I have had dogs my entire adult life. Big hairy dogs, lean and mean dogs, a dog with one eye, a dog with three legs, and a dog with the IQ of a turnip, but all of my dogs have been adopted from a shelter.

He is the dog that will be tucked in my heart forever.

October is Dog Adoption Month, and I encourage you to think about adopting. If you are on the fence about getting a dog, or if you are poised to plunk down a giant down payment for a pedigree dog, please visit your local shelters first. Shelter dogs sometimes come with fuzzy backgrounds, nonexistent medical records and questionable lineage. They might be overly fearful, painfully shy, or just plain bonkers for a couple of weeks, but after a little work and patience on your part, they might be the love of your life.

Three of our adopted dogs stand out, in very DIFFERENT ways.

There was Sasha. Sasha was an Austrian Shepherd (and anyone who has had one of them has just pushed back from the table and said, “Oh man… buckle up”). That is why her previous family gave her up. She was a working dog, not a cuddling dog. Sasha was all business. She had a job, and she was going to do it. You want a dog to run with you for miles without a leash, she was your girl. You want a dog that would obey a sit/stay command forever, call on Sasha. Weave pole – pfff – she could do them with her eyes closed. Agility courses… kid’s stuff. But while Sasha had the obedience and house manners of royalty, Sasha liked no one but me. She was a one-owner dog. If I was standing, she would shadow me like a furry bodyguard. If I was sitting, she sat beside me like I was a mafia don and she was my soldier. She was there to serve and protect. I heard, “Your dog creeps me out,” more than once from our houseguests. She made them uncomfortable because she would sit beside me and just stare at them like she was drilling lasers into their soul. When Sasha went to the Great Weave Pole Park in the sky, it was like I had lost my great protector.

If you’ve always been a dog owner, I think you will agree that there is always a favorite dog somewhere in your life. For me, that dog is my McCoy. We adopted McCoy after he had been found with a collar so tightly embedded in his skin, it had to be surgically removed. After he recovered, he moved in with us, and he was wonderful. For the first few weeks, he crept around our house probably thinking, “If I am good, they won’t make me leave.” And he was so good. He was also patient and devoted, and he was a comfort.

He was in our lives when our children were little, and when I would get up for the nighttime feedings, I heard his toenails as he followed me from my bed to the crib… click click click click. He didn’t miss one feeding. He and I walked every morning, and when our day was done, he and I cuddled on the couch every night. He is the dog that will be tucked in my heart forever. I miss him and wish I had my McCoy back… but alas I don’t. We now have Cooper… (sigh).

Cooper, who we adopted from Peaceable Kingdom on Macarthur Road, came to us as a whopping 150 pounds and NO house manners. Prior to Peaceable Kingdom swooping in and rescuing him, he had lived his life chained to a concrete slab in the heart of a rough part of a city. So when he entered our house, it was like we had adopted a rodeo bull. He just crashed through everything. Since he’s so big, he would jump up and demolish any food that was left on the counter, I would find him passed out and lounging on the furniture like he was a fraternity brother, and the first night he jumped up on our bed, I woke up thinking a VW bug had fallen from the sky. But after time, patience (a lot of p-a-t-i-e-n-c-e) and love, we got those kinks worked out. Except for one. Cooper is either on or off. There is no idling with Cooper; there is no neutral.

He is either barking ferociously at things that he sees EVERY day or he’s zonked out. Every day, the mail truck throws him into frenzy, and then he has to take a nap. The UPS truck, same. He despises it then must nap. He levitates from hysteria when he sees a squirrel, a rabbit, trash cans, a jogger, a leaf falling, grass growing – you name it, and then he slips into a sleep coma.

He is a giant, furry, slobbery, stubborn mess. I have gone through 3 vacuums because of him. We spend heaps of money feeding the behemoth. And I have fallen on my rump more than once while walking him because when he sees a cat, he just takes off like the locomotive he is.

But when I see our daughter using him as a pillow when she reads or my son in the backyard playing catch with him, it makes it all worth it.

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