THE BLOG
12/12/2008 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Shelter Dog Blog

Barack's election has brought joy, relief and yes -- Hope. Even the countless "mutts" waiting in shelters will be uplifted by the Obamas' desire to adopt one of them. Our shelter dog has been one of the great things to come to our family. I posted this a couple weeks ago, but it's all the more timely now.

At the end of the summer I was overcome with doglonging; the fur, the clicking footsteps, the wordless snuffling and leaning. We wanted our kids to know dog love and pooch ways. I would stay up 'til 2:00, seduced by the photos on Petfinder and shelter websites. (Must be like trolling for dates online.) I spotted a youngish shepherd/collie mutt, "Fasby", with a spark like our own childhood dogs. For a couple weeks we would click over to his panting web smile throughout the day, bandy his name about, until he started to feel kind-of Ours. But family life was too hectic to go meet the dog, let alone bring him home.

Then one morning I looked him up and he was gone -- gone as only an online thing can be. A bit panicked, I phoned: "Did someone adopt Fasby?" Yes, the day before. Didn't they know he was meant for us? And how could we have let him get away?

The next day I numbly kept to my habit, went to the shelter site -- there he was again! I called -- he'd been returned, having clashed with the people's other dog. Who can resist a second chance? Thunderstorms threatened for the longish drive to the shelter, but this was our dog day. I felt solemn in the car. Though I had set the whole quest in motion, the sudden drama of absence and reappearance made it seem out of my hands.

And there was Fasby, big and bestial in a cage but gazing with calm bright eyes as our two boys bounced off the walls around him. (A family with kids had given him up a month before.) It was a leap, but we took it. While we waited for him outside, the August storm poured down on the trees and headstones of a pet cemetery. My older son asked questions about death; the sky hinted at clearing. The dog came and crowded me out of my seat so I joined the kids in back. He and his fangs looked too big to ride with them.

Unexpected dread overcame me when we got to our house, the same as I'd felt when first home with our second newborn -- the weight of No Turning Back. And we both felt guilty -- our kids were scared of this big pacing dog we grownups had wanted, who appeared at their bedside like a curious wolf. "I don't want him to bite me!" they said. The truth was, we didn't know him at all; didn't know if we could trust him.

But Fasby seemed to know us from the start; knew to roughhouse with the big people but to indulge and endure the small ones. Our sons now shower him with pesky love, hang on his neck, touch button noses to wet black nose. He licks their shoulders when they bathe. Now he crams into the backseat with them, each keeping a hand idling in his fur. And we adults relish the space we've had to create at dawn or midnight for inspired city walks.

I dreamed one night of walking Fasby. A tiger appeared, tore over to him, attacked at the jugular. The leash pulled me down on top of them. I felt the struggle under me and screamed his name, desperate that this savage thing not kill the dog we love.

"Fasby got smaller," my older son observed the other day. He did. Just small enough to fit, and make us get bigger.

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