In May, I started a new job at Pawsafe Animal Rescue as the kennel manager. Very quickly, it became a dream come true. I got to spend my days with puppies, and I got to help them find their forever home. It was such a fulfilling feeling, and it honestly helped shape my life and help narrow down the path I want to take for the rest of my life.
The way the Pawsafe schedule works for getting new adoptable dogs is that every three weeks, a large transport of dogs from high kill shelters from the south are brought up to the north to get vetted and adopted out to their new forever families. The transports are messy, smelly, and amazing. They were probably my favorite days at the kennel. I loved seeing the new dogs that came in, choosing my favorite (or multiple favorites) and making it my mission to find them the perfect home. I started fostering dogs overnight, mostly Thursday nights before their vet checks, just to get them out of the kennel and give them a warm, comfortable place to decompress after their long journey up north. My first foster was named Bear, and I will honestly always remember him. To top it off, he was the FIRST dog to go home at his first adoption event!
My next foster was Chaco. She was one of the other dogs, and she had a long journey to her forever home, but she is now in the best place she can be, and she is doing AMAZING.
One day in July, a sweet little husky mix came off the truck. I grabbed him immediately, and put him in his pen, stopping by to say hi to him every free second I could. I ended up taking him home for the night after my whole family, excluding my mom, was dead set on us keeping him. Long story short, my mom finally agreed that if he was still there after going to his first adoption event, we could keep him. Fast forward to Saturday, his adoption event, and I was so sick: I couldn't go to the adoption event and see where he went, because he was so perfect, I knew for sure he was going to go home quickly. Saturday morning felt like the longest day of my life while I was waiting to see if he would still be at the kennel at noon. Low and behold, I got a text from the kennel attendant on duty that he didn't go home. Despite my 103 degree fever, my mom, sister, and I packed up and trekked the hour drive to the kennel. If I thought the morning of waiting felt long, that drive felt even longer. We got there, and something in me just felt whole. Seeing in his run, getting excited when I walked up, it made my heart feel so full. We spent a better part of the late afternoon shopping for him, and eventually, my family settled on Chance for a name.
The original plan for Chance to be my dad's dog. We had many pets growing up, but the dogs always bonded to my mom. My dad wanted a dog to bond to him and be HIS dog. Well, much to his dismay and my pleasure, Chance bonded to me. He slept with me every night, he woke me up every morning, and he listened to me as if he was born to hear my voice. I was so in love.
Fast forward a month in a half. Chance didn't want to eat, he was vomiting a lot, and he went through bouts of not being himself. He went into emergency abdominal surgery, and after extensive research and tests, he was diagnosed with intestinal pythium; probably the worst news we could have received. Pythium has a 10% survival rate, and suddenly I had to face the fact that I would only have months with my puppy instead of years. I vowed to spend the next few months giving him the best life possible. He hardly left my side, and neither of us could have been any happier.
The day finally came. I could tell Chance was so tired of fighting, and I had to do the selfless thing of ending his suffering. My heart broke. My first puppy, my heart dog, my best friend. My years I was signing up for was cut entirely too short. Going to bed, waking up, coming home from work; it would never be the same. I struggled a lot. I had a lot of people in my corner to help me grieve, though. I had a lot of people grieving with me, and somehow, that made it a little easier. Seeing the impact this perfect little pup made on so many people in just a few short months was heartwarming. I wasn't the only one whose heart was breaking.
The Saturday after I lost him, I saw a tarot card reader at a friend's party. I got a reading, mostly about Chance and how to cope with the loss. She said a lot of things that I hold close to me to this day. She told me that Chance wasn't gone, and anytime I thought of him, or heard a little whimper, or saw him out of the corner of my eye, he was there with me. She also told me that Chance left me because he knew there was another dog out there who needed my love and devotion more than he did. That meant so much to me, because the thought of getting another dog after him was daunting.
With that in mind, can you imagine how I felt when the director of Pawsafe reached out about a pregnant dog who needed a guaranteed foster in order to join the transport up to our shelter? I volunteering immediately. Like, not even 5 minutes after she made the post asking for fosters. Just days later, a heavily pregnant Daisy came to her temporary home. She was the craziest, sweetest little girl I had ever met. And a week later, she had 6 adorable boys. My broken heart started to mend a little bit while taking care of Daisy and her boys. I realized what the tarot card reader meant. Daisy and her boys needed me, and if I still had Chance, I wouldn't have been able to take her in.
During my time with Daisy and her boys, I decided that I needed to keep one. Something was telling me that it was okay to get another dog, even if it was so soon after Chance. Honestly, it was probably Chance telling me it was okay.
When they were four weeks old, I picked one of the boys. He was the quiet, mellow one, and one day I looked into his eyes, and I just knew. The cute little brindle boy wiggled his way into my heart. He's 15 weeks old now, and as hard as it is to raise a puppy, he is the light of my life. Helping raise him from the day he was born has been the most instrumental part of my healing, and although I still miss Chance every single day, having Finnegan makes it so much easier.
Chance sent me Daisy and her boys. I know it. It was his way of telling me he's still with me, and that he's okay. I still feel him with me every day. When I look at Finnegan, when I see him in the shadows, and when I feel him licking my face in the morning. He's okay, and he knew how loved he was and still is. And he wants me to give my love to Finnegan. He wants me to care for him, and to love him, for however long his life may be.
Thank you for everything, Chance. Thank you for teaching me unconditional love, and thank you for teaching me how to put something else before myself. You will always be my first dog, and I know you always be with me, living on through every dog, present and future, that I am blessed to raise.