I’m sure that was the internal dialogue of many friends during my two-years working for Kaua`i Humane Society. When one works in the world of animal welfare they are instantly transformed into a dealer of dogs, kittens and cats.
“Shari, do you know anyone looking for a sweet 6 year-old Lab? What about an Airedale mix? She fetches, knows “sit,” “heel” and “huli.” What about two little, red kittens? I’ve bottle fed them since they were a week old.”
And on and on and on.
“Petaling,” is what my friend Kim calls it. I’m a “Petlar.” I can’t help it. It was the risk I accepted when I chose to work in a building filled with orphaned animals.
My friends were afraid to answer my calls. Even my family cringed from a distance. There was one instance when my sister sent me a threatening e-mail from Chicago about our 84 year-old mother’s request for an ancient Chihuahua – my ancient Chihuahua.
I had been lying on the couch talking to mom on the phone as I stroked the silky head of my then 15 year-old rescue, Javali. We adopted her from the shelter in February 2010.
And this time it really wasn’t my idea to invite another dog into the house.
I was doing a stellar job of ignoring the purple sweater and grayish-brown muzzle. Pleading, moist Chihuahua eyes were not my weakness. That said, my husband Wes dropped by the shelter on his way to the South Shore to do a plumbing job. I wasn’t around so he made the grave mistake of taking a tour of the small dog room near the lobby.
When I returned later, one of our veterinary technicians greeted me.
“Hey Pam, I saw this big, handsome guy flirting with an older woman in the kennels.”
Ellen recounted the scene: Wes wearing work boots, jeans and a predictable neon orange t-shirt, crouched and peering into a kennel.
“Hi there,” he cooed. “That sweater looks really nice on you. You sure are pretty.”
When we met 18 years ago, a deal maker for me was Wes’s innate kindness towards the elderly and animals. This was a case where he scored double points.
When Ellen caught him on bended knee with Javali, he blushed saying; “I’ll only adopt her if she comes with the sweater.”
When I returned home that night from work, I told Wes he’d been spotted. He smiled for a moment, and then his expression changed.
“What’s that dog’s story? She’s ancient. Did someone actually leave her there?”
“Yep. And it happens all the time,” I said. “Her intake card said the reason for surrender was because she was old.”
A few weeks passed and then Wes asked about her again. We were in our bedroom and he was sitting on the edge of the bed looking slightly vulnerable, so naturally I took full advantage – I am the Petlar after all.
“Poor thing. She’s still there,” I said.
“Really?” He said. “Will anyone ever adopt a dog that old?”
Pausing, I let his question ripen, and then I moved in for the kill.
“Want me to bring her home?”
He said nothing.
In our marriage, silence is acceptance.
Javali was with us for nearly two years. Even Wes admitted adopting her was one of the best rescue missions we’d made: She never raised so much as an eyebrow at our four cats, and barely left a dent in the pillow, when she joined the other two dogs in bed.
I’d grown up in a house where small dogs were never part of the animal population. When I would talk to my mom about Javali, she’d poo-poo my infatuation.
“Why would you want a dog that small,” she’d ask.” Aren’t they yappers?”
While on the phone that day three years ago, I lay on the couch with Javali resting on her back across my chest – audible snores muttering past her gray lips. I described the scene to my mom.
“Mom, she’s a little old lady looking for a warm lap to retire into, just like you.”
That’s when mom said, “I want her.”