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THE FARTHERMOST VIEW

Selected Podpieces

An End, A Beginning

Our little dog Emily died suddenly last fall after a spontaneous pneumothorax – a lung that collapsed for no apparent reason. My Companion and I had adopted her just a year earlier, at the age of eight, and she turned out to be an easy-going comrade for our 12-year-old golden retriever, Oakley. We’d lived with bouncy, eighty-pound goldens for more than twenty years, and we were delighted with Emily’s dainty white feet, her delicate nose, her snarly little smile and especially her very manageable size – twenty-eight pounds. Her death left a huge hole in the fabric of our daily life. We agreed that another little dog, as much like Emily as possible, would help to fill it up.

In earlier days, would-be dog adopters just headed for the local dog pound, where the runaway, lost, and unwanted dogs of the county were stored prior to being put to death. You’d stroll down a cold corridor between rows of caged dogs barking, flinging themselves at the wire, cowering in the back corner, or standing there gazing at you, tails wagging nonstop. They all knew – you knew they knew – that you were their last chance for life and love. With no way of judging a dog but his looks and his frightened behavior, you closed your eyes and ears to all but one, and took him home.

Now we have Petfinder.com, the canine Facebook. You sit at your computer and scroll through photos of beautiful dogs, and for each there’s a description of her likes and dislikes, behavior with cats and children, and – less usefully – how much she deserves to be loved. These entries usually are written by their foster owners, who may well have saved them from euthanasia in animal control facilities. To a dog-lover, almost any dog is sweet and loveable, so you learn to read carefully for hints of imperfection: “With patience and love, little Muggsy will learn not to bite the hand that feeds her;” “Strong, energetic Spot should not go to a home with cats, other dogs, children, men, or women with red hair.”

A virtual dog isn’t quite as in-your-face as a furry jumping one, but that doesn’t mean an Internet search for a pet will be based on logic and reason. I threw myself, broken heart and all, onto Petfinder.com looking for an Emily-like beagle mix – someone quiet, a little shy, whose favorite activity would be curling up in the fuzzy bed that Em had left behind. Early in my search I found one who – while no one would ever replace Emily – looked and sounded like her. “Gentle female beagle/corgi. Wonderful companion for retirees.” Thrilled, I filled out the online application, only to be told by return email that this paragon of gentle ladyhood already had been adopted.

She was so cute, though, that I started looking at corgis, and I hit a treasure trove. Two in particular struck me: a corgi/collie mix two hours away, and a golden retriever/corgi in a foster home three hours in the other direction. I showed their photos to My Companion; he agreed that they were incredibly cute. I filled out the applications. I recorded the name of our local veterinarian, the names of friends who would attest to our suitability as adoptive pet parents; I said yes, we have a fence; no, the dog would not be chained outside; yes, we would love it forever, and we would try our best to keep its lungs from collapsing. I signed my name with a digital flourish and emailed the applications, hoping against hope that we would be the first to claim one of these little fellows.

The very next day I got a phone call. "Congratulations,” a voice said cheerily. “You’ve been approved to adopt our dog!” We could pick him up on Saturday. Thrilled, I rushed to the computer to look at his photo once again.

In my email in-basket was a message from the other rescue group that read CONGRATULATIONS! YOU’VE BEEN ACCEPTED AS OUR PUPPY’S ADOPTIVE PARENTS!

“What shall we do?” I asked My Companion as we looked at the photos of their eager little faces. I was torn. We’d wanted a quiet, middle-aged lady beagle, and suddenly we had been offered two teenaged male corgi mixes bursting with energy.

Reader, we adopted them both.

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