tobias marie

I come from a family of dog people.

Now when I say dog people, I mean dog people, people who think dogs are furry humans, people who can't see a dog without saying hello to it. Growing up our dogs were always allowed free reign of the house. They could get on (almost) all the furniture, slept in our beds, and had their own stockings & table covered in toys at Christmas.

We really, really like dogs.

Not having dogs around was one of the hardest things to adjust to after I moved out of my parents' house. I hated it. But at the same time, I firmly believed that you should never own a dog you did not have the time, money, and interest in caring for fully. Dogs are a lot of work. Even with a fenced backyard and a doggy door at my parents' house they still required a lot of attention.

For most of my adult life I felt that I was not in a position to properly care for a dog. There were times when I couldn't have afforded one. There were other times when I didn't have the time or emotional resources to care for one.

But a month ago something changed. Life was stable. I had a routine going with work. I had my finances under control. I started to feel more strongly that there was a dog-shaped hole in my life. Even my family started to point out that I needed a dog.

So the weekend before Thanksgiving I began the process. A friend and I went to a mega-adoption event where all adoption fees were waived. I wasn't crazy about getting a dog so close to a trip out of town, but with the fees waived I had to at least try. So try I did.

We got there as the event was scheduled to begin. Unfortunately, about a million and one people had gotten there first. By the time we snaked our way through the line and made it into the event a measly ten minutes after it was supposed to start, every single dog had an application in on them.

I was crushed and walked away empty handed. Sure there were cats but I really wanted a dog. It was hard to stay upset for too long though because all of the animals at the event were adopted that day.

So off I went to Phoenix for Thanksgiving without a dog to come home to.

After a wonderful week with family, it was time to renew my search.

That first Saturday back was spent doing one thing only: driving from shelter to shelter looking at dogs. The first shelter had a great dog but he was really noisy (as beagles tend to be). I put in an application on him because he was pretty great but as I drove away I knew in my heart that he wasn't the right choice.

The second shelter had nothing but bigger dogs and a pair of bonded miniature pinchers. They were adorable and the shelter was not requiring them to be adopted together but I couldn't bear to split them up and wasn't in the position to adopt & care for two dogs. One day I would love to get another dog. But that day most likely won't come for several years.

With shelters starting to close and the time I was supposed to meet up with a friend drawing near, I stopped in one final shelter.

They only had one dog that was not a large dog. He already had two applications in on him and a couple was about to put in a third. There was slim to no chance I would get him. I walked out of the kennel area dejected. Once again I had struck out.

One of the volunteers happened to be standing by the door so I asked if they had any other smaller dogs.

To my delight she said she did. She thought he was a dachshund and dashed into the back to find out where he was. He wasn't in the back so she went to check one other room where they let the dogs exercise and have a little private time with potential adopters. As she passed me she said that maybe he was a chihuahua. She really couldn't remember what he was.

Initially I was not that enthused about it. I've never been a huge fan of small, toy-sized dogs. I had in mind a 20-25 pound female terrier mix and we were talking about a 10 pound male dachshund or possibly chihuahua.

As it turned out, he was both dachshund and chihuahua, a blend apparently known as a chiweenie.

They took me into a little room with a couch and some toys.

There in the room was a tiny little orange-y dog who looked like a miniature dachshund-fox blend with the biggest ears I had ever seen. He zipped around, alternating between wanting to snuggle and be loved on and wanting to explore.

I played and played with him. I asked the volunteer a million questions. He met so many other criteria I was looking for: housebroken, not barky, no behavior problems, loves to be held and cuddled. I didn't want to leave him, even to walk up front and in put in an application.

But as I did, I thought this is going to be my dog.

When I got up front I was dealt another blow: there was already another application on him. My chances of getting him had just been slashed in half.

I left the shelter dejected and convinced he wouldn't be mine.

But then on Monday I got a call: the other applicants had changed their mind and he was mine if I wanted him.

Tuesday night I flew from work to the shelter to get my little guy. There were a few bumps when I first brought him home but by Wednesday he seemed to have settled himself in to his new home.

There was a moment on Wednesday afternoon when I thought I can't do this. This is way too much work and I'm in over my head. 

That night though, after a walk and dinner and play time, he crawled into my lap and snuggled into me as I watched TV and I thought one thing:

Worth it. 

All of the time, all of the energy, all of the money. It was all worth it. It was worth it for even just one minute of pure unconditional love. He didn't care what I looked like. He didn't care about my personality flaws. He didn't care how I used my time.

All little Toby cared about was that I was there with him.

And that was all I wanted. I have wonderfully supportive family and friends. But there's something different about the affection of a little ball of fur who looks at you like you've hung the moon and the sun in the sky, that wants nothing more than to be physically close to you and to be touched and loved by you.

As cliche as it sounds, in that moment I found myself hoping that one day I would be the person my dog thought I was.

But even if I never do, he'll love me all the same.

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