“We should probably get Kira a dog for her birthday.”
I knew my husband was speaking English, but the words could not have been any more confusing to me had he spoken a haphazard collection of Mandarin Chinese vowels.
Wait. A dog? Why? This is so random and… just random! Did you say “probably”? I don’t understand the “probably”. A dog? Like, a living dog? I’ve already shopped for her birthday gifts – THEY’RE ALL WRAPPED ALREADY. Her birthday is in three days. We’ve never discussed dogs. Well, not REALLY discussed dogs. Why are we now discussing dogs?
What I actually said out loud to Gary was something like, “Really? You think?”, because I’m articulate and quick on my feet like that.
Gary said he’d been thinking about it lately because Kira is turning ten, and ten seems like an age when kids can help care for a dog, and we’d often told her we’d think about a dog when she was old enough to take responsibility for it…
Which was all true. Also true was that when I’d said we’d “think” about it when she was older, I had actually meant we’d think more thoughts on it and no doubt decide we should not get a dog.
Then came the God-card: “It just seems like God made Kira with a deep love for animals, and I think we should honor that in her.”
Honestly, Kira had wanted a pet since she was old enough to talk. She’d wanted a dog for years, and we’d always put her off. Then when she started asking for a horse, we decided a hamster might be a good compromise. So we’d adopted hamster Zoe.
Though Zoe liked biting more than cuddling, Kira loved her fiercely. We even nursed Zoe through an upper respiratory infection, complete with vet visits and hamster-sized doses of antibiotics. Zoe survived the pneumonia, and several months later died peacefully in her sleep. Kira decorated a lovely hamster casket-box and we buried Zoe in the backyard with a solemn ceremony and a sweet prayer by Gary. Friends sent sympathy notes and one even brought flowers. All of the feels, man.
We’d spent a few months mourning Zoe, and then we adopted Mufasa. Mufasa was also deeply loved; an accomplished escape artist and a handsome, sturdy little hamster dude. And still going strong when Gary brought up the birthday dog idea.
Frankly, my plan was to keep adopting hamsters for Kira one at a time until she left for college.
But the birthday dog idea quickly took on life between me and Gary, and it truly did seem like God was prompting an addition to our family. Which meant we had to move fast. AND we immediately established some guidelines: no puppies; already house trained; medium or small size; no yippy barkers, and he or she had to enjoy cuddling with a ten-year-old girl named Kira.
Our first call was to the county Humane Society, and we arranged to go for a visit the next day with the ONE medium-size dog they had there at the time. The next day was a Saturday, so we were REALLY cutting it close for a Monday birthday surprise, but it felt like the right thing to do. And we didn’t know where else to go looking for non-puppy adoptions, anyway.
Saturday afternoon we arrived a little before opening time at the Humane Society, so we sat in our car praying some more over the dog decision in front of us. I remember praying specifically that God would open and close doors as He knew best, and lead us to the dog that would fit our family perfectly.
While we were praying, another car pulled up and the people went inside, because it was now past opening time. We followed the other people inside shortly after – only to see them disappearing into the visitation room with “our” dog.
They had first dibs on that cute little guy because they’d walked in first, while we sat in our car praying for God to open and close doors for us. Huh. Go figure.
The Shelter had no other medium size dogs, so we figured that was that. God must have another plan; we’d give Kira an IOU on her birthday and let her help choose her dog later.
Kira loved her birthday IOU, and soon after, she invited a friend to go with us looking for a dog to adopt. This time we went to the local Dog Pound, because there were still no small or medium size dogs at the Humane Society.
Now, unlike the Humane Society, the Dog Pound has all kinds of dogs that have been brought in off the streets, with unknown histories. The dogs aren’t really tested for temperament issues or medical issues or adoptability. So I was concerned about choosing a dog there, and praying again that God would open and close doors and lead us to a dog that fit us perfectly.
And that’s when Kira spotted soon-to-be-named-Cameron. Love at first sight. He was a beagle mix, friendly but not yippy/barky. Medium size. Handsome guy.
I kept praying, “God, if this is not the dog for us, please close this door.” And there was nothing. No fire alarms telling all of us to evacuate the building. No Dog Pound staff member telling me someone else had dibs on this dog. Nothing.
So Cameron walked to the car with us, and home we went. Well, first we had to stop at the pet store to load up on everything we needed. Which, we honestly had no idea what we needed. A flea shampoo seemed an obvious choice, though.
It was late afternoon now and Gary was working that evening. So the first order of business, the bath, fell to Kira and me. I’m not really sure how clean Cameron got in that bath, but Kira and I had a good swim workout. The Medium guy seemed to have a Large strength and an Extra Large mind of his own.
I heard faint alarm bells, but also had complete confidence that God had opened and closed doors, so we were good, right?
Then Cameron discovered leather chairs were better chew toys than the things purchased at the pet store. And little girls were easy to push around. And biting hands was fun, too. Peeing in the house after just being outside was also a favorite pastime. And howling.
Zach came home from football practice, and Cameron seemed a bit better behaved when interacting with Zach; he was calmer and seemed to “listen” to Zach. And we noticed the same when Gary came home later. Cameron seemed better all around when interacting with men.
Well huh. That’s not good when we really wanted a pup who would bond with Kira.
Then we all went to bed. And by “all” I mean all the humans in the house, and by “went to bed” I mean we all lay in our beds with pillows covering our faces trying to drown out the howling. Cameron was in a large crate with a soft bed, close enough to Kira to hear her breathing. But nothing stopped the howling except Gary laying on the cold floor right next to that crate, all night long.
On the floor. All. Night. Long.
When morning dawned, Kira announced that maybe Cameron wasn’t the right dog for us. “When he bites me, he doesn’t even comfort me afterward!” Oh, sweet girl.
Gary had been out for a morning walk already with Cameron, and again, Cameron was fairly well behaved when Gary was nearby. But with Kira’s words, we all admitted the same: Cameron needed to go back to the Pound. He was not the right dog for a ten-year-old girl. At least, not without some very intense training, which we just didn’t have the time or resources to invest.
They’d said we could “return” him if we discovered any health or behavior problems, because they don’t do any such screenings. So before Gary took him back to the Pound, we all sat on the floor in a circle with Cameron and prayed over him. We prayed he’d have a long and happy dog life with new owners who would fit him perfectly and love him forever. We took pictures. He panted and smiled. He nipped at Kira a few more times. We hugged him goodbye.
And off he went.