It just didn’t happen as I expected it would. But then again, when does life ever transpire as you plan it?
I spent the first couple of weeks with Tucker putting the adopt-me bandana on him
and telling folks on the street how great he was. I went to adoption events and made business cards. A friend took his glamour shots
and Christy posted a courtesy ad for me on her adopt-a-pet webpage. But then something started to change…
The idea that an adoption application would come in for him made my heart race. I stopped putting the bandana on him. When I introduced him to people on the street, rather than touting his brilliance and humor, I merely stated, “This is Tucker.” Period. End of sentence.
They say that true love isn’t possessive. Well it certainly doesn’t make you want to give him away.
As I scrolled through videos and pictures of him at Thanksgiving dinner, showing him to my friends, one of them said, “You have showed me pictures of all your fosters, but I have never seen you this happy. No dog has ever made you this happy.”
It was true. Tucker made me smile and laugh every day. I looked forward to his wagging tail and greeting bow/stretch when I came home from work. My heart warmed every time I sat on the floor and he chose to put his big butt on my lap while he munched on a toy in search of a squeaker.
When I spoke to my friend in San Francisco about him she observed, “Half the time you talk about him like he’s your new boyfriend, and the other half you sound like you’re talking about your kid. So clearly he’s your dog.”
But I always said that I was meant to be dogless; my home and heart were reserved for those who had neither house nor love in their life. I was to help the homeless, and it would not be fair to my own dog for me to share my love with others. And anyway, my life isn’t structured ordinarily. It is a series of goals—each movie—from pre-production to post, created anywhere in the country. It is living in new places once or twice a year, and returning to home base for short stints of relaxation and days in the sun. Any dog I had would live a life of travel, with dog sitters and dog walkers in every city, going to the office with me if possible, and also, eventually, be my partner in rescue once I returned to it. He would help those who entered the home to feel relaxed and loved. He would not be jealous of my care for others, for he too, would care for them. He would be light and love, joy and happiness.
That’s a lot to ask of in a canine. I certainly didn’t think he existed and therefore never desired it. I accepted my role.
But then Tucker came along. I wasn’t leaving that adoption event without him. I truly believed that I was the one who had to find him his forever home (although I had no idea that home was so close.) I had chosen him. But I had to wonder, had he chosen me?
Some folks asked, “Why this one?” I could give the Jessica Rabbit answer: “He makes me laugh.” Or I could go with what all my friends saw at Thanksgiving: which I that I had never been happier.
The following week was merely my mind trying to convince my heart that it was wrong. That I shouldn’t have a dog. Even though many people in my job field have dogs and make it work. It’s not easy, but they make it work.
But what about not working overseas? What about my bucket list? During that week or two of introspection and outward discussion, a friend called to tell me that he was going to South Africa for a gig for six months. I was right then and there confronted with how I would feel if I had to turn down such a job. It was a millisecond of “Oh, man. South Africa!” And then even my mind agreed with my heart: “Really? In a this-or-that decision of working in another country for six months versus a lifetime of unconditional love, you had to think about it for a second?”
When I told someone else in the industry that I was considering adopting, but I still wanted to work out of the country, he said, “Well then adopt a dog later.”
His answer shocked me. It wasn’t about adopting any dog. It was adopting this dog--this wonderful, playful, funny, joyous, imaginative canine soul that I couldn’t bear to spend a day without.
People don’t plan when they’ll meet their human soulmate. Some don’t even plan on having children and alas, one day it happens, and you find yourself at the crossroads with a companion. Just because the timing isn’t quite right, do you leave them there? Or do accept that the road ahead is still there, but now you have someone to share it with?
The panic in my heart that someone else was going to adopt Tucker got to me. I had discussed and talked it out. I had logicked away all practical concerns. I just couldn’t logic away the love.
And so on December 3rd, a little over three weeks after meeting this dog that I thought I was meant to foster, I sent an email to the rescue. I wished to make Tucker’s forever home right here with me.
Lisa at Hanging with Friends Rescue called me. “What?! Did I read that right?” She was conflicted because she knew that Tucker was in a great home, but that it meant losing a foster for a time. Indeed, I will foster again, but I need some time to prepare my new partner in rescue for that task. Right now, it’s about him and me learning about each other, trusting each other, and getting him used to my crazy life.
I had taken him on “dates” as if testing him for the life to come. We went on a hike. He came to the office.
He met my friends.
He ran in the yard. We went for car rides.
He passed every test; his joyful spirit embraced each new challenge and stood ready for every new experience. It was clear that I had found my travelling companion on this road of life.
I had ordered a tag with his name on it even before I had sent the email asking to adopt him. I received it in the mail the day after the adoption was official. No dog in my adult life had worn a tag with his or her name on it. The dogs who had shared my truck and my home throughout the years had worn tags that stated, “If I’m alone, I’m lost. Call my foster mom.” As I took that tag off his collar and replaced it with the one bearing his name, my eyes welled up with tears.
“You’re home. Forever.”
I kept thinking of Lady & the Tramp, when Tramp finally decided that having a collar and a license wasn’t so bad after all. Tucker didn’t know the difference on his tag or the paperwork I signed and scanned to the rescue. Nothing changed between us. But one thing clearly changed in me: I was at peace. No more did I feel my heart race that someone else would adopt him. Everything was as it should be.
Becoming a pet parent wasn’t a single moment. It was simply accepting what was from the moment I met Tucker. Tucker is my partner. He is the dog who will see me through my forties; he will travel the country with me; he will help homeless dogs by welcoming them into our home while they search for their forever family; he might even see me get married one day. Tucker is my soul-dog.
When people ask me if I will still do rescue, I reply in the affirmative. But maybe it won’t be in the capacity. I have a companion now. He’s in this game with me. I won’t foster for a time, but I will again in the future. I will immediately be more vocal about Breed Specific Legislation as now it affects my family directly. And it reinvigorates my push to find the right company/people to team up with for my television show. Travelling with Tucker, renovating shelters across America, and making a difference in the lives of animals and people: now that’s the life for us.
Tucker’s tale with me doesn’t end at the crossroads. Instead of bending down and giving him a kiss on the forehead and watching his tail wag as he saunters toward his own path, I give him a kiss on the forward, tell him I love him, stand up, and he wags his tail as he joins me at my side. He looks up at me with his big goofy grin. I smile back, and then side-by-side we continue travelling down the road ahead—together.