I'm just not going to be able to keep this short, so...sorry in advance for a long story about how Zoe came home to us. There are gratuitous puppy pics, though!
Zoe was rescued by Three Little Pitties, a rescue whose mission it is to save dogs in Texas and bring them up to the PNW. What we learned from this process is that Texas shelters are 1) overflowing, and 2) are kill shelters. People there rarely fix their animals, and many of their dogs live outside and aren't treated like family members...at least, not to the extent you see up here. So TLP rescues dogs in Texas and adopts them out in Oregon, Washington, and Victoria, CA.
Matt and I had been casually looking for a dog since buying our condo last spring. I wanted some sort of dachshund mix, something small, preferably female. Matt did the majority of the searching before bed, sending me profiles while I slept. In the morning, I'd tell him if anyone piqued my interest.
We soon learned the adoption game out here is competitive! I filled out a few applications and never heard back, usually because the dog in question had already been matched with someone else.
|Could not say "no" to this face.|
Then, one Saturday when Matt was at EMT class, I woke up for my long run and had the perfect dog in my texts. Unwilling to miss our chance, I filled out an inquiry while still in bed and sent it off. Within minutes I had an email from Tim, her adoption coordinator, who said he'd like me to fill out my complete profile and application, including our references.
I did so immediately and then left for my run.
An hour later I finished my long run and checked my phone. I had texts from Scott, Robby, and Nick that Tim had reached out to them for references and they'd given glowing reviews. I checked my email and had a response from Tim that made my heartrate skyrocket.
|The email that changed our lives!|
We'd heard back from Tim, and he thought we sounded like the perfect match for Zoe (then named Madeline).
I let Tim know we were traveling early the next morning and he was like, no problem, let's get this done today! So, I FaceTimed with Zoe's foster and fell in love. She was just this little peanut with huge eyes and a loooong body. I asked the foster to please call again when Matt was home, but I'd pretty much made up my mind.
|When we virtually "met" Zoe she was 5.5lbs.|
To cut this story short, we paid our adoption fee that day and jetted off to Florida the next morning. A couple days later, Matt got his official offer from Seattle.
Zoe's transport date was December 18, the first night of Hanukkah, which was really just perfect timing. She actually arrived and was deposited in our arms at midnight December 19. I'll never forget what it felt like, waiting in freezing cold as the transport crew called out names in alphabetical order. When they neared "M", I saw them take this tiny little girl out of her crate and I could've wept.
She was so. SMALL.
|The crew told us they'd given her lots of extra attention because she was sad when her brother got dropped off at his stop.|
We traded paperwork and Matt tucked Zoe into his arms and then she was ours! She slept on my lap the entire ride home.
|Our first pic of her at home, the night she arrived. I think we got to bed at 3am.|
The first weeks were really hard. We had been told her birthday was sometime in July, but our vet told us she was more likely a September puppy, making her just about 15 weeks instead of 6 months old. That's a big difference.
|I can't get over how tiny her face was!|
|Best gift ever!|
In those early days, I felt a lot of panic. There were so many things I wanted to do right, and there are a million schools of thought on training. We wanted to crate train her, but she cried when we left her in there. (Plus, we really wanted to cuddle her when was she napping!) I was sure she'd never become a dog who voluntarily goes into her crate.
When Matt started drill school, I brought Zoe to puppy kindergarten for six weeks to socialize and learn some commands. We practiced diligently every day, but it was hard work. Between basic commands, potty training, exercising her brain, and a freak ice storm, there was a lot going on those first few weeks.
|In denial that she's outgrown my lap.|
And now she's 10 months old and I can't believe the progress I see!
She knows her basic commands, and even some I never successfully taught before, like Place and Down. She actually goes into her crate on her own to chill out sometimes. I can point to it and tell her to Load Up and she goes in and lets us leave without crying. When we're going to bed, she puts herself in her bedroom crate on her own. She's figured out her patio potty and will ring a bell to go out and use it.
|I can't get over how small she was in her bed back then!|
She's gotten used to the noises that used to startle her, like the garbage cans being dragged down the driveway, and she slept through the fireworks on July 4th.
She used to follow me everywhere, to the kitchen or bathroom, but now she's learned she can stay in her bed and I'll come back. When we first got her, she needed puppy stairs to get on the couch; now she can leap up without trouble.
|I got her that pink collar within the first week we had her. You can really see how she grew into it!|
Most noticeably, she's learning how to settle. Working from home with an attention-hungry dog is tough, but Zoe has started to entertain herself and take longer naps. The break from her constant high-energy has been the most noticeable and appreciated change I've seen.
|Give her a tennis ball and she's good to go!|
Matt and I took her for her first hike last weekend and she loved every second of it! We really wanted a dog we could hike with, so I'm thrilled it went so well.
To be transparent, the first couple months were really hard, and I loved Zoe but I was so often frustrated with her that I didn't feel the sort of bond I did with Toby, my childhood dog. Matt and I agreed that we accidentally chose a terrible time to get a dog, given he started drill school so soon after we got her, but the alternative would have been to miss out on her, and we couldn't bear the thought of her living with anyone but us.
Now, as she's begun to mature a bit, it's so much easier to love her to pieces. The frustration is waning, and in its place is pure joy at having this little girl in our lives. Our hard work on training helped us create a bond, and I truly feel like she was meant for us.
Zoe was about 7.5lbs when we got her off the transport and now she's full grown at a whopping 12.6lbs. Her DNA test came back with shocking results: 0% dachshund and some pretty unexpected breeds thrown in there!
|Color us shocked.|
At the end of the day, I didn't get my dachshund mix. But I did get a playful and cuddly long girl, and she's just perfect for us.
|Zoe usually sleeps in bagel-mode, so I couldn't resist one last comparison pic!|