If you haven’t figured it out from the first four parts, I love my dog and consider myself extremely blessed and lucky to have her in my life… hence, the title of this series. However, the day we got her and brought her home, I hit a few bumps along the way. Nothing serious and thankfully I did not take them as signs that I should not get this dog.
Now, although I had overcome my mixed emotions about getting a new dog (for the most part anyway), I was a little bit more apprehensive about the place we were picking her up from.
I understand that a wildlife rehabilitation center needs to be far back in the woods, but I had no idea that it was going to be back “backwoods.” This “center” was little more than a few shacks with moss covered roofs, and tarps draped from end to end with a giant RV that I would guess was not functional and a number of animal huts off to the side.
I wasn’t more than three steps away from our minivan before I plopped my foot right into a large pile of what I believed was animal feces, but honestly I can’t say for sure if that was the case. I dragged my foot through the dirt, gravel and grass while still grinning as I tried to follow Luna.
The deer had walked over to their salt licks, and the woman who owned the place was standing by my sister Alyssa as she pet the two does and a fawn. Seeing that, I made my way over there as well and I wasn’t two steps towards them before my other foot found its way into a another pile of foul smelling, and rather fresh poop.
Still, I soldiered on, dragging my feet. I think I was just in this state of euphoria after the sight of Luna had changed my mind, and I did not really care that how nasty my shoes became.
The family hung around for a while, and Alyssa and I were able to hold a raccoon and check out some of the other animals that she was taking care of, including a squirrel she kept in her garage and a dog that would have chewed off my face if she wasn’t chained up.
Her work was very admirable, though: taking care of fawns who had been left parentless because of hunting; deer and possum and raccoons who had been hit by cars, but managed to survive and other wild animals that had been injured or were ill. Still, it was a bit of an odd environment.
We were given a few more pointers that we had once again decided to ignore with silent looks and eye rolls. We were told that Luna had to be in the crate the entire ride home and we all showed our agreement with vigorous head nods and exclamations of “Oh, yes. Of course,” but as soon as we were out of sight, Luna was out of the crate.
There was an odd, almost unexplainable feeling of happiness in the van as we drove away and realized that little Luna was actually ours. We could tell immediately that Luna had an air about her, a certain je ne sais quoi. She was different from other dogs and, I know, all dog caretakers say that, but I really mean it. She was not your everyday, run-of-the-mill dog. And I think we all felt it.
Once we got onto the rural highway running through the forests of Michigan and were headed home, I thought Luna might be a bit thirsty. I poured some water into one of the bowls that we had bought the night before, when we spent close to a hundred dollars on dog related products with absolutely no hesitation. Luna was more tired than she was thirsty and turned her nose up at the water and closed her eyes.
Not knowing what to do with this full bowl of water that I now had sitting in my lap, I rolled down the window with the intention of just dumping it out. No problem. Right? Not so much.
We were moving at close to 60 mph and as soon as the bowl was out of the window, it was blown right out of my hand. I heard it hit the said of the minivan and both my Alyssa and my Mom turned around to look at me and I saw my Dad’s eyes on me in the rearview mirror.
“Yeah, uh, I just lost one of the dog’s bowls. We need to pull over,” I said with a great deal of hesitation and embarrassment in my voice.
So, my dad pulled the minivan to the side of the road and we began our search. Walking up and down the road, looking in the ditches and trying to find this metal and blue rubber bowl in the middle of wet leaves and tall grass. It should have stuck out like the proverbial sore thumb, but it wasn’t until about 10 minutes of searching until my Dad came ambling back to the van from about a half-mile away with the bowl dangling from his right hand.
The bowl was surprisingly durable, especially for one bought at a supermarket. I know that it is durable because I still pick it up a few times a day and see the scuffed up blue rubber ring on the bottom and the scratches on the sides and lip as I fill it up with water for Luna. I don’t think I’ll ever get rid of it. It is where our adventure began.
The rest of the ride was fairly calm. Luna did not whine once, which was amazing to me and a clear indication of just how much of an independent dog she would grow up to be. She felt so comfortable around us, that she even fell asleep on the middle console with her nose in the cup holder. Well, she may have been very tired, too.
I don’t think either Alyssa or myself ever took our eyes off of the little one. There were plenty of pictures snapped and videos taken during the ride home. I’m fairly certain I even have pictures of Luna’s first potty break.
We had stopped just before the Illinois border in Indiana to grab some food and to let Luna out. We had made a few stops previous to that in the hopes that she would go pee, but to no avail. Still, that is no explanation for why I got so excited when she finally peed this time. Maybe it was just because she was so cute, but I was just overcome with joy at that moment. I know that is slightly odd.
For as calm as she was on the ride home, Luna was running at the opposite end of the spectrum once we got home. She entered with some hesitation, but once she got her feet underneath her, Luna was running wild. She was snapping and biting and growling, but her tail was wagging the whole time because she was just ready to play. One thing was clear and that was that she did not know the strength of her jaw. Gentle mouthing quickly turned into a full on attack. There was no malicious intent behind it, but that didn’t make it hurt any less.
We quickly realized that this was a common thing with Luna. If she did not get out all of that pent up “puppy energy” during the day, she would turn into a terror at night. I used a variety of tactics to tire our little Luna. It began with playtime and then some roughhousing and wrestling.
From there we began to go on daily walks. Just around the block at first and then farther and farther. Eventually we began to run a bit at the end. It became a contest. I would see if I could run all the way home, I say “I” because Luna had absolutely no questions of stamina or strength. Each time I would try to start running a bit farther away from home.
Today we go on five-mile runs everyday. We stop every once and a while to sniff here or there and sometimes, that is all she wants to do. I call these “smell walks.” As much as I love to run, I don’t do it for me, and if Luna wants to check out every tree and sniff every blade of grass, I will let her do that.
It was perfect that she wanted to do all of those things, especially at the time when we brought her home. I was still reeling from Brandy’s death and the DUI certainly was not helping matters. On top of that was the fact that I was about three months out of college and still had absolutely no employment prospects on the horizon.
What Luna did was give me purpose. She gave me a reason to get up every morning and that was something I was going to need even more in the coming months.