Finding our Muse

Around our first wedding anniversary, my wife and I decided that we wanted a dog. After successfully a houseplant alive for most of that year, we joked that a puppy would be the next step in the natural progression of having an actual kid. So, around October 2010, I began searching.

A lot of people in our families paid exorbitant fees for full-bred, AKC-certified puppies whose lineages could be traced back for generations. It was a symbol of pride, like having a new Mercedes-Benz parked in the driveway, except it was never to be driven—more often than I’d like to admit, these designer dogs were sent off to the pound or given away to acquaintances once it became obvious that it took time and dedication to care for them. Because of this, we decided to adopt.

When I was around eight or nine, my mom helped one of our neighbors’ dachshunds deliver a litter of puppies, and there was one that my mom bonded with immediately. We took the puppy in, and my mom named her Midnight, due to her wispy black fur. Over the next several years, she slowly transitioned from being my mom’s dog into my dog—she was one of the best friends I could ever ask for. She was smart, playful and so, so loving. As I transitioned to adolescence, I found myself ostracized by my peers. I was an outcast, and, as the years went on and I became increasingly lonelier, Midnight was always there.

So, my wife and I decided that we wanted to adopt a dachshund. We spent several weeks looking at purebred rescue centers, scouring Craigslist and reaching out to local veterinarian offices in order to find the perfect match before we came across a pet adoption website with a listing for Elvis. He was a 12-week-old dachshund mix—part wiener dog, part blue heeler—with a rusty red coat, his tail and ears tinged with bits of black and a white spot on his chest. The more I looked at his photo and the agency’s description of his young personality, the more confident that I was that this was our dog.

I completed the online application and detailed all of our lofty plans for how we would give Elvis the best home possible. I described how we would approach training and our history with pets. I provided pay stubs so that they could confirm that we could afford Elvis, and I submitted parts of my lease that indicated that our apartment was dog friendly. After hitting the final submit button, a surreal excitement washed over me, and it didn’t leave until a few days later when I got the call that I had hoped would grow our little family.

The apologetic voice on the other end of the phone broke the news to me as gently as he could: Elvis had already been adopted. However, he let me know that Elvis came from a large litter, and, as far as he knew, plenty of his brothers and sisters were still looking for homes. There was a catch, though: the rest of the litter wasn’t brought into the agency. So, he left me the contact information for the woman who dropped Elvis off and wished me luck.

I called the number, and when I asked the woman who answered about her litter of puppies, she had very little idea what I was talking about.

“Great,” I thought. “A dead end.”

But as we talked, it became obvious that I was mistaken—I assumed that she had the litter of puppies, but she had gotten Elvis from a family whom she went to church with. And, she continued, the family would be giving away the remainder of the litter in the church parking lot that night.

My wife and I raced over to the church a couple of towns over. By the time we arrived, it wasn’t quite day or dusk—the sun had set, but the streetlights hadn’t flickered to life yet—and we paced the parking lot until we found a hatchback with the trunk propped open and about four or five little dogs roaming about.

We made it, but what we didn’t realize was that the most difficult task was still ahead of us. My wife and I spent the next hour talking with the family while we played with the skittish puppies, trying to determine which would be the best fit for us, until one who looked just like Elvis—rusty red fur, bits of black on the tail and ears and a white spot on the chest—came up and gave my kneeling wife a quick kiss on the cheek.

After 10 years, we still think that our little pup—whom we named Muse—was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made as a married couple. However, we don’t think that we truly choose her—she chose us.

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