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Five-and-a-half years later, I’m still ashamed to admit it. After bonding with a gorgeous, fun-loving Lab Pointer mix puppy at a shelter, I left her there.
I had recently moved back to my hometown of Los Angeles and was longing for a dog. It felt like the perfect time in my life, as I was working from home. For three months I visited city animal shelters and rescue groups and read books on how to raise a dog. Though I researched different breeds, I always sensed a Lab would be the ideal fit.
One night I logged on to the website of Pet Orphans of Southern California. There was a photo of “Tiffany,” a mix of two amazing breeds: Chocolate Lab and German Shorthaired Pointer. She was sitting straight up, ears alert, her white belly offset by a rich brown coat, staring directly into the camera. She looked like she had a purpose. “Playful and very fond of taking dips in our pool, this water dog is confident, affectionate and has beautiful eyes,” read the description. “Are you the one who will give this astounding canine pup a loving permanent home?” I thought I could.
The next morning I visited Pet Orphans. A caretaker told me Tiffany arrived there after she was found roaming a busy street and in danger of getting hit by a car. Luckily, a teenage girl (named Tiffany) who happened to walk dogs at Pet Orphans saved her. The staffer brought the pup to the outdoor play area so the two of us could hang out. She was as advertised. Her toes looked like they were dipped in white paint and sprinkled with brown dots. She had soulful hazel eyes. She was a stunner and full of spirit, jumping the fence of the play area to tackle the guy who feeds the dogs. At one point she gave me a big lick on my cheek, as if to say, “You’re OK by me.” She was the holy grail of dogs. Right?
Well, here’s where I complicate things. Starting the next day, I had committed to dog sit for a friend for a few days. As this would be my first time owning a dog as an adult, I was overwhelmed at the idea of bringing home a new dog while taking care of another. I mentioned my dilemma to the rescue director and asked, “Can I put Tiffany on hold?” She looked at me as if I had seven heads and said, “This dog has 20 applications. She will be adopted today or tomorrow.” She handed me an application and said I could fill it out and FAX it back to her. I took it, thanked her, said “I’ll think about it” and walked out.
I thought about Tiffany. For five days. I would later learn this is an eternity in the often quick-decision-making world of pet adoption. I sheepishly called Pet Orphans on that fifth day to ask about Tiffany, figuring by now she was living large with her new family who had the good sense to snap her up. But Tiffany was still at the shelter. She had come down with kennel cough and was, therefore, quarantined and unavailable for adoption for two weeks.
I called Pet Orphans every few days over the next couple weeks to check up on Tiffany. The morning she was released, I was the first person she saw. That day I went home with my hands, and my heart, full.
Tiffany immediately became Garvey – named after Steve Garvey, the former first baseman for the L.A. Dodgers, my favorite player as a kid. I like to fantasize that this wise pup saw something in me that day I left her at the shelter, that somehow she knew we were right for each other and intentionally got sick in order to give me time to come around…
But of this I am certain: Garvey’s eagerly jumping into my car to begin our journey through life together was a profound act of forgiveness, one that I will never forget.