sure about any dog we decided to bring home.
It was nearing the end of the day, and the two black puppies in one cage were tired of bouncing around, tired of fawning over all the squealing children and cooing adults. They were curled around each other napping when we saw them. My eye was caught by the girl, whose long fur reminded me of my mom's puppy, Maggie. MB, who was determined that we would have at least one short-haired pet, pointed firmly to the smaller short-haired black puppy. "I like that one." I liked him, too, so we asked the rescue group volunteer if we could take him for a short walk around the store. She must've been tired, too, but she chatted with us and told us what she knew about the puppy. We walked him around the store, encouraged by his happy demeanor and his friendliness toward other dogs and the people we met along the way. By the time we made a lap of the store, we were sure this was the puppy we wanted.
The rescue group was getting ready to pack up the dogs and cats they'd brought, so MB stayed at the store while I rushed to find an ATM and get cash to pay the adoption fee. When I got back, we filled out a form or two, got the information on how to register the puppy's microchip, and we bought a blank tag to run through the engraving machine. By the time we walked out the door with our new pet and all his gear, he had a for-real name: Indy.
He started as a mostly friendly, spunky little dog who snarled at us whenever we got near his food bowl. He had worms and giardia and needed a bath on the second day after meeting us. He had to eat pills and gross milky medicine that I could only get him to take by squirting it onto bread and adding peanut butter. He learned to shake and give high fives within six days of moving in with us. I went to Walmart at 11:00 one night to find a harness for him, because walking him in the morning was making my elbow ache all day long. We enrolled him in obedience school and then hoped he wouldn't get thrown out for being ridiculously sassy at every class.
The first time I gave Indy a tennis ball, he didn't know what to do with it. His first attempts at picking it up failed, though it was clear that he understood that he was supposed to play with it. For the first few months after we brought him home, I came home at lunch every day to let Indy out into the yard for half an hour or so. We worked on a few tricks, but mostly I just let him enjoy the grass and the birds and the fresh air. We went for a walk almost every morning, and I started looking forward to our early morning treks and our mid-day breaks together. His food-guarding behavior disappeared with training, and he managed to pass his obedience class with flying colors.
His list of tricks grew by the week, and he started enjoying regular playdates with his BFF Maggie and visits to Petsmart and the local pet store. We took him not quite swimming, we took him hiking. MB took him down to Kentucky to visit family, and we finally got to take him camping.
He's not always good. He has a bad habit of snitching shopping lists and mail and shoes and dirty socks. Sometimes he stinks, and sometimes he REALLY stinks. Mostly, though, he's a good dog. A great dog, even. He has taught me to appreciate the simple things in life, like cool crisp mornings and trips to the pet store. He has reminded me that it's a good idea to take time to enjoy the scenery, that life is less about where you're headed than where you are at this moment. He has made our lives richer, fuller, better. Happy, happy birthday to our little Solstice dog, our Christmas boy, our perfect Indiana Bones.
You're the best, buddy.
(a year of Indy on Flickr)