Last month, I introduced one of my two traveling companions, Kitty. Today I introduce the other. The road dog. Because she’s a dog and requires so much more attention than the cat, plus the fact that she is my walking and adventure companion, I’ve frequently mentioned her in other posts.

The Pound Puppy

My first condo only allowed one pet. When I rescued Kitty from the weeds, I hit my limit. My next condo had no such limits. In all the years I lived in Alaska, I’d only been to the pound once. That is, until the day my sister suggested we stop in as we were driving by on the way back to my house. And then I went in for a second time.

We walked up and down each isle. In the cat room, we talked to a young woman brushing a calico cat. It was her first day as a volunteer. She told us all volunteers started with the cats. I imagined it was because so many want to go straight to playing with dogs.

There were cages near the counter filled with kittens. It was a Sunday so there were quite a few people around and the kitten cages were particularly popular. How could they not be? Kittens are pretty dang cute. There was a segregated section for puppies, but that little room was empty.

On our way out, a young woman walked in carrying a black lab puppy. It was so cute. We descended on her to pet the pup. She had seen it wandering on a busy street near her apartment and was afraid it would be hit by a car. She called to the pup who came right to her, loaded it in her car and drove to animal control.

As we were petting it and talking to the young woman, a thought ran through my mind. I should ask her not to turn it in to animal control and just give it to us.

But I didn’t.

We followed her to the front counter. I asked how old the pup was and the worker estimated three months old. I asked what happened now. The worker explained that found animals go on a three day hold. It gives the owner a chance to reclaim the pet. If it isn’t claimed, the lost animal goes up for adoption. If you are interested in a held pet, you can put your name on a list to be called. However, they only allow one name on the list.

Screen shot of animal control’s puppy kennel. Three months old and 15 pounds.

The next day I went on animal control’s website. In 2007, they had a live feed that captured a photo every couple minutes of what was going on in the puppy kennel. I saw the black lab. I called animal control.

The person explained that the pup was still on hold (which I knew) but that no one was on the wait list for her. To get on the list, however, I had to do so in person. It was Monday early afternoon and I was at work. I immediately left work.

Here’s where the story gets interesting and makes me think she was meant to be my dog.

When I arrived, the man behind the counter told me someone was already on the list and I couldn’t get added. Frustrated, I asked if it happened in the last half hour because I had just talked to someone who told me to get right over. A woman came out from a back room and admitted she was the one who told me no one was on the list.

The woman apologized and then said, “We never do this, but since it was our mistake…” She would add me as the second person on the wait list for the pup. I was instructed to get the paperwork attached to the front of her cage. I went to the puppy room and found a woman holding the dog’s paperwork.

We greeted each other and she told me she was thinking about getting the black lab. The cages didn’t list whether or not a dog already had someone on the list so the woman didn’t yet know she wouldn’t have been allowed to get on the list. The note on the cage only indicated when the pup was available for adoption.

My single most favorite photo of Solstice. I loved it so much I had stationary made using the picture. She’s five or six months old.

The way my sister likes to tell the story is that I yanked the paperwork out of the woman’s hand. It’s funny, if you know me, because I’m the opposite of the type of person who would yank paperwork from anyone. And the truth is, I didn’t yank it from her.

However, I told the woman I was getting the dog and the people at the counter needed the paperwork. I gently reached for the paperwork she was holding. The pup slept through the interaction atop shredded newspaper.

The next day, I got a call from animal control. If no one showed up by the next day to claim her, the dog was mine. Apparently, the woman who had her name on the list ahead of me brought her husband to see the dog. He took one look and declared that she wasn’t a pure bred so he wasn’t interested.

What a tool! Interested in a Cadillac dog but only if he could get it for a Walmart price? But what did I care? I was the winner. And purebred or mutt, she was and is a Cadillac dog.

Best Name Ever

My sister and I couldn’t agree on a name for the dog. I wanted Blizzard. I’ve had this dog name picked out for decades. But my sister didn’t like it. She wanted a Spanish name since we’d been spending a lot of time in Mexico in recent years. She wanted Precioso. In my whole life, I told her, I would never have a dog named Precious. No way.

Celebrating Valentine’s Day by tearing up her toy. She got this heart off the bear and it was perfect. I didn’t pose her.

I remember so clearly sitting at a red light on my way home from work when it crashed over me like a big wave. The next day was September 21, 2007. The woman at the pound said the dog was three months old, making the dog’s birthday June 21, 2007.

She was born on the Summer Solstice. Solstice would be a perfect Alaskan name. Yes, the solstice is everywhere but I suspect only places near the poles celebrate the winter and summer solstice with gusto. After all, those areas experience the most radical shift in the number of hours of light and dark.

My sister didn’t love the name but she didn’t hate it either. So she relented. She decided she could call the dog Sol which was Spanish for sun. As a side note, she actually never did. Solstice has always and only been Solstice. Well, except when she is Bad Dog, Knucklehead or NO.

Solstice’s cool name makes up for the fact my poor cat ended up with a dumb one.

Solstice and Kitty, Anything But a Love Story

You know those videos on social media of dogs and cats as best friends? That was my vision for my pets. Ten years later I still have fantasies that one day they will love each other, play together, cuddle each other. But for today and for the last 10 years, let’s just say their relationship is one where they tolerate each other. Barely.

“I see nothing.”

I didn’t know how to introduce them to each other so I decided to let them figure it out. Probably a mistake. When Solstice came home, the cat retreated under my bed. The pup, curious about what she’d seen, stuck her head in after the cat. A second later, the pup cries and pulls her head out. Solstice is bleeding.

To me, that first interaction embodies their entire 10-year relationship. Sometime Solstice chases the cat. Once she bit Kitty on the head. Sometimes the cat hisses and takes a swing at the dog. Then she scurries away.

We are all sitting on the same twin bed in the RV even though they have a bed of their own.

Mostly though, they simply pretend the other one doesn’t exist. We don’t all get YouTube worthy pets.

Once in a while I see them close to one another. Once in a great while, they will be touching. But don’t confuse this with secret love. No, when that happens, it is merely a coincidence. Usually they’ll both be lying close by me. The dog  shifts (she’s a floppy dog without any personal space boundaries) until they are leaning on each other. When that happens, they both pretend the other isn’t there. In their little pet minds, I imagine they tell themselves they are leaning against a wall.

Solstice Today

Approaching 11, like the cat, she is in her geriatric years. Even though she has the heart and spirit of a pup, she has an old lady body. There is the cosmetic: white chin, face and recently I’ve found white hairs on her paws. Like many labs, she has hip dysplasia which means atrophy in her back end. For years now she has needed a boost into vehicles and on the bed.

She sleeps more.

Her first birthday party.

She is at her fittest now that we walk every day. Still, I have to limit the distance to two miles or she has trouble getting around the next day. Some days, one mile is her limit and she turns me around to go home.

I feel fortunate that I made a good enough living to be able to support her health issues. During her first year, she had five or six different infections. Eyes. Ears. Vaginal. Skin. Bladder. Her immune system didn’t seem to be too strong so the fact that she developed severe allergies a couple years later is likely related. I administer allergy injections every few weeks to lessen the symptoms.

Her sixth birthday party.

She loves vegetables. Hates bananas. And, because she is a retriever, she loves water and swims every chance she gets.

Solstice has a bit of an attachment issue. Maybe one day I’ll share the story of our attempt at doggy daycare. In a sentence: they had to call me to come get her “faster than they’ve ever had to call anyone before.” It has disadvantages, to be sure.

But it has advantages too. I have never once worried about losing her. She’ll never stray far from me. And, it kind of makes her perfect for this RV life. She loves that we are together 24/7. And she is game for whatever adventure I want to take us on. Even when we head down an unfamiliar path with no idea where we are going or what we will find.

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