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5 Years and Counting

by TJ Sage about a month ago in adoption


Have you ever had one event that shifts your perspective on life? Or maybe one event that led to a domino effect that eventually led to a shift in perspective?

I have one, and her name is Hula. Let me explain.

It was 2016 and I was a naive 20 year old in the summer between my freshman and sophomore years of college. I had just moved into an apartment a few months prior and was ecstatic to finally be out of the dorms with full access to a kitchen so that I could make the real Kraft Mac and Cheese instead of the crappy microwave kind.

I was living three hours from my hometown and my mom was visiting for the weekend. It was about 1pm on Sunday and my mom said she had to leave early to get home. I don’t remember the reason, but I remember being super bummed. I’d lived in that town for almost a full year at that point, but was still suffering from homesickness and Mom leaving cranked it up.

Once she was gone, I was pretty down, so I asked my roommate if she’d be up to go to the adoptathon I’d heard about, put on by our local Petsmart. I’d remembered seeing a chalkboard sign near the entrance when we’d been in recently to get something for her dog.


It was the last day of the 3-day adoptathon, and there were only 4 dogs left - 2 chihuahua mixes, a pit bull mix, and a Staffordshire Terrier mix. We first wandered over to the tiny Applehead Chihuahua named Casino. I somehow remember the names of all 4 dogs that were there.

Casino was in his crate and wagged his tail hysterically when we approached. We marvelled at how cute he was then made our way over to the next occupied crate - the Staffordshire Terrier mix named Maddie. She, too, was ecstatic to see us, tail wagging ferociously and trying to stick her nose through the wires to lick our hands.

There were two dogs outside of their crates on leashes. There was a tan colored Chihuahua mix way on the other side of the empty warehouse we were in, and a hunk of a gray Pit Bull near the front door - the kind with the huge boxy head that looks like he’d teeter onto his head at any moment from being too top-heavy. His name was Tank, which was fitting, in my opinion. He had some sort of skin condition on his face that looked super irritated and was a gigantic sweetheart.

The shelter that was sponsored by the event had a couple volunteers helping out, and eventually, one of them came over to see if we needed any help. This part is a little fuzzy in my memory...I remember meeting Tank, and then I had a leash in my hand attached to the final dog at the adoptathon, the tan Chihuahua mix - Hula. Up closer, I saw that she was super tall for a Chihuahua. Legs for days!

Turns out she’s actually part Chihuahua, part Italian Greyhound (picture a Greyhound, but mini).

By Christian on Unsplash

She was incredibly shy, but she’d put her front paws on the thighs of whoever had her leash, tail tucked firmly between her legs, ears back. She let me pet her, though I honestly think she was too scared not to. Eventually I got her to walk around a bit, but then she started trying to go the opposite direction. She even went so far as to back up and try to slip her collar.

I didn’t know why her behavior changed so suddenly, like she was trying to get away from me. What I soon learned was that she was trying to get away from something behind me.

Maddie, the Staffordshire Terrier mix, came up from behind me, clamped her teeth into Hula’s face, and started thrashing her around.

You have never heard a dog scream so loud.

I remember dropping the leash, lest I play tug of war with Maddie and end up causing her teeth to tear Hula’s face open.

There was a man who’d had Maddie’s leash, and he picked her up from behind trying to get her to drop Hula. The volunteer we’d talked to earlier ran up and started smacking Maddie on the back and the side with a newspaper (I think...the memory is a little fuzzy).

I don’t remember how they got her to let go, but they did. Hula continued to scream, probably out of fear, for the next several moments.

My roommate and I were huddled together, practically in tears, with no clue what to do next. I think someone came up to us and asked if we were okay at one point.

Eventually, we found ourselves talking to that same volunteer, who was holding a shaking, but finally silent Hula. She had two large puncture wounds; one under her jaw, and one just under her right eye - one centimeter’s difference and Maddie’s tooth would’ve punctured her eye. After a while, her face swelled up but she calmed down.

That black dot is the puncture scar under her eye

Puncture scar under her jaw

The owner of the shelter was a vet, so she inspected Hula and determined that they were just flesh wounds and she would be fine, so they let me hold her and a few minutes later I was in a chair with her on my lap.

My roommate and I talked a bit about what had just happened and something she said really resonated with me: “We can’t let her go back to that shelter.”

New Life Journey Buddy

If you’ve read my past piece, Indecisive Since the Womb, then you know the adoption of my dog was an impulse decision. Well, now you know what caused the impulse. I was nowhere near financially stable enough to adopt a dog at that point in time - I was a host in a restaurant, living paycheck to paycheck, with no savings account whatsoever. I didn’t have the money to take care of a dog in any way, shape, or form.

This is where the perspective on life begins to shift.

Two weeks later, after having searched for a couple of months, I finally got a better job, serving in a breakfast restaurant, which pays way better than hosting ever did. Suddenly I was able to afford this little creature that was plopped into my life.

Circa October 2018

And believe me when I say keeping this dog was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. She was a major pain in the ass for the first YEAR that I had her. She was a fully adult dog, but not potty trained, not crate trained, severely underweight, had mites AND WORMS when I brought her home, and severe, SEVERE social problems. She’s bitten my dad twice.

I would bet money that she’d been adopted, maybe multiple times because she’s cute, and taken back to the shelter. During the first month, I debated taking her back myself.

But I didn’t. I held out despite the fact that my bedroom reeked of urine.

I’ve never really believed in fate before this happened, but now I kind of do. After all the trauma, the shelter life, and god knows what else Hula’s been through, she is a handful, and requires a very specific type of person to take care of her. Remember the social issues I mentioned? Turns out they’re pretty ingrained into her personality.

She takes an awfully long time to warm up to people, she absolutely hates men, and she can’t be in a house with a lot of activity, other dogs, cats, or children. I am a single woman, not planning on reproducing anytime in the near future or possibly ever, and I’m a hermit who occasionally has company over in groups of 1. I am literally the perfect type of owner for this dog, and I’m totally baffled.

That shelter did not have any sort of screening process for adoptions. I had no application to fill out, all I had to do was sign a few papers and list my name, address, and phone number in a few places. They did not care at all who these dogs were going to, they only cared that these dogs were going and they received a $150 adoption fee. Personally, I’m not impressed, considering that along with the condition she was in when I brought her home. They also tried to pass her off as 1.5-2 years old and I’m positive that was a lie, she was definitely more like 5.

About a week after bringing her home - underweight, bad tear stains, marks on her chest from itching because of the mites

But regardless of the shelter conditions and lack of screening, Hula ended up right where she needed to be. Yes, she’s still a lot of work, but what dog isn’t? In my opinion, she’s a lot less maintenance that a lot of other dogs; she doesn’t chew things that aren’t edible, she doesn’t beg me to play 24/7, I did eventually get her potty trained and she’s good at telling me when she needs to go, and she doesn’t require too much exercise, only a couple walks around the block a day.

5 Years and Counting

I have had this dog for almost 5 years. I say “5 Years and Counting” because it’s a catchier title than “4.75 Years and Counting.” Due to being a college student, I’ve moved states once, moved towns thrice, and moved apartments 6 times with this dog, including a 2 day road trip to get from Montana to California, with this dog and she’s been a total trouper the whole time. I even get to take her to work with me where she hit the milestone of sitting on a man’s lap for the first time!

Unfortunately, I am unable to get another dog simply because I don’t think the transition would go well. Rather than put her through the stress of other dogs, we just hang with just the two of us for the most part. So for now, it’s just me, myself, and Hula, and I’m all right with that.

So yes, she is the reason my perspective shifted. I now believe that maybe things do happen for a reason. If my mom hadn’t left early that day, I never would’ve been at that adoptathon and who the hell knows what kind of home Hula would’ve ended up in? Plus, she’s a great little companion for a hermit like me. She has a very strong personality that makes me feel like I’m not alone and I’m extremely grateful for the way things have turned out. ❤️

When we lived in Montana


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TJ Sage
TJ Sage
Read next: Calling All Wannabe Pet Owners
TJ Sage

Not-your-average wannabe writer and author who's a sucker for a good story. New short stories every week!

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