by Tina Whittle
When my daughter, Kaley, was four, she decided that she wanted a dog. She wanted one so badly that she took a piece of plywood, tied a string around it, and named it Flat Puppy. It was a pitiful sight, my kid dragging that hunk of wood around the yard, so her father and I admitted it was time to make room in our family for a canine.
Since she and her father both had allergies, we decided to look for a Maltese. It was the one breed of dog that neither of them reacted to, and the breed’s small size made it a good match for our household. We were also committed to adopting a rescue pet. Since I was new to the adoption game, I didn’t realize how difficult my quest was going to be.
For one, there were very few Maltese available for adoption, and of those that were, none were recommended for placement in a home with children. I spent hours combing the web, but none of my promising leads ended with an adoptable dog. I widened my search area to include not just Georgia, but all the surrounding states. Then I widened it to a five-hundred-mile radius, deciding that even if I had to drive all the way up the Eastern Seaboard to find my kid a dog, I’d do it.
I was losing hope…and then one day, there he was.
Little White Cloud was his name, and his photo on the Petfinders site showed a fluffball with chopped-up whiskers and worried eyes. He’d been rescued from a puppy mill where he’d once served as the stud dog, which meant that he’d spent most of his life in a crate in the backyard. He’d been neglected almost to the point of starvation, his unclipped coat becoming so matted and tangled that the rescue team had to use sheep shearers to get it off him. He was heartworm positive as well.
But—and here was the first bit of luck and magic—despite his ill treatment, he’d retained his sweet personality, and was approved for adoption to a home with children. I clicked on the location, fingers crossed that he was less than a day’s drive away.
When I saw the address, I did a doubletake, and then I started laughing. Cloud was a block from my husband’s parents. They could practically see him from their front porch, which was a short drive away from our current home.
I knew then he was fated to be ours, that he was our dog, and that he’d been waiting for us to find him. He bonded with my daughter immediately, as they shared the backseat on the ride home from the Canine Rescue and Rehabilitation center. She quickly became the only person he trusted, and if she left a room, he would post himself at the door she went out and howl until she returned.
Those first few weeks were a trial. But thanks to the help of some rescue-savvy friends, we learned the techniques that we needed to reassure our new family member that he was safe, secure, and loved.
He blossomed into a fine, funny, delightful pet. While my daughter is still his person, he’s come to appreciate me as a pretty decent human being, warm of lap and generous with treats. And despite his initial terror at seeing my husband—indeed, any male with facial hair—Cloud has now decided that the man of our house is an okay sort, and good for cuddles and head scratching. He’s even gotten over his fear of noises and strangers enough to appreciate trick-or-treating at Halloween, and he eagerly greets every tiny monster and Disney character that comes to our door.
Next month, Cloud will celebrate his eighth birthday, and six-and-a-half years as a member of our family. He’s been a faithful friend and companion, and I hope he would say the same of us; we have certainly tried to be worthy of his heart, which is huge and brave and true. That’s a pretty fine goal right there, to live up to your dog’s estimation of you. And though it’s impossible, I’m grateful for every day that I get to try.