Our trip was never supposed to bring about anything permanent. In fact, it was the half-baked ramblings of a couple of teenagers hoping to kill two birds with one stone by getting out of the house and hanging out with each other.
It is a sweltering Saturday in June when Jacob and I hop into his red Toyota, lacking a plan with any sort of direction. We end up at the county animal shelter – just a hop, skip, and an overpass from my gated community. We have talked about it before: visiting a local shelter so we can play with all the different animals there. I am so excited we are finally doing it that his car is still rolling to a stop when I jump out of it.
By the time I take my first step into the building, the skin under my arms has become clammy and tendrils of brown hair stick to the slick nape of my neck. The inside is hardly any better. The air conditioning does little to combat the heat created by all the bodies – human and animal alike. Still, my excitement remains and my whole body seems to vibrate, especially when they point us in the direction of the animals.
A short walk under a portico takes us to the first room full of adoptable pets. It’s a simple building: beige, cement-block walls and green speckled flooring which sloped down toward drains. The central air-conditioning unit of the main building is lacking but they have large, industrial fans bolted to walls and sprinkled along the ground to keep the dogs cool. There are over a dozen large kennels holding at least two dogs each; if they are smaller, more dogs share the space. The middle of the room is roped off so we are only allowed to travel down the sides of it. The dogs don’t seem to mind at all, and it doesn’t stop all of them from running to greet us.
Big, small, solid, speckled, long haired, short haired, young, old–the variety of dogs is overwhelming. It’s an animal lover’s paradise. They are so eager to meet us, mouths open with panting tongues, perked up ears, and wagging tails. We aren’t supposed to put our hands in the kennels–there are numerous signs and the shelter employee makes sure she reinforces the ruling–but they are so friendly that neither Jake nor I can help it. They want affection and who am I to deny them something so simple.
It takes us a while–I can not separate myself from the animals I already love so much–but we finally amble over to the next housing station on the far side of the shelter. These kennels are not as full, and many of the dogs are the only occupants of their kennels. In the first one a puppy catches my attention. He is about 4 months old and white furred with orange patches. I read his info sheet: returned. I see the tattered baby blanket, ripped pieces of it scattered around, and I immediately understand. He is the only puppy we’ve seen and I am reminded that this is what dad wants. When mom said we could finally get a dog, he turned down the first one he saw: a sweet, mixed five-year-old beauty named Dulce. He only wants a puppy. Nothing else will do. But I know this puppy is not the one, so we move on.
The next kennel is a surprise and it takes me a second to recognize the breed of dog it houses. I catch sight of grey and white fur, a bushy tail, and softly pointed, perky ears. A Siberian Husky! This is something I never thought I’d come across. Usually, shelters carry a lot of Pit Bulls and mutts, so a purebred Husky is a diamond-in-the-rough. When he sees us, his icy blue eyes glowing, he strolls over, his bushy tail wagging in excitement. He does not stop until his whole right side is pressed up against the metal bars. Of all the dogs we’ve seen today, he is the first to do this and my heart melts. I am in love. This is fate, as far as I’m concerned. I’ve wanted a dog just like him for as long as I can remember and he here is, practically begging me to take him home. Suddenly it is all I want to do. I don’t care how dad wants a puppy, I don’t care that mom usually agrees with him. I don’t care what it takes but in this moment I make a decision: I’m not leaving without him.
Edited by: Sabrina Loftus