Yes, friends, you read that right. While it is not a chapter of life I am proud of, I haven’t kept it a secret that I was adopted my another family before my forever parents found me. I was adopted by a family who opted to return me to the shelter after a mere couple of weeks because they felt I had too serious of behavioral issues. Sure, my small 20-pound frame jumped their 4-foot fence. Yes, I also jumped out of a moving vehicle. And all right already, I did grab that stinker of a cat Tessa and give her a good shake by the neck.
That first adoptive home included three other dogs and two cats and I wanted to make an impression. I wanted to stand out and to make them love me best so I could make up for all that lost time of feeling neglected. I know now I took my attention-seeking aspirations too far, but at the time I did what seemed right. I’m not proud of any of these things, but I do believe I had my reasons for doing them and I also argue that if I hadn’t “misbehaved” I wouldn’t be the dog I am or in the home I am today.
But you can imagine the sense of deja vu I felt when that first adoptive family brought me back to the humane society. I wasn’t nearly as terrified the second time when I was surrounded by people I kind of knew at this somewhat familiar place. This time I was unenthused by the attention I got when I first got there, because I knew that the people there are overworked and wouldn’t have much time for me after my initial check in.
Then it happened. Again.
They put me away in a cage and Sarah came back to take care of me just as she had before. And (just like I had before) I found myself questioning everything about who I was and the decisions I made in life leading up to that second (first) night in the humane society.
That was the night I met Ramsey. He was a 12-year-old black lab mix in the cage next to me. I had to close my eyes and shake my head to make sure I wasn’t seeing things. I swear I thought that somehow my dear mentor Rusty had come back to life and was in the cage next to me as he had been a mere few months earlier. I opened my eyes and instead of my wise old friend Rusty stood Ramsey, looking at me like I had lost my doggie mind. As it turned out, Ramsey was much more cynical than Rusty. Where Rusty had seen sunshine, Ramsey saw darkness. And I saw opportunity.
Rusty got me through that awful night when I had given up, and now it was my turn to paw it forward. Understanding he was 10 years my senior and might be listening but not actually hear a word this young whippersnapper might have to share with him, I told him my life story. I spared no details and told him everything I remembered, including Rusty and his humble wisdom.
It wasn’t long after that that Ramsey was adopted, and as happy for him as I was, I will never know whether my words had an affect on him. But that doesn’t matter to me anymore, because I know I did what Rusty would have wanted. I felt his presence with me that night, like he was watching over me from doggie heaven. I don’t think my feeling of deja vu was a coincidence. And I think he would have been proud.
“Our dead are never dead to us, until we have forgotten them,” English novelist George Eliot reasoned.
Rusty’s optimism lit a flame in my heart that no one can ever blow out. I will never forget, dear Rusty. Deja vu or otherwise, I will not forget.