It took me a year and a half to convince my boyfriend Nathan that we ought to get a dog, but when he finally came around it took him less than a week to decide that we ought to get two.
Like so many good things (including each other), we discovered Leonard and Penny via the Internet. You can filter adoptable pets these days the way you might narrow down shoe choices on Zappos: Big enough that I couldn't deem them rats. Small enough that Nathan couldn't deem them horses. Housebroken. Young. Friendly with other dogs.
In every picture we saw, the pair had huge grins spread across their faces. I worried at first as to why they hadn't been adopted sooner - surely these dogs were too perfect to be true - but their "foster mom," Sherri, was simply holding out for someone who would adopt the inseparable brother and sister as a pair. If all of their "specs" weren't enough, Sherri had named them after characters from our favorite TV show, The Big Bang Theory. Clearly, it was meant to be.
The first time I met them, they immediately knocked me on my rear in the snow.
Nathan and I had driven three hours in a blizzard to meet Sherri halfway between our hometown and hers to pick up our new "kids." Unfamiliar with the area, we rendezvoused at a KFC with a scruffy patch of grass behind the parking lot. Leonard and Penny don't have an aggressive bone in their respective bodies, but they're fifty pounds each of pure enthusiasm, and sitting in the back of Sherri's SUV for so long had left them with plenty of energy to launch straight at my knees.
Their excitement didn't wane until we replaced their collars with the spiffy new ones we'd brought with us. Six months earlier, Sherri had found the pair huddled together abandoned, hungry, and collarless in a park, loaded them into her car, and taken them in until she could find them a "furever" home. I'm told that dogs don't have much of a long-term memory, but I have a hard time believing that Leonard and Penny weren't drawing parallels as we separated them from the woman who'd rescued them and loaded them into yet another car headed for unknown circumstances. The grinning dogs from the photos cried the whole way home.
I have a confession to make. It's now been six and a half weeks since we brought Leonard and Penny home, and I've gone out of my way to feed them only high-quality dog food and a variety of vet-approved treats. That first day, though, when they were scared and confused and didn't seem comforted by my attempts to cuddle and pet them, I shamelessly secured their affections with a handful of Chicken McNuggets. Whoever said you can't buy love never heard the words "Dollar Menu."
Leonard and Penny's first week home was simultaneously easier and far more trying than I'd expected. I was ready for potty accidents, begging, and other common doggy misdemeanors that had always been a package deal with my parents' dogs. None of these occurred - whoever owned them before Sherri had failed to teach them how to sit or walk nicely on a leash, but had apparently done an excellent job of imparting that the kitchen was Mommy's domain and the yard was theirs.
What I hadn't prepared for was the acquisition of two new shadows. The dogs with whom I grew up would let you pet them for a few minutes, then go lay peacefully in a corner until something interesting happened. Leonard and Penny, on the other hand, seemed to want to be close enough to physically touch me at all times - and when I did touch them, they would get so excited that their entire bodies would shake along with their tails.
On one hand, I feared that I had forsaken peace forever. On another, my ire raised at whoever had not only abandoned these loving creatures, but taught them that affection was such a rare commodity that it warranted a manic fit. So as much as their constant energy tried my patience, I resolved to show them as much affection as I could, in hopes that they would eventually grow more secure in our love and calm down.
Slowly but surely, it's working. Their love of snuggles, pets, and face-licking remains undiminished, but nine times out of ten they remember that they get more ear scratches when they sit calmly than when they jump. Their excess energy shows itself on our morning and evening walks and during weekend trips to the dog park, where they've discovered a new hobby: teaming up to herd the other dogs like sheep. (Remind me to capture this for YouTube some time.) After an hour or three of attempting to regiment the dog park, though, they're usually content to curl up together in a doggy yin-yang and take a nap.
That ouroboros-like symbol - his nose to her tail, her tail to his nose - perhaps embodies their finest quality. They are two dogs who seem to possess one spirit, always by each other's side through life's hardships and pleasures alike... or as Nathan has affectionately dubbed them, "Spiderdog: One dog with eight legs." We remain determined to ensure that from here on out, the greatest of those hardships will be a yearly trip to the vet. And at the end of the day, Nathan and I both got our way: we got two dogs with one heart.
Originally published on Medium in March 2013.