October 2, 2011 started like any other Sunday. My now ex-boyfriend and I spent the morning relaxing at home and browsing the Internet for our next great adventure. Little did we know, in less than 12 hours, we would be dog owners.
It started innocently enough. We browsed the pet section on Craigslist and oohed and aahed over the cute dogs. This was not the first time that we had done so. It was fun looking at the pups and imagining some day adopting one. We were both lifelong dog lovers.
|My first and last photo with Grizzley|
I grew up with Grizzley, a golden retriever/husky mix who I still consider to be one of the best dogs that ever walked the Earth. From the age of five to my senior year of high school, Grizzley was my best friend and I was heartbroken when she passed away in my arms on March 1, 2003. It took me nearly nine years to even consider adopting another dog albeit a large portion of those years I was in college or struggling to find a job just out of college and in place to financially support a dog (or even myself, at times).
Micah's family owned several dogs throughout his childhood, including a husky, Scottish terrier and a couple Boston terriers. He was no stranger to dogs either. A family friend of his owned English mastiffs and Micah fell in love with the gentle giants.
On that fateful Sunday, Micah searched Craigslist for "mastiff." My protests that an apartment wasn't the right place for a mastiff fell on deaf ears and he quickly discovered a post for an 11-week-old Italian mastiff. It had been posted only minutes before and Micah decided to email about this dog. I thought he was crazy. We weren't ready for a dog, were we? Let alone a dog that would grow to at least 100 lbs? But I figured what was the harm in emailing. We probably wouldn't even hear back.
To continue the madness of the day, we thought we'd visit the local animal shelters and take a look at the dogs. I warned Micah that this would be dangerous for me as I would want to rescue them all. Looking at all the animals in need nearly broke my heart. We met an English mastiff who had been dropped off by his owner because they had a baby and decided they didn't have time for a dog anymore. He was seven years old, which is getting up there for a mastiff, and it made me both sad and angry that these people could abandon their pet after all these years. This dog had just arrived at the shelter and was still undergoing behavior tests. Besides, we wanted a puppy to start our journey with. I hope that the mastiff found a loving home to live out his life.
About this time, we received a response from our Craigslist email. We had been the first people to respond to the ad and the owner wanted to meet us that evening. Again, we figured what could be the harm in meeting her and the pup.
A few hours later, we drove to an apartment about 20 minutes away from our home. When we knocked on the door, we were greeted with a chorus of barks. One of those barks belonged to Zoe. The other bark to the owner's chihuahua mix.
|Zoe's first night home|
The owner's mother let us into the house and we found baby Zoe, who at the time was called Sophie, hiding under the dining room table barking and growling at us. It wasn't the warmest of welcomes but I suppose Zoe simply showed us her true colors as a guard dog right off the bat. We spent a few minutes talking to the mother (the daughter was too sad to see her pup go so she dropped her off with her mom) and learned a bit about Zoe's story.
Zoe had been taken away from her mother at a young age and the girl's roommate bottle-fed her for a few weeks. The roommate ended up leaving and Zoe became the girl's responsibility. But this girl had accepted a job on a fishing boat in Oregon and feared that Zoe would grow too big to stay on the boat. So at 11 weeks of age, Zoe was looking for a new home.
The woman offered to send Zoe home with us for the night for a trial run. We were welcome to bring her back in the morning if it didn't look like things were going to work out. Ha! As if I could ever turn a dog away after I brought it into my home. From that moment on, I knew, ready or not, we were getting a dog.
Micah and I left Zoe at the house and made a quick trip to Target to get some dog supplies. We bought a too-small harness (even at 11 weeks, Zoe had outgrown the medium harness), retractable leash and car kennel (the kind that's flexible and folds). When we returned, we were able to convince Zoe to leave the safety of the table and join us on the floor. We tried to fit her into the harness but we were stumped on how it worked. We finally figured out that it simply too small for her and Zoe figured out that she didn't have the brightest new owners.
|Baby Zoe, 11 weeks|
A miracle happened as we left the apartment and walked to the car. Zoe suddenly decided that she liked us! We drove home with her and excitedly introduced her to her new home. We spent some time playing with her and then decided it was time to call it a night. We had her flexible car kennel set up in the living room and, silly us, we thought that's where she was going to sleep. But seconds after we closed our bedroom door, there was a scratch on it. There sat little Zoe, who had unzipped her kennel. We decided that she could sleep with us this one night and the next day we went to Petco and bought her an extra large metal crate so she could grow with it. Although she slept in the crate at night for the first six months, we soon began to let her sleep in the bed with us. But she still loves her crate and often naps in it during the day.
The next few weeks and months were spent potty training, socializing at dog parks and dog beach and lots of learning for both us and Zoe.
I may have been hesitant about getting a mastiff but she's now one of my best friends and I wouldn't trade her for anything.
|Zoe with Mommy at Balboa Park and Zoe with Daddy at Del Mar Beach, |
both at at 11 weeks