Editor’s Note: Tomorrow (Saturday, Oct. 25) is National Pit Bull Awareness Month, a great time to run this story of how two people found and fell in love with a Pit Bull.
“I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!”
The immortal words of Will Ferrell as Mugatu escaped my mouth as my husband, Grant, attempted to comfort me. It had been months since our wedding, and I was no closer to adopting a dog than when we started dating six years ago. “After the wedding,” he’d say. “Then we’ll have more time for a dog.”
With the help of the Petfinder app on my phone, I had figured out the main animal rescue organizations in the Washington, D.C., area and narrowed it down to a few to target. I downloaded all of the applications and began filling them out with gusto. The process seemed somewhat similar among all of the organizations: Submit your application, have a phone interview, meet the dog at an adoption event or at a mutually agreeable time with his foster parent, have a home visit, then after an approximately week-long “trial period,” he was yours!
I tried not to get discouraged as my first few applications went unanswered. Then I had a glimmer of hope, as one rescue contacted me to meet a dog I had applied for at that weekend’s adoption event in a faraway Virginia suburb. Sadly, that hope was soon crushed, as the adoption coordinator emailed me a few days later to say that one dog I had applied for had recently had surgery, and the other had kennel cough, so neither would be attending the event.
And from the other rescues? Crickets. “Maybe they’re just busy, since they’re all run by volunteers,” a friend offered.
I began searching for breed-specific rescues in the greater D.C. area. Some required a nonrefundable application fee to even be considered — no guarantees. Others were located in rural Virginia, Maryland or Pennsylvania. I settled upon one breed-specific rescue and set to work on its seven-page adoption application form. How long have you lived in your current place of residence? What would you use to train your dog to walk on a leash? Please provide two references, preferably those who are active in the dog community. Please list two times you worked through a dog behavioral problem, and how it was resolved. Do you have a 9 to 5 job? Whom should we contact to verify your employment?
To its credit, the adoption coordinator reached out to me immediately, with a reading list of three books — on dog psychology and resources on training philosophies and how to feed a raw diet — for me to study before our interview. I told Grant we had better download these books on our Kindles to tag-team the studying beforehand. But, the feeling of complete inadequacy under the judgment of others was totally overwhelming. How could I compete with all these other overachieving people in Washington with large backyards, stay-at-home moms and on-call dog psychologists? I was convinced that no D.C. rescue would ever allow us to have a dog.
My frustration level had reached its peak, to the point of desperation. I had begun researching animal shelters in the poorest counties in West Virginia and North Carolina, and starting to plan weekend road trips to try to find a place –- any place -– that would deem us worthy of a dog. I “liked” every animal rescue in the area on Facebook, and compulsively stalked their walls for any news of animal transports from the Carolinas or Puerto Rico to D.C.
And yes, I’m ashamed to admit that I researched the American Kennel Club website for any breeders in our area that might be having a litter of pet-grade puppies in the near future. My want of a furry friend outweighed my fear of judgment by my neighbors in the People’s Republic of North Arlington and my guilt of not choosing adoption, and I did seriously consider purchasing a dog. (Yes, responsible breeders do exist.)
I was feeling particularly downtrodden one morning when we set out to the mattress store to find a new bed. (We’d been sleeping on the same Costco bed I’d had since I was an intern.) As we rolled down Lee Highway in Arlington on a sunny morning, we passed a Petco Unleashed that was holding an Adopt-a-thon in the parking lot.
“Let’s go check it out,” Grant said, as he dragged me across the street.
We met senior dogs, Pugs, Dobermans, and dogs with special needs. A small army of volunteers had given their time to sit outside on a hot D.C. day to help these pups find their new homes. We were about to head back over to the mattress store when a cheerful volunteer stopped us to chat. She was holding the leash of a light brown Pit Bull with a red nose and little white socks, who promptly flopped on his back in front of Grant for a belly rub.
“This is Douglas,” she said.
Grant hightailed it across the parking lot to fill out the adoption application at the Washington Humane Society’s traveling adoption spaceship, Adopt Force One. A few minutes later, we sat down at a picnic table with a WHS volunteer, with Doug’s leash in my hand.
“Oh, and we’re having a special on adoption fees today. Instead of $170, his fee is only $50 today.”
With a swipe of Grant’s credit card on the adoption coordinator’s iPhone, Doug was ours. No home visit. No background check. No judgment.
These days our lives are filled with happy dog energy and pet hair. The wonderful people of the Washington Humane Society email us back immediately whenever we ask them a question, and some of the volunteers even continue to follow Douglas’ adventures on his Instagram feed.
We go for lots of walks, meet friendly people on the street who proclaim how handsome Doug is, and coordinate his dog-walking appointments. He loves baby carrots, any toy that squeaks and attempting to convince us that he is indeed a 50-pound lap dog (with varying rates of success). I fuss over his dietary habits (I recently baked some homemade Greenies after reading a shock piece online) and Grant keeps him entertained with endless games of fetch and tug-of-war. And yes, we are indeed still sleeping on that old Costco bed — Douglas does not seem to mind!
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About the author: Meilee is the director of operations for a political risk analysis firm in Washington, DC. She lives in Arlington, Virginia, with her husband and dog. Follow Douglas at instagram.com/douglasearnest.