A funny black-and-white dog stared up at us with with huge brown eyes. Tandy was in her own little pen, because she fought with all of her previous “roommates.” The shelter, more like a doggie spa than the traditional picture of sad pound pups in cages, put dogs in their own little rooms; floors could be heated, toys and blankets everywhere. The saddest of the sad finally had a chance. Tandy looked up at us as we opened the top of the split door, and jumped up to put her paws on the ledge. She had a ridiculously long body and short legs, and a big head. Her eyes and ears were surrounded by black fur; half of her long snout was black and the other side was white. The white streaked up the middle of her face, and then there was a little white blaze on the top of her head. Her stomach looked like a cow belly–pink and white with dark gray spots.
She gazed at us with human eyes. About three years old, she looked like she may have had puppies early; she was rescued from a kill shelter in Georgia, had a mild case of heartworms, and had been at the shelter for far longer than any of the other dogs there at that time. She is a funny mix of corgi, border collie, and possibly some hound.
She didn’t bark, or jump around, she just stared at us, and stretched her neck and her long snout towards us. Hello, she seemed to say. I’m here. You can pet me if you want. She was reserved, wary. We took her into the playroom. She was disinterested in toys, but when I sat down, she plopped down next to me and leaned on me. She didn’t fuss, she didn’t wag, she just leaned on me. And looked up at me.
Hi. I like you. Don’t you like me? My eyes went watery and my heart felt like it would burst.
The next weekend, we visited her again. We walked her around, and she wagged some when she saw us. She wasn’t able to exercise too much because of the heartworm treatments; they left her sore and the painkillers left her woozy. We had a preliminary interview with the shelter, and crossed our fingers. On the next Wednesday, we got the call. We brought her home, and promptly renamed her Josie. She answered to it immediately. We were her people.
Two years later, Josie is the one who wakes me up at ungodly hours, takes up the whole bed with her long body, hides and barks at thunderstorms, begs for belly rubs and treats, plays keep-away with her monkey, sleeps in the sun in her chair, and licks John’s nose with abandon. She has different styles of wagging, depending on the moment. She jumps and runs in circles and tackles us if we say “treats,” “dinners” (breakfast, not as much), “chickens,” “squirrels,” or “chafing.” (We’re not sure why.) She hates running for long distances, other dogs, being alone, and thunderstorms. She participates in group hugs, real piles, and sometimes herds when one of us is in another room and she wants us together. She thinks she’s human, and many other people think it’s possible too. The night of Nov. 4, 2008, she came with us down to the White House where a crowd gathered; many people shouted at us, “Hey! It’s Obama-Dog! Yay dog!”
In caring for a pet, you realize other things about your significant other, things that you know but forget when you’ve been with someone for a while, things you take for granted. Every time I see John run towards Josie and wrestle her down to rub her belly, or I see them asleep on the couch all curled up, I’m happy. I get wrapped up in my head, but Josie and John take me out of that. Sometimes a good belly rub, a scratch behind the ears, or some tug-of-war with a squeaky monkey is all you need.