Welcoming a New Addition

Note: This column was printed in the Barrow Journal on October 3, 2012.

A few weeks ago one of our beloved dogs died, and our other dog, Banjo, sat on our back deck looking pretty lonesome.  So we went in search for a new member of the family, and we finally found her: a 9-month-old sight hound mix that was starving and so skinny that the shelter named her “Skinny Minny.”

We thought she needed a better name, and something that represented her elegance and feistiness. We named her Kayla.

This was the first time all four of us were able to go looking for a new dog, and we especially wanted our six-year-old to be involved in every step.  We knew this would be the dog he would bond with and remember as “his dog” someday when he looked back on his youth.

We had specific requirements for this dog because Banjo is a smallish dog, and we wanted a dog of comparable size.  We also wanted a female because we’ve discovered from experience that having a boy and girl dog makes for better relations than two dogs of the same sex.  It was important that our young children could be able to handle the dog too.

So we took our time looking for just the right dog, but I have to tell you, folks, it wasn’t easy passing up all those dogs needing homes.  (The Barrow County Animal shelter is a tear-inducing, tragic place.  They had dozens of dogs and plenty of cats!  So please if you have a little room in your heart, home and wallet, think about saving an animal in need.  Their lives literally depend on it.)

This is Kayla the day after we got her…she was found wandering the streets and starving. At this point she had been in the shelter for a week and was starting to gain weight.

After looking online, we visited Kayla’s shelter to see another dog, but it was already gone.  This was lucky because while we were there, my six-year-old and I saw Kayla at the same time, and I knew in an instant she was the one.  She was quiet and all bones, but she looked kind and curious.

When a volunteer took her out of the cage, she was immediately affectionate with us.  Clearly she was starved. Someone had found her roaming the streets and brought her to the shelter.  They said she never barked, and one of the volunteers wrote on the website that she was his favorite dog at the shelter at that time.

There is a waiting period after a dog is brought in to the shelter in order to give the owner time to claim it, and Kayla still had a few days left.  We hated to leave her there, but we had no choice.

On the day we could pick her up, my boys were so excited, and we were happy they could be part of the process.  We even took them with us when we took her to the veterinarian for a check-up and also later, when she was a little healthier, to get her spayed.

Kayla has been with us for a few weeks now, and she’s made a place in each of our hearts, especially the six-year-old’s.  Every morning when he wakes up, he looks for her to say good morning, and after his school lessons, he wants to go outside and play with her.

Little did I know that this dog would be the “playmate” I have always longed for.  Both boys are spending more time outside, roaming our small patch of woods with the dogs and their imaginations.  They need me less, and it’s the life I have been dreaming of for them.

Banjo is also much happier.  He was not at first, and I’ll never forget his loathsome look when we first started letting Kayla join him in the backyard.  She made attempts to play with him, and he would growl through the side of his teeth and stare at us.  “Please take her back,” he seemed to say.

It was only five years ago when he was in Kayla’s place, trying to coax our older dog, Millie, to wrestle with him!  And Millie gave him a heck of a time – just as he gave Kayla a heck of a time.  Then one day we looked outside and saw he had a change of heart.  They’ve become pals.

I think he realized, after all, Kayla is quite a babe.  She is a very beautiful dog, especially now that she has gained weight and confidence, and she’s finally got her bark back.  She uses it mostly on Banjo whenever she’s feeling feisty and ready to romp.