“Awww, look at that face!”
“Schmoopy, smush face…”
“What IS she?”
“WHO is that?”
I feel like I’m walking around with a 4-week old puppy cradled in my arms, when in fact, our new dog Agnes is probably as old as 2 and as young as 13 months, according to her former bio on petfinder.com. And she’s a lightweight at 70 pounds!
I wanted a dog for years, yet as a New Yorker and one in a small three-bedroom apartment with two roommates, owning a dog was not a possibility. And now, here I am, a year into being an Angeleno and I am finally a dog owner.
I found Agnes B (she came as Agnes, and since my mom and I used to shop at Agnes B when we lived in Paris many years ago, I’ve added it to her name, whether it’s B for bulldog or B for boxer) via my volunteering at Ace of Hearts. Google them. $upport them. Volunteer for them like I do (if you’re a local). If there are organizations like this one in New York, I was unaware of it, and everyone from South Street to 168th Street should be fostering puppies and/or cats. Ace of Hearts rescues dogs (typically of the bully variety) from death row and places them into loving fostering homes (until they find a permanent family). Don’t have the time or the money? They pay for everything from vet bills to day care, from overnight kennels to all the food and doggie treats any dog could possibly want.
Luckily for us, MaineMan and I got to see the process through from beginning to (though tearful) end with our first foster pup named Zeus. The calm, lovebug-rottie stayed with us for a couple of months before an actor Ivan Sergei read about him online and wanted to adopt him to be his older dog’s companion. Zeus got a thorough try-out at Ivan’s home with an intense training session and from what I know, Zeus is living happily ever after with the Sergeis.
MaineMan and I were devastated, but since we were still a couple of months out from moving in together to a pet-friendly apartment, we couldn’t keep Zeus. I wrote an e-mail to Ace and they understood our decision to withhold from fostering again until we were ready to adopt a dog of our own. Some people can do it. Foster them, love them, take care of them and give them up when they are adopted. And god bless ‘em. We just experimented and decided that handing over a dog, while we knew we helped Zeus out in the long run by giving him a good temporary home, was just too difficult.
Enter Agnes. Or should I say, “Come, Agnes!”
I continued to walk Ace of Hearts dogs to and from the vet. MaineMan feared I would be introducing him to dozens of dogs — every one I met — and how would he (or I) be able to say no to them. Surprisingly, this isn’t how it went. I didn’t have a connection with every dog I met. Some dogs just run out of the vet and all they want to do is sniff, poop and pee. Some of them barely even make eye contact with you before they’re hauling you down the sidewalk in search of the perfect green.
And then there was Agnes.
I met her after work one day and I could barely believe how stunningly adorable she was. Nor could anyone else on the few blocks around Culver City where we had our first meet-and-pee. When I brought her back after about 30 minutes, I didn’t want to hand her leash to the resident vet tech. Nevertheless, Harvey grabbed her and in the doors they went, but not without Agnes turning her soft, wrinkly head around at me as if to say, “Aren’t ya coming?”
I got home that night and told MaineMan about her and he laughed. I’m sure I got an, “Oh BOY!” too.
Whenever I returned to the vet to specifically request Agnes, she was either out for a walk or had just returned from one. The bulldog/boxer (pitbull?) mix was a hot commodity and it seemed like everybody wanted a piece of her. The Ace girls knew I had an immediate affinity for Agnes and when they told me an application had been turned in for her adoption I nearly called 9-1-1. Some dude was about to have his house checked to see if he was a solid potential parent and I selfishly prayed he lived in a cardboard box.
Thank goodness adoption weekend was that Saturday, but when I took MaineMan to meet Agnes officially he was underwhelmed. My heart was broken. We walked a few of the other Ace of Hearts dogs, and while I was sure we’d be able to find another one we loved, I just couldn’t stop thinking about Agnes. The founder of Ace, Kari Whitman, took us under her wing that day and shared many of her favorites with us, but none of them held a paw to Aggers. MaineMan and I took a long lunch break at Jerry’s Deli on Beverly and I plead with him that she was probably just tired and hot and that’s why she wasn’t bee-bopping around and wagging her tail at us the whole time.
Thank goodness he believed me. We walked and talked some more and I happily got a “Go tell her! Start filling out the application!”
I started jumping up and down screaming, “Really? Really? Is she ours? Can we keep her?” like a girl opening up a puppy for Christmas.
We walked to the block where Agnes and her buddies were in their cages. Volunteers sprayed them with water to keep them cool while adoptees oogled and aahed at them, and read their specs taped to the giant cages. I looked at Agnes, hoped she understood me when I said she was coming home with us and told Ace we wanted her. All we needed now was paperwork.
I spent the next 15 minutes sitting on a chair next to Chaz Bono, yes THE Chaz Bono and his girlfriend Jennifer Elia. They were bickering about the lengthy adoption paperwork and half the questions they didn’t know how to answer.
“If you’re pet starts biting what are you gonna do?”
“I don’t know, Chaz, what the hell are we gonna do?” said Elia.
“I don’t know, Jen, do we have to discuss this here?” They had a chihuahua and they told me they were there to adopt a friend for the greying geezer.
I contained my laughter and felt the same way answering questions that would have stumped Cesar Millan’s assistant.
We have had Agnes for a few weeks now, and while the work is more than anyone tells you, she is so worth it. She’s walked and fed by 7 a.m. and she becomes a psycho-nibbler unless she runs a 5K. The hardest part of my day is leaving her at the apartment while I head off to work. We haven’t figured out a daycare schedule yet, but I would like to take her to Cagefree K-9 Camp in Culver at least once or twice a week. I hear it’s good to keep the dogs socialized. That or the doggie day care places just like taking your money.
Right now I’m the morning jogger and MaineMan’s the evening sprinter. Last night I biked with Ag and Maine and we had a blast. Agnes was pooped at the end so it was a successful outing. We spent about a half-hour at the dog park by our apartment and there Agnes smelled and played with a dozen dogs. She’s not much of a ball-player, but she’s a good running companion for those who do like their tennis balls and frisbees chucked in the air.
My dad asks, “How’s she with Tucker? How are they together?”
Some of the funniest moments of the last few weeks have been witnessing the 18-lb Maine coon remind Agnes that this is his territory and it’s not to be shared with a brindle baby. Agnes B just wags her tail in submission while Tucker sniffs and smells her on the floor. “Don’t move, Agnes, it’ll be over soon,” I say. Tucker may let out a hiss that would make a cobra flee, but Agnes B just let’s him do his thing, then Tucker’s out the doggie door to make more frenemies with the resident felines.
Tonight I continue my volunteering for Ace of Hearts. I’m off to the East Valley Shelter to rescue a puppy named George. From there we’ll be headed to the vet in Culver City, where I met Agnes, and if all goes well, George will find his forever home like she did. They all deserve one, after all.