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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Day I Met My Match

Herbie's first days at home

My dog is a mini me. I don't know if I knew that the second I saw him or if it happened later, but I think it was the first. After visiting every shelter in Baltimore County in August 2009, it seemed impossible to find a dog that was an acceptable size for my tiny apartment. That apartment was amazing, by the way, on the corner with a view, and incredibly peaceful. At the shelters, there were so many boxers and pitbulls. Some of them broke my heart, but they wouldn't have had the room they needed with me, plus let's just face it, I wanted a living, breathing stuffed animal. One day I was visiting the Balt City SPCA for the 10th time, and there was a new dog, a small one: mangled, terrified little Herbie with huge eyes and a teddy bear face. Love at first sight. Really. We looked at each other and knew. There was an understanding. He said I think you could love me and I said yes I could. He had literally just arrived, been given up by his owner, and he was windswept and disoriented to prove it.

I talked to the people in charge, who told me he would need to go through paperwork and testing before he would be up for adoption. My stalker instincts kicked in. I was back at the SPCA every day, sometimes twice a day, relentless. Herbie wasn't doing too well in there. I don't know if he lost faith that I was coming back, or what, but he went crazy. Fear took over, along with his bark. He was yapping at everything and everyone. I found out later he'd been kept in a patio storage closet for his entire life, so he'd never seen all these dogs, people, volunteers!

When I visited, I promised I'd be back. I know he believed me. He didn't understand, though, why I wasn't taking him away right then, or why there was an awful chain between us. Someone at the SPCA had the bright idea to cover his kennel with a sheet. This, they said, would calm him down and prevent barking. The sheet made him insane. I'll never forget going to see him to see just his nose sticking out of the bottom corner, desperate to see someone or get some help. 

Poor Herbie's adoption was delayed, because he was too scared to eat. He couldn't pass the test that consists of a plastic hand on a stick being put in your face during dinner to see if you demonstrate food aggression. What's worse is that no one was allowed to visit him until he passed this test, so he couldn't even get a hug from a volunteer. After three days, he made no progress, so they said he could go up for adoption as long as his new owner signed a waiver about the plastic hand test. I was ready. More serendipity - I just happened to be at the SPCA right when they put up adoption papers on Herb's kennel, meaning I was first in line with an application. I'm telling you, small apartment dogs were a hot commodity in those parts.

Once Herbie hit the waiver/adoption point, this one volunteer was allowed to go play with him. He's the guy who let me hold Herb for the first time, in a tiny white sterile room. Oh, you should have seen the love in Herbie's eyes for that sweet volunteer who saved him from the sheeted kennel. They were so soft and sparkly and grateful. He was excited by my crunchy water bottle and to meet me in that room, but his loyalty was with his savior. 

Luckily, I got to be his real savior, and soon those starry eyes were mine. Herbie was terrified and freshly neutered when I took him home, but we haven't looked back. I like to think he remembered me, as that person who visited him through the chains every day. My resilient little pup has been with me through four moves since then. He saw me through the end of an illness and a horrible relationship and stayed by my side while I got on my feet and entered into the next one, the good one. 

Herbie's got a real anxiety problem. He's overly protective and loves to a fault. He wants dinner right now, and don't make him wait. He loves affection. He's suspicious of new people, but he really just wants to be liked. He loves attention. He'll stick up for you in a heartbeat, whether you need it or not. He gets tunnel-focused on one thing and won't give up in a true display of stubborn persistence. He's feisty and loyal, and we couldn't be more alike. 

a few months later with new confidence and a haircut

over a year later in Cleveland


  1. Sweet, sweet sweet. Love this post.

  2. That is the best story I've ever heard. He's your lobster. :)


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