I'm working on the finished illustrations for a chapter book about a boy who's parents surprise him with a dog from the local shelter. The dog is not exactly what Zack was expecting...a full-grown dog that already comes with a name and without a pedigree. He was hoping more for a Golden Retriever puppy or a German Shepard that he could name himself. The book, which is published by Viking and comes out next Spring, is just an adorable story about how a dog can quickly ease his way into your life and heart, even if it's not exactly what you were hoping for.
If you've followed my posts for the last couple of weeks, you'll know that I lost my beautiful Airedale, Gracie, a month ago. The silence in the house has been deafening and I quickly knew that I was going to have to get another dog. But what? My last three dogs have been Airedales. I love the terriers, but they are quite a bit of work and as puppies they can really take a lot of time and attention. I wasn't sure I was ready to do puppy again and was thinking of all my options....another breed? A Hybrid? A rescue? Big dog....small dog?
The internet is a wonderful source when it comes to looking for a dog. All the breeders seem to have webpages now and Petfinders.com lists just about everydog that is being held in a shelter or a rescue organization. So I searched and searched and came up with my shortlist. Pound Puppy Rescue in Palo Alto was fostering a litter of puppies that were part Lab and part Basset Hound that would be ready in a couple of weeks. Interesting. And there was Artie who was a Wire-Haired Dachshund mix looking for a forever home, but he was in a foster home in Southern California and they really wanted to adopt the dog out to someone local.
And then I found a Portuguese Waterdog breeder in Carmel who was having puppies this last week and still had two puppies that were unspoken for. I was a little out of the box on this one...as I've never had a PWD and since the Obama family have one now, they are quite pricey. I came really close to signing the contract but then at the last minute, had that feeling in the pit of my stomach that I really wasn't ready to start over with a puppy, let alone a puppy of a breed that I knew nothing about except that they were very high energy. Hmmm...if I'm going to get a high-energy dog, maybe I should just stick with the breed that I know and love, the Airedale.
So on a Saturday night while surfing the internet, I came across the Northwest Airedale Terrier Rescue site and looked at several dogs that were available. There was a male that really caught my eye. He was two years old, a stray that was picked up by some road workers who had fed the dog their lunch the day before, and when he returned the next day, they loaded him up in their truck, took him to McDonald's for a Big Mac and then dropped him at the local shelter. He had no collar, no microchip and was 15 pounds underweight. And he looked like the spitting image of my dog Ernie, who passed away three years ago.
Ok, it can't hurt to fill out an application and get the ball rolling, right? Maybe this dog was the one, maybe not. But somehow this felt like the right thing to do. Rescue a dog in need and of a breed that I knew a lot about. Well, by Sunday morning, I had received a phone call from Connie Turner, who runs NWATR and places over 100 Airedales every year. I made my plans to drive to Oregon to check out this dog.
Enter Mack. A very well-behaved, underweight, grateful, fun-loving Airedale. After the road-workers dropped him off at the shelter, and all attempts to find his owners failed, Mack was delivered to Airedale Rescue who neutered, vaccinated, microchiped and placed him in a bording facility until he found his forever home...mine! I picked Mack up last weekend in Salem, Oregon, which is 650 miles from my home in Northern California. Trust me, I had plenty of time to think and rethink what I was doing during the 12 hour drive up there, but in my gut it felt right.
And so far so good. This dog is smart, easily trainable because he is so food motivated, and loves kids, adults and other dogs. We are working on a minor chewing issue....but a Kong stuffed with dog cookies seems to help. He is still puppy, but in a very big body. He loves his walks and playtime, but also likes to just hang with me. He's a great sleeper (on my bed of course) and let's me take a shower and get dressed before he even cracks an eyelid in the morning. He has eased into my life and my heart and I feel very lucky. I hope he feels the same.