About a year ago I said something to the SO in passing, like “Wouldn’t it suck if both of the dogs went at around the same time?”. Nothing like having a freaking premonition. I told him at the time that I knew I’d want to go get another dog immediately, not to replace either of our boys (because that’s not possible) but because I thought that having a dogless house would be the final heartbreak that I’d never come back from. Dogs just bring a certain unique joy to a house, and as someone who is naturally broody, introverted, and tends to want to isolate from everyone, I really need a dog to help balance that. Stewie always helped make sure I never sunk down too far, but I knew that if I went too long without a dog I’d inevitably end up spiraling.
SO was kind of against the idea. We lost his heart dog two years ago and he just hasn’t really been interested in another dog since. He suggested we take a break from dogs for a while, especially since there at the end with both Quinn and Stewie I was basically running an around-the-clock dog hospice. I don’t think I got a full nights sleep for those last 4 months at all. But also I really like to feel needed, and useful, and having something to do and/or focus on helps me cope with grief. I didn’t want a break, I wanted something else to pour my energy into.
So this past weekend we went to the Austin shelter, just to see what they had. Naturally I’m not one to go in without a plan so I’d looked through all the dogs online in advance and made a list of all of the promising looking ones and their kennel numbers. Otherwise it would take us 6 hours and I’d want 50 dogs by the time we looked at all of them. Had to narrow it down a bit in advance. My list had about 20 dogs that fit our criteria: 2 years or under (after 3 seniors in a row I need a break), 40-60 pounds, friendly and spunky, and unlikely to try to murder the cats. We got there and walked around to see all the ones on the list, crossing off some and then putting a star next to the ones we wanted to take out and see one-on-one. Both SO and I were immediately drawn to a particular smaller (40lb) black dog who was just curled up in a ball in her kennel looking like the saddest thing in the world. She looked at us but didn’t even lift her head. She looked absolutely heartbroken, and as someone who was also currently very heartbroken, I think like recognized like. I stood there and stared at her for a while before putting two stars by her name, Mona, and off we went in search of a volunteer so we could start meeting the dogs we had liked most.
First we got out a cute little heeler mix who was very sweet and chill but maybe not quite the right dog for us. Then it was on to a husky mix, who we LOVED, but again maybe not the best fit. Then when we were walking back the other way I looked out at one of the playgroups in the yard and said “I think that little hunched over black one is Mona”. We stood there and watched for a while as she slunked around the perimeter of the yard, looking really overwhelmed, before finding someone to ask and confirming that it was indeed her. Her kennel notes said she was “shy, timid, afraid, move slowly around her”. We asked if we could take her out by herself, they handed her over, and off we went to a solo pen. She immediately stood up a little straighter but as soon as the dogs in the kennels next to us started barking she looked worried again. She alternated between wanting to sit on our laps and wanting to pace anxiously. To us she just looked super overwhelmed by the shelter environment, really confused as to why she was there, and kind of shellshocked in general. After we handed Mona back to the volunteer the SO and I looked at each other and I said “do you even want to go see the other one or should we just get Mona?”. We both turned on our heels and made a beeline for the office to start the paperwork. I don’t know what it was about her but that dog had tugged on both of our heartstrings.
Once we got to the office they pulled all the paperwork they had in her file, which included 2 pages of intake notes. Turns out that she was actually closer to 4, not 2, and she had originally been adopted out of the very same animal shelter as a puppy in 2018. Her owners had brought her back about a week before, saying that they were moving somewhere that didn’t allow dogs. My heart really broke for her then. It explained a lot about her attitude and why she seemed so upset and worried. From what they had put on the intake form it seemed like she had been a part of the family at least enough to sleep in their bed and for them to put notes about how she didn’t like the vacuum cleaner and kids made her nervous (me too, girl, me too). I don’t know what happened to make them have to bring her back, but I knew we couldn’t leave her there. I can’t imagine how stressed she was at being returned to the shelter after 3 years of having a family. Plus being a shy timid black adult dog in a shelter didn’t really bode well for her getting adopted anytime soon. Looking over her paperwork SO said “Are you sure? She’s older than we wanted.”. I was like “We aren’t leaving here without that dog”, to which he wholeheartedly agreed, so the paperwork was done, we changed her name from Mona to Mina, and tada – she was free.
She started to come out of her shell from pretty much the moment she got in the car. She stood up straighter, looked out the windows, but still sat quietly and politely in the back. When we got her home she explored the house from top to bottom, cozied in next to me on the couch, and heaved out a big sigh. Poor thing, I don’t think she’d relaxed in a week.
I have to admit, that first day I wasn’t quite sure if I’d made the right choice to get another dog so soon. My heart still hurt so badly from losing Stewie, and I questioned whether or not I was even capable of loving another one. I think Mina could tell, because every time I was crying she’d snuggle up next to me and just sit quietly. Again, like recognizes like. Other times she would come up and smash her body into mine as close as she could possibly get and just sit there, like she needed to feel loved and safe. She was mourning too, I think. I found myself wondering who her former people were, what her life was like, and what their story was. If only dogs could talk.
Over the course of the week things have settled in. I no longer question whether or not adopting her was the right thing – I know it was – and she’s already wormed her way into my heart for sure. While she’s definitely a submissive type of dog, she’s extremely sweet and smart and loves to play. It’s also nice having a dog that was already house trained and knows the basics, it was a pretty easy transition. She seems to have figured out that I’m her new person and sticks close to me anytime we’re outside. Well, okay, she sticks close to me all the time. I think she needs the reassurance, but every day she’s looking more and more relaxed in her new life. When I leave the tiny house to go up to the barn she sits on the couch with her nose pressed to the window and watches until I come back. It’s pretty freakin cute.
Mina met the horses over the fence – she’s def got a healthy respect for their size, but she wagged her tail at them. She had pretty much the same response to the cats, who wanted nothing to do with her (yet, because cats). Overall she’s just a very sweet dog that wants nothing more than to be loved and included. There’s not a mean bone in her body whatsover, and yes she’s a little shy but she’s also very friendly. She loves to chase the ball around in the front yard, and practice her zoomies. We aren’t sure what breed she is (her shelter form said lab, lol, my guess is there’s some pit in there but we need to do a DNA test I guess) but it doesn’t matter. Turns out she’s the pretty perfect size for the tiny house, too. Big enough but not too big.
Her personality is much different from Stewie or Quinn, and while at first I wasn’t sure about it (I tend to like my dogs how I like my horses – boisterous, cheeky, and derpy), now I think it’s for the best. It makes her very much her own unique dog, with very few comparisons to draw between any of them, and I definitely don’t feel like I tried to replace Stewie or anything like that.
Most of all I feel like Stewie would approve. It’s nice to be able to give a dog a home, especially one as sweet as Mina, and you can already tell how grateful she is. My heart is bruised and battered for sure, and Mina’s probably is too, but maybe we can help each other put them back together again.
Welcome home, Mina.