7 min read

Couple Adopts Old, Cranky Dog And She Changes Their Life

"She's made the two of us into a family."

Amanda Herring met her husband when she was a teenager in middle school in Northern Virginia, where both did musical theater.

"We were friends, never dated," Herring tells The Dodo. "I would have said you were crazy if you told me I'd be married living with Greg Selz 14 years later, and we'd have an old dog."

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That vision doesn't seem so crazy now, even if it took a spell to get here.

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Herring and Selz were kids when they met, and went off on different paths before reconnecting in 2010. Then came long-distance dating for two years after that.

After several more moves together for work and school, last year, they settled down in Washington, D.C., not far from where they'd grown up.

"Our first priority was to find an apartment where we could have a dog," says Herring.

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Bubbe, then known as Brendinie, was one of four chows likely used for breeding, then given up to the Fairfax County Animal Shelter in Northern Virginia in the fall of 2015.

Herring first spotted one of the chows on the shelter website. By the time they visited the shelter, that dog had just been adopted - but, like a movie love story, her older sister was available!

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Bubbe, the older sister, wasn't much interested in her visitors (and, frankly, needed a bath).

Because she wasn't the friendliest, the couple knew this old, finicky dog would be a tough sell for most potential adopters.

"She would need a lot of time to get adjusted, wouldn't do well with kids, and was already probably 9 years old," says Herring. "Our hearts melted."

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The transition wasn't easy. In the beginning. Bubbe - whose name means "grandma" in Yiddish - had some health issues, wouldn't eat and "barked, bared teeth and growled whenever we came in the room," says Herring.

After a few days, when Herring got Bubbe to lick a little baby food off a spoon, it seemed like the tide was beginning to turn.

Soon she was working on basic commands. They were building a relationship. It was clear that "she wanted to make us happy, and she was trying so hard," says Herring.

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Now, Bubbe wakes up in the morning when Herring does, and starts wagging her tail right away.

She still doesn't love strangers, but she does love walks, cuddles, peanut butter and playing with Selz's mother's dog.

"I think she loves us, and loves when we're happy," says Herring.

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And of course when Herring and Selz planned their wedding, which took place last month - Selz changed his name to Herring after it; mazel tov! - they knew Bubbe would be involved in a big way, and in a way that would make her comfortable.

Bubbe was excused from the busier parts of the event, instead sharing some special quieter time with her people.

"She was right next to me all morning while I did my makeup, got dressed and got my hair done," says Herring. "We took her out for a walk during dinner."

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Amanda Novotny, placement coordinator for the Fairfax shelter, is moved seeing Bubbe embraced by her family.

"They knew Bubbe would need time and patience, and they were willing to commit to her. And she has blossomed into such a good dog, thanks to their care and love," she says.

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And if adopting an elderly dog means that heartbreak will likely come sooner than it otherwise would, Herring says she wouldn't give up this time for all the world.

Not just because she and her now husband were able to give their crabby, elderly dog the life she deserves, that she might not have otherwise gotten. But because Bubbe's changed their lives as well.

If previously they could come and go as they pleased - out to dinner anytime, or even moving to a new city - those days are over for now. Because of Bubbe, who needs walks, and vet visits, and to be tended to and pampered.

"It sounds like a chore, but it's actually what makes our lives more meaningful," says Herring.

"Before Bubbe, it was just the two of us," she says. "She's made the two of us into a family."

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