Wally: Part 1

Aaron and I had a deal: when Evie turned 18, he could get a motorcycle and I could get a dog.

I’ve been firmly anti-motorcycle since 2010, when I met him in the midst of his recovery from a horrific accident. He was extremely lucky to survive, and still experiences pain and discomfort from the injuries he sustained.

I wasn’t about to lose him to another motorcycle accident—especially once we had Evie. Over the years, he asked dozens of times if he could get a motorcycle, and I always answered that he could once Evie was fully grown.

As for the dog, I figured I’d need to get one when Evie (presumably) moves out so I’d still have someone to take care of. I’ve always been a dog-lover. Aaron… has not.

He had a bad dog experience as a kid and at his former office, which allowed dogs that would apparently whine and bark and annoy him while he was trying to work. He also hates slobbering, shedding, wet-dog smell, etc.

So it seemed like a fair compromise for Aaron to get the thing I hate and for me to get the thing he hates in the distant, hazy future, circa 2034. Yay, marriage!

Then my mom got sick, and I began to rethink everything about how life should and would unfold.

My mom should be planning to retire soon so she can spend time enjoying her hobbies: quilting, gardening and more. It breaks my heart that she’ll never be able to do those things again.

I realized 2034 isn’t guaranteed, and I didn’t want to be the one who held Aaron back from one of his life’s greatest passions because I was afraid.

In October 2020, he bought a motorcycle—a project to take apart and rebuild more than to ride.

In August 2021, he ask if he could get another motorcycle—and I thought, what’s one more?

In December 2021, he asked if he could get a third—and I threatened to get a dog if he went through with it. It was a bluff that I felt sure he wasn’t willing to risk calling.

Well, meet Wally.

I began searching Petfinder for rescue dogs before Christmas. We went to the Humane Society to see some dogs in person (in dog?), and even met up with a 40-pound dog who needed to be re-homed due to the family’s baby developing a dog allergy.

We realized that we couldn’t handle a big dog, but didn’t want a super tiny dog either, so I narrowed our search to dogs between 18-30 pounds. I chatted on the phone with a few rescues and discovered a terrier mix or poodle mix would be ideal to keep shedding to a minimum. I also wanted a young or adult dog, not a puppy; I’ve been catching up on my sleep ever since Evie was born and didn’t love the idea of more sleepless nights. I saved searches on Petfinder for all my criteria and checked for new arrivals several times a day.

After losing out on a few dogs and submitting other applications that went unanswered, on December 29 I searched “terrier mix” in our area and clicked through pages of dogs until I found one named Rocko who’d been on Petfinder for 19 days. He only had a single photo: a closeup of his face with one ear flopped back.

His description said:

Rocko is 1.5 years old and 20lbs. Up to date on vaccines, microchipped and neutered. Good with other dogs, kids and cats. Rescued in Tijuana. Arrives 12/17.

It was very little info and I had no clue what his body looked like, but his coat looked wiry so I figured he wouldn’t shed a ton. Why not submit an application and find out more?

This was my first time applying for a dog through Casa Dog rescue, and I was shocked when they reached out to the friends and family I’d listed as references within hours of submitting my application. I heard from a volunteer later that same day, who answered a few questions and put me in touch with Rocko’s foster, Karen, a kindly woman in her 60s who lived alone. She spoke glowingly of Rocko, telling me how loving and calm and quiet he was. He was potty trained and had been sweet with her five-year-old grandson on Christmas. He sounded perfect.

We had a huge snowstorm right after Christmas, and Karen lived an hour away, but we made plans to meet Rocko once the roads weren’t so icy. It took a week and a half, and I used the time to buy dog supplies and make sure our house was ready in case we took Rocko home with us. I was terrified someone else would swoop in and take him, but Karen and I kept in touch and exchanged photos and videos, and she felt certain we were the right family for him.

“I’m so glad he’s going to have a whole family to love,” she said.

I was so nervous on January 8, the day we met him—nervous he wouldn’t be anything like I thought he was and we’d walk away disappointed, and also nervous that we’d take him home and discover we were in over our heads. Most of all, I was nervous Aaron would hate him.

I can’t say it was love at first sight once Karen opened her front door. He was shaggy and unkempt looking, with wild hair sticking straight out from both sides of his neck like a lion’s mane. But as we petted him and took him on a walk around the neighborhood, I saw he walked so well on a leash and was the perfect size for then five-year-old Evie to handle. He had a long neck and body, a curled tail and short legs that made for the cutest little trot. It was a no-brainer that we’d take him home for a two-week trial adoption.

Karen was the sweetest and packed up a few of his favorite toys and treats to take with us. She was sad to see him go and offered to watch him for us if we ever had the need. She asked if we had a new name in mind for him and was delighted with the answer: Wally.

The ride home was when I fell in love. With Wally awkwardly curled up in my lap, shaking, I knew as I snuggled and comforted him that he wouldn’t be going anywhere.

To be continued!

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