I began looking for a dog at the beginning of 2015. For about a year, I’d planned for the moment I began my search. I moved off campus and into a dog-friendly apartment. I calculated and budgeted the expenses of caring for a dog. I won over my parents. All of those things seemed so difficult, and I was so proud to have done them. Unfortunately, the most difficult part was yet to come.
I quickly realized that getting a dog in the urban setting of Philadelphia was much different than what I had experienced many years earlier in rural South Jersey. All of the dogs my family ever owned were simply given to us. Save for one, a mutt named Chewie who I grew up with after his mother “met” the dog next door, we got all of our dogs from friends who had puppies or as strays dropped off at our house. Chewie’s birth was an even greater marker of my rural upbringing—spaying and neutering wasn’t, and still really isn’t, the norm back home.
My very first dog, Tashi, was no different (Chewie was technically my brother’s dog). After my mom told my dance teacher that we were looking for a small adult dog, Mrs. Lisa called a few weeks later to tell us she’d found one. My mom went up to the police department where my dance teacher worked full-time and brought Tashi home that day. That was my last day of first grade, and I’d begged my parents for a dog that entire year—just as I would 15 years later.
That’s why I was so surprised by what I went through to adopt a dog in 2015. I’d never filled out an adoption application for any dog, let alone been rejected. In fact, my search for a dog was long and marked by rejection. Shelter after shelter declined each application for what I thought was the dog of my dreams. I spent countless hours sifting through Petfinder and Adopt-a-Pet search engines, providing contacts for references, and answering the same application questions again and again. But in hindsight, the journey that lead me to my new friend and companion was much easier than what he experienced himself.
While I was sitting behind a desk at my dead-end college internship warm and safe, there was a dog struggling on the city streets freezing, scared, and alone.
Once he was pulled from the street, the then nameless dog found little respite at the shelter; stressed and frightened, he was presumed to have been hit by a car and marked for euthanasia. His saving grace was a local rescue organization that pulled him from the shelter to foster and place him for adoption. That included creating his Petfinder profile, where I first saw him.
I’d say applying for the sad-eyed dog in the crate was an impulse if I hadn’t had to fill out a ten page application for him. But in reality, I didn’t expect to be approved. I actually had reservations about adopting him on account of one major factor: his breed. Listed as a Yorkshire terrier, the little dog had an unsettling resemblence to my childhood pet, Tashi.
Whenever I showed anybody Dipper’s picture, their first reaction was always, “That looks just like Tashi.”
Tashi died not long before I left for college. To be exact, it was the day after I graduated from high school. Seeing Dipper, a dog that looked so much like my best friend of so many years, stirred in me feelings of longing and sadness.
When I thought about getting a dog, I fantasized about the perfect meeting with my new best friend. He’d be there at the shelter sad and alone, but as soon as he saw me, and I saw him, we’d know we belonged together.
That wasn’t what happened with the dog that would become Dipper.