I'm a dog lover. First there was Cookie the mutt, when I was a baby. I learned how to walk by holding on to her fur and moving with her. That dog put up with a lot. Then there was Princess, the little runty yellow lab that could. My family loved that dog so much we'd regularly give up our seats in the car for her. Next it was Cinnamon the Min Pin and Bella the Italian Greyhound. Cinnamon was my first dog as an adult and will always hold a special place in my heart. After several amazing years together, it came time for me to make a tough decision about Cinnamon's quality of life. Living in NYC wasn't right for her; I couldn't give her the space and freedom she needed to be a happy, healthy dog. I made one of the hardest decisions ever in my life and gave her up. She's super happy and well cared for now, but in June of 2012 I was left with a broken heart. What follows is the story of I came to find Rugby.
After Cinnamon was gone, my roommate's dog Sophie tried to console me; we'd go on walks or to the park, but it just wasn't the same. It was borrowed time. I was pretty much paralyzed for those first few weeks, but then I slowly started to see the situation as an opportunity to find my perfect match. I began my search and was dead certain that my future canine companion would be three things: adopted from a shelter, smallish like 25 lbs or less, and an English Bulldog named Winston with just the right amount of pudge. I have always wanted to be an english bulldog pet parent. I had the name and all of our adventures planned out. We would walk the streets of New York in search of the perfect brunch place or go for long runs on the East River. We would hike Vermont to find cheese, humorously named ice cream, and great views. We would snuggle on the couch reading books about history.
So I went along my merry way, attending adoption events like Adoptapalooza in Union Square. I stalked the ASPCA and Animal Haven websites. I set up alerts from petfinder.com for English Bulldogs in the tri-state area. I dragged my friends with me to visit shelters in New Jersey and Connecticut. And then one fine day, I talked to a woman on the phone about an adorable bulldog boy named Buster (I could be flexible on the name after all) at the Long Island Bulldog Rescue. I don't remember the woman's name, but I will be forever in her debt. She listened to me carefully as I talked about all the activities I wanted to do with Buster, and promptly told me no, I could not adopt him. I was stunned and confounded to say the least.
The goal of an adoption organization like a shelter or a breed rescue is not only to quickly place dogs in homes, but also to place the right dog in the right home so they can have a happy life and not come back to the shelter. This sometimes means that an interested and otherwise qualified adopter, like me, does not end up with the dog they are calling about. It turned out that Buster and most English Bulldogs in general were not going to be able to handle the active lifestyle I wanted for me and my pup. This woman completely shattered my idea of the kind of dog I would adopt. She talked to me about crate training my dog, which would mean I could get a dog of any size regardless of the size of my apartment, she talked to me about other active, loving, family breeds like Pit Bulls, Pointers, Labradors, and more. She convinced me to be more open minded about finding my match. She led me to Sean Casey Animal Rescue in Brooklyn.
I first saw Rugby on the SCAR website and he was so pathetically precious he caught my eye immediately. A mix of some kind - part Lab, part Vizsla, part Weimaraner - Rugby had been in the Shelter for 6 months and had been adopted and returned several times. He was skinny and jumpy when nervous (hence the returning to the shelter) and we hit it off right away. On my first visit to meet Rugby, we walked around the block a few times. We sat down on some steps and he pushed his face right in to my ribs so hard I nearly fell back. I came to see him twice more to get sign off from my roommates and in September, more than 3 months after starting my search, I took him home. After 30 days of fostering with enormous amounts of food, regular exercise and tons of love the 55 lbs, lab/weim/viszla mix named Rugby became my permanent pup. He comes running with me, we go to the park for hours, he snuggles, he eats, he shakes paw, plays with Sophie and generally brightens every day.
Rugby is not the dog I thought I wanted, but he is exactly the dog I was searching for.
This was originally written (but has since been updated) for FosterDogsNYC an amazing organization working helping people foster and adopt dogs all over NYC (and shared on Medium). If you're looking for a pup this is the way to go.