I Adopted the Wrong Dog
Don’t freak out about the headline. Fish doesn’t know he’s the wrong dog; I’m the only one agonizing about our relationship. As far as Fish is concerned, my house is a pretty nice hotel, although the staff could be better trained.
Fish (not his real name) came into my life — or perhaps I should say I dropped into his — on a cold day in March. I had just put down my beloved, apricot-colored shepherd, Millie (also not her real name). I understand a dog dying is agony for everyone, but Millie’s case was all the more unimaginable because it’s pretty clear the emergency vet killed her. I know I sound unhinged when I say that, but the vet gave me a lot of money back, so it’s pretty clear they knew they killed her, too.
After Millie died, I knew what kind of hollow grief was ahead of me. I’m not new to dead animals. I knew I was susceptible to really bad decisions, and I knew I should wait to get another dog. Even though we were deep in a pandemic, a dog-less life is a perfect time to travel. Why not try out that pink hotel in Hawaii? Or rent a beach house that Millie could never have shared, because she was too slobbery and hairy and somehow, no matter what the season, always muddy.
But as dog people know, waiting to get another dog is not possible. A dog-less house is unsurvivable. The days after Millie died are a blur, but I remember soon realizing that I would drop dead if there wasn’t a dog in my house. So I went to Plan B: If I wasn’t going to travel, at least I could try to get Millie 2.0. Soon there was the endless scrolling on Petfinder, Instagram, the reaching out to rescues. The rescue where Millie came from started sending photos of new dogs, saying “I know it’s soon, but…”
It was all a jumbled mess, until about nine days after Millie died. I saw a video of a sleek little dog, then named Elvis but now named Fish, with legs for miles, trying to curl himself up into the tiniest ball possible, while imprisoned at the Lancaster animal shelter, a very cold, very windy, very loud place in the desert. The whites of his eyes were showing, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen any sentient being more frightened.
Elvis/Fish was trying to curl himself into a tiny ball so that he could hide in a…