For weeks, we'd been half-heartedly shopping animal shelter and rescue websites and quietly putting the word out. It was a little discouraging--we had specific parameters in mind and a dog run (and dog door) of a certain size. Small dogs are relatively harder to find; friends helpfully suggested out-of-state options.
Then, one morning on Facebook, there she was.
A mid-March post on the Little Rock Animal Village's social media page announced that a scruffy youngster with a hint of a charming underbite had arrived two days previously. The shelter featured the little dog, dubbed Catherine by the LRAV employee who found her near his home on Little Rock's Catherine Street, on local TV news, hoping she would be reclaimed by her family. If that didn't happen in a few days, she would be available for adoption on March 21.
We'd been trying to decide if we should adopt another dog, since we'd lost our spunky terriers Dublin and Audi within three months of each other and wanted to find a new companion for Dublin's nearly 15-year old sister Paris, who was initially bereft over the deaths of her housemates, but soon embraced her role as a grande dame. (Paris had her own bout of distressing health last summer. Our vet diagnosed anemia, and maybe something worse. But her medication works, and she's back to her cheerful healthy self.).
Something about Catherine touched me. So I emailed Friends of the Animal Village:
Hi, I'm interested in Animal Village's little dog Catherine, who was featured on your Facebook page recently. The post said she would be available for adoption on March 21. Can I meet her before that? Thanks for your guidance - Karen Martin
Within a half-hour came this reply:
Hi Karen, you can meet her from 10:30 a.m-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. If not reclaimed she will become available at 8 a.m. March 21. You can come as early as you like since it is first come, first served.
So I responded with:
Thanks so much! I'd like to introduce Catherine to my senior terrier Paris and see if they are OK with each other; is it permissible for me to bring Paris with me?
Yes it absolutely is. Bring your pup with you and the staff will be happy to help with the introduction.
My husband Philip was sent to LRAV on a reconnaissance mission the morning of March 17 to see if any of this might be worth pursuing. The staff escorted him into the area where adoptable dogs are contained, opened a door, and handed him a squirming, face-licking ball of fur.
He fell in love instantly. "She's so sweet," he said.
So that afternoon, we toted Paris along for a meet-and-greet in hopes that the dogs would get along (this is often trickier than you'd expect). Like Philip, I was seduced instantly by this energetic little typhoon, who apparently finds humans to her liking.
Paris looked wary, then the young one quieted down a bit and respectfully licked Paris' face. Paris accepted the adulation, and that closed the deal.
A decision was made: Catherine would need a new name (one of my best friends is named Catherine, which might lead to confusion) to go along with her new home.
A kind young man who brought the pup into the bright, airy indoor space where we were introduced (there's a fenced outdoor space that comes in handy for similar meetings) said we could begin the adoption process that day (lots of paperwork, and a fee of $90, which includes veterinary services of worm check, first vaccination, rabies inoculation, first antibiotics; spay or neuter, and heartworm check) but that the little dog would have to undergo a vet check and spaying on March 21 before we could take her.
"Come back between 4 and 5 p.m.," he said; she will likely be groggy from the anesthetic needed for spaying, but should be fine in 24-48 hours.
Should I call before coming? "If they said Tuesday, then she will be vetted, which would include the spay, and be ready to go," my online adviser said.
The shelter has a room filled with PetSmart-donated toys, harnesses, treats, leashes, and other doggish paraphernalia, free for the taking. There's even some chocolate for the two-leggers.
"On another note, if you take your paperwork to PetSmart and show them that you adopted, they will give you a coupon book good for a free bag of food and other discount coupons.
"If you have any concerns after y'all are home you can always contact the Village," she added. "Let us hear back, we love to hear how the animals are doing.
"Thank you for adopting her. She is really a cutie!!!!"
Tuesday afternoon dragged by, eventually drawing near our departure time of 4 p.m. Despite the advice of the LRAV volunteer, I called the shelter to make sure Catherine was OK and ready to come home.
That's not what happened. Stay tuned for the rest of the story, coming next week.
Karen Martin is senior editor of Perspective.