Saturday, August 21, 2019 was Clear the Shelters 2019, a national event in which adoption fees are waived at animal shelters. During this event you can visit a shelter and find a number of adoptable pets who have been vaccinated and spayed or neutered and are ready to meet their forever family. Even though I’m still in the process of moving, I was aware of this event ahead of time and knew that I might stop by and try to find a dog that would be my new companion in Austin.
I have been looking at pet listings online for our local animal shelter for literally months, probably since May. I was hoping I may be able to trick my parents into adopting, since Ty was adopted in June 2013 on whim to be a companion to our German Shepard Apollo after we lost Max, my childhood dog. Of course, Ty is much more of an independent spirit while also being the most cuddly of any of our previous pets. He would probably be fine if he stayed an “only child” the rest of his life.
Once I realized I could likely move out on my own this year, my search became more fevered to find a pet for myself. All my life, my parents have warned me not to get dog before I can fully provide for it financially. As someone who is fully aware of the cost of a dog and the time commitment it is, I have still longed for one to call my own. Even if it might make my life tougher financially, I felt like the benefits far outweigh the challenges. But as consequence, I did not feel safe sharing my plans with anyone! I refused to give anyone the chance to talk me out of it.
Even though I have yet to move into my apartment and will not yet have very stable income, I decided to visit the animal shelter this weekend and see if there was a dog I felt would fit into my life. I knew it would be a challenging week, but I was certain that if I found the right dog then the short-term challenges would be nothing in the grand scheme of things.
With all this mind, I wanted to share my Clear the Shelters 2019 adoption story and my first weekend spent bonding with Opal.
Clear the Shelters 2019
When I arrived at the animal shelter, I could tell it had already been busy. The shelter had been open just about an hour thus far and many of the smaller dogs were already taken. It was a little discouraging because I know I could not handle a big dog on my own and also that I couldn’t take on the responsibility of a puppy. Puppies are adorable, but they are much more work than I am currently willing to take on! Plus, mutts can be like a slowly unveiled mystery box. You don’t know how big they might eventually get if you get them when they are puppies!
I wanted a slightly older dog from the beginning, because I knew its energy level would be lower. An adult dog would be far more likely to be fine lazying about the apartment while I went to work and not cause much damage.
I found her in the last room I almost missed. Opal was one of the dogs I had seen online over the last couple of weeks. There had been a few dogs on my mental list to try to find in person, and I only managed to find about 3-4 of them. Her kennel mate was jumping over her in his/her own excitement. While Opal was interested in the people who walked by, she didn’t jump at the door or bark. She remained calm and collected, and I felt I had found my match the moment I laid eyes on her.
After grabbing her kennel card and getting a Clear the Shelters 2019 volunteer to help me get her out, we took her outside to see how she acted one-on-one. She didn’t pull on her leash and walked really well. One thing we talked about really early is her health condition. She had tested positive for giardia and heartworms when she arrived at the shelter. She was also showing possible signs of kennel cough, which can be contagious to other dogs. That was a little concerning, but from her walks she did not seem to be too badly affected by anything yet.
She was on some medications but hadn’t started heartworm treatment yet, despite being at the shelter for almost a month. I learned about options for her treatment and decided I still wanted to adopt her. It wasn’t ideal, but I felt I was doing a much bigger service by adopting her now that I was aware of the reason why she was probably still at the shelter. There is a foundation that helps pay for the heartworm treatment of pets adopted from shelters, so I am currently eagerly awaiting their response to my application and email.
Our First Weekend Together
We had a lovely weekend together after Clear the Shelters 2019 before I needed to return to Austin for work. Opal slept much of the time, and after she learned she was allowed in my bed it was hard to get her downstairs! I wanted to let her outside a bunch so she knew she didn’t ever need to pee or poo indoors, but she showed little interest in the outdoors. When I would hang out downstairs to cook and eat, she would often wander off by herself to go back up the stairs to get into my bed. When I would walk into my room, her tail would immediately start wagging, even if she wasn’t facing the door. She is such a sweetheart.
Our first night in the bed together, there was a lot of space between us. However, she gradually inched closer, and by daybreak she was in my face ready to say good morning. The next night I had realized that personal boundaries were now essentially non-existent. She had me laughing when she ended up shoulder-to-shoulder with me, both of us on our backs. When I was barely ready to sleep, I found she had repositioned herself so she could rest her head on my neck from behind me. I didn’t want to disturb her, but her hair was so ticklish!
I already love her so much and was devastated to need to leave her so quickly, especially since she is sick. She is already exhibiting a few of the symptoms of heartworms, including lethargy and significant weight loss. She has trouble going up the stairs and definitely seems lethargic beneath her excitement to be in a proper home. When she’s napping, she breathes pretty heavily and sometimes needs to sit up to cough. It’s like there’s something in her throat, but nothing ever comes up.
I really hope that the heartworm foundation will get back to me by the end of the week. I would like to start her treatment as soon as possible. I’ll have my apartment at the end of the week and would like to bring her back with me, but I need to know how much her treatment will cost. If it will be cheaper, I would prefer to get her treated over there.
But then there’s also the concern about travel. I don’t think she likes the car too much right now and I don’t have a crate for her yet. She’s a little big, so I am hesitant to buy one. My car is not very bit anyway, so it probably wouldn’t fit. Never mind all the stuff I need to cram into it!
I plan to make at least two extra pit stops for her, just to make sure she knows she does not need to relieve herself in the car. She threw up in my car Monday morning right as we were leaving to drop her off at my cousin’s. I felt so bad. For one, I was leaving her. But I also felt because it was definitely my fault; I fed her right before we left, not thinking about how nervous she was to see me pack up.
For those curious about her name, I changed it. She did not respond to her kennel name, so I had complete freedom to rename her myself. I had more boy names than girl names in mind ahead of time, because I grew up with male dogs! But I didn’t go into Clear the Shelters 2019 with any specific name I wanted to use. I believe in getting to know the dog before picking a name if you have the luxury of the option.
Opal’s name was inspired by the little girl in from Because of Winn-Dixie. I’ve always loved the name Winnie, but I didn’t think it didn’t suited Opal. When my mind fixated on Opal in the car on the drive home, I felt it suited her. She’s a beautiful dog, but I didn’t feel like giving her a super cutesy name. Also there are not a lot of human female names I would like to give a dog for some reason. Neither could I think of any character names I would have liked to give her. With more time I might have, but a name was not high on my list of priorities!
Her name is that there are so many nickname possibilities, which was a decision-making factor in picking a name! I had a lot of fun calling Apollo, even Ty, by several different names other than his own. Many of Apollo’s nicknames would also work for Opal (e.g. Polly, Pollywally, Opie, Opalrooney)! I mean, her name is a kind of anagram of his, which I’m just now properly realizing! So I got to honor that big doofus with her name in a way.
I am so excited for this weekend. I’m bringing Opal to the vet on Saturday, so I’ll be making the trip back Friday evening. I had my doubts about bringing her back to Austin this week, but it seems necessary now because I do not want to continue to impose on my cousins. I’m lucky they offered to watch her for me this weekend, because I would not have asked! Regardless of cost, I will be paying for her heartworm treatment. I am so scared of losing her. I’ve quickly given her my heart and cannot imagine to prospect of replacing her. It would be hard.