Finding Georgia

I wanted a quick read this past week, something inspiriting for the season and lighthearted.  I scanned the end of the year best books list, but of course all of those books were already checked out from the library and had a waiting list of hundreds for the digital versions.  The bestseller that was still available, like a bulging-eyed Boston Terrier from the shelter, was Julie Klam’s You Had Me at Woof: How Dogs Taught Me the Secrets of Happiness. The 140-pages chronicle the adoption of her first dog in her twenties, to the second dog that coincided with the birth of her daughter, and the numerous fosters that found their way into her home and into her stories.  Unable to adopt them all permanently, she joins a rescue organization and records the adventures.  Though the stories become a little repetitive by the end, their value lies in the shared experiences, which is the reason that other dog lovers pick up this book.  Perhaps it is because we believe the passage that Klam quotes “A very wise woman once told me that dogs find owners, not the other way around.”  So here’s our story:

When I pleaded with my parents that I needed a dog, they said no, not when I was 12, but when I was 23.  Growing up, we had a two family dog, the later I named Happy, for the date I received her – my 12th birthday. She stayed with us for 12 years, until the year after I graduated from college.  I was alone then, renting a room, figuring out my next step and next school.  Two years later, I had earned my master’s degree, married by college sweetheart, and settled into a two-bedroom townhouse that had the space for a pet.

We were running several 5k races at the time, an appropriately our dog stationed herself just across the road from one during a campus pet adoption event. Having registered for the event, we had an hour to warm-up, but only need a quarter of that time since it was a warm, early afternoon.  Several shelters circled the open field in tents, with crates stacked two tall and dogs of all ages and sizes wandering around leashed to colorfully clothed college students.  A red and white hound caught our attention, so we asked if we could walk her around. She followed us instantly.  We even jogged a few paces just to see if she could keep up.

She was skinny at the time and new to the leash.  In the two weeks since being found on the road, she had starting eating again, learned to sit on command, and had all of the necessary medical procedures.  She wasn’t a beagle, at least not completely, but she had the same boxy nose and partial coloring of red and white that made us assume that she had beagle or hound heritage.  She used her nose to take in the world, and we would later learn that her other half might be boxer, since she also loved to take that upright boxing stance for a quick punch or high-five.

We debated whether we could handle the addition to our lives.  She was larger than the dogs I had grown accustomed to and smaller than those my husband had a kid.  Her short hair meant that she would be low maintenance in the grooming department, but her keen nose meant that she would get into plenty of other messes.  She watched us intently, with large brown eyes, as we decided to take her home.

We left the adoption event with a blue rope leash and her fade yellow bandana that she would keep for several weeks as a sort of comfort blanket.  Her first bed was a damaged University of Georgia blanket that we willing sacrificed in case it should be ruined in our townhome in Clemson.  She curled up on it in our otherwise empty kitchen while we shopped for all of the essentials: a dog bed, crate, food, bowls, and toys.  We set up her new house and sat on the linoleum floor playing with the new items until she knew they were hers.  We threw names back and forth across the room with the tennis ball, until it came down to two: Scout or Georgia.  The former came from my favorite book, To Kill a Mockingbird, and captured the 7 month-old pup’s inquisitive spirit.  The latter came from her home state and summed up her southern nature, sweet and proper, and completely fitting for our Georgia.

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