Growing up, much like numerous other children, I wanted a puppy and constantly begged my family for one. Luckily for them, my brother was severely allergic and even my hopes of getting a “hypoallergenic” dog were quickly shot down. I quickly realized a family pet was a definite no go, no matter how much I may beg.
Fast forward to my early twenties where I had been living on my own for a while and the need for a pet became even stronger. Unfortunately, for many years due to rental reasons, I wasn’t able to own one, but in 2015 I settled into a place which was pet-friendly. Despite my fear of being a first-time single pet owner, I began my search.
I was looking online at Adopt a Pet when I came across Pepita’s picture. I fell in love with her photo and upon reading that she was a three-legged dog from the streets of Mexico my desire for her grew. I filled out an application and within a couple of days, I was set to meet Pepita at her foster home.
Reality Vs. Expectation.
The meet and greet was not in anyway what I had imagined. I envisioned meeting a happy, friendly dog filled with excitement and me not wanting to leave her side. Instead, she spent the entire time cowering in fear away from me with tail tucked between her legs and her head down low, making disgruntled barks anytime I came close. Despite repeated attempts with treats in my hands, the closest I ever got to her was when she would
take snatch the treat from my hands and enjoy said treat far, far, away from me. Instead of leaving feeling happy and excited, I left feeling disappointed and discouraged. It breaks my heart to say this knowing what I know now, but I heavily questioned if I should proceed with adopting her still. Perhaps I set my hopes too high imagining such a perfect initial meet; but how could I be expected to take home a dog who wouldn’t even let me get close to her?
Despite all my negative thoughts and fears, I had one even stronger and more important thought- I couldn’t shake that I felt completely unable to walk away from her for whatever reason(s). It’s inexplicable given how poorly our first meet went why I wanted her so badly, but it all makes sense now.
I was open and honest with the rescue group regarding my fears and was advised by the founder (who is well experienced in fostering and adopting street dogs) that they take a little more time to warm up… Once they do, it is so incredibly worth it. I thought heavily on these words and looked at the bigger picture; Pepita was been a street dog who had to fend for herself prior to being hit by a car and left for dead, she had her right hind leg amputated, put into a shelter with other street dogs, then took a flight from Mexico to Canada to then be placed into another entirely new home and environment, again. Needless to say, she had been through a lot. And just like humans who have gone through difficult or traumatizing situations, she was left still reeling from it all. She didn’t trust anyone, and why should she?
I began to see I was expecting way too much from her. I shifted my perspective from wanting this “loving, happy, affectionate dog” to “I am going to be a loving, happy, and affectionate person for and towards this dog.” The foster assisted me with my fears by letting me know I could foster with the intention to adopt Pepita, but I knew in my heart and head once she came to me – there would be no going back.
Although it took a while for Pepita to fully trust me, I always refer to her as the gift that keeps on giving. With each day that passes she becomes less anxious, and more trusting. I’ve had numerous friends, family and neighbors comment on how far she’s come since they first met her. She’s made incredible progress through her one on one training, but more importantly; loads of love, patience, and affection.
My blessing in disguise.
I had my fair share of worries in the beginning. I worried that her high anxiety would be too much for me to handle, I worried she wouldn’t ever play with all the toys I bought her and most of all, I was incredibly worried that we would never bond. Although Pepita definitely has her issues (behavioral to be specific), she has come such a long way in such a short amount of time. Slowly but surely, she began showing me affection – a whole ton of it, I tell you. The affection isn’t just reserved for me either, but for any returning guest that she may remember. She’s come a long way from barking at people out of fear to running around in circles out of excitement when a human friend comes to visit.
Despite what she has been through, Pepita remains resilient. To be honest, I don’t think she really realizes she’s different in that she’s missing a leg and I surely never treat her like she is. In fact, I often say the unfortunate event of her getting hit by a car was her blessing in disguise. It’s why she was found, taken in, and thus brought to Canada to end up here, with me.
When looking for my furever friend I had originally set out for a young dog with little to no behavioral issues, good with people and animals, little to no shedding preferred, and overall didn’t require much training (I went into this really realistic, I tell ya). I definitely didn’t get any of that in Pepita; instead I got a four-year-old with high anxiety, doesn’t currently do well with hyperactive dogs and who sheds more than I do (and I shed a lot!).
What I did get was everything I needed in my life, that I hadn’t even realized was missing. I have the most loving, loyal, best friend and companion. Nothing makes me happier than to see her happy, and nothing makes me more proud than to think of how far she’s come since I first met her. She’s the perfect balance of crazy and lazy, just like her mama, which makes us, alongside many other reasons, perfect for each other.
I knew adopting a dog would be a big life change and a huge responsibility. However, I never in a million years could have grasped just how much my life, and myself as a person would change- for the better. Shortly after adopting Pepita, I felt a strong need to give back. I had the most unrealistic want to save A L L the dogs- they were all worthy of homes and it wasn’t fair some were adopted while others weren’t… but I like to think of myself as a reasonable person and I knew that was just not reasonable thinking. So, instead of making the impossible promise of adopting every single dog out there, I decided to remain realistic and find another way to give back – and that was to volunteer for the same rescue group that had brought Pepita from Mexico to Toronto.
My volunteer work has led me to newfound friendships with some of the kindest and hard working women I’m lucky to know and has quickly become a very important and meaningful part of my life. It has made me into a more strong, motivated, and humble person. I discovered the power of my voice, something I knew was always within me but didn’t know how to bring about, or was too afraid or insecure to do so. Turns out, a passionate and worthy cause was all I was missing…
…and a three legged companion.
“Adopt, Don’t Shop”
I have nothing against those who choose to buy from a breeder but I do urge everyone to always look into adopting first. There are so many animals of various ages, sizes, and breeds in desperate need of homes. Some may have issues- whether it be behavioral, medical, or unable to be in a home with other animals, but these issues are often made very clear prior to adoption. Work with your local shelter or rescue group and let them know what you’re looking for, they will help set you up with the right furry friend.
If you aren’t ready for the lifetime commitment of a dog just yet, then I strongly suggest looking into fostering. Foster homes are always needed for dogs as shelters are overpopulated and extremely stressful for dogs. Even the best shelters can be a loud, chaotic and frightening place for the dogs living there, and due to the unstable nature of these environments, they can cause even of the friendliest of dogs to become depressed or defensive. Through fostering you are providing not only a stable environment for a deserving pet, but you are also showing them the unconditional love and trust that they need to feel safe. Often times, many of these dogs have not had a stable home or a trusting owner before, and so these acts of kindness are completely new to them. Through the constant display of affection, love & trust it is shocking but nonetheless undeniable how much a dog can change for the better. You might be surprised at the positive impact it has on you as a person, too.