Hamilton, Ontario

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Adopting Misty

By Emily-Jane Hills Orford

Emily Jane Hills Orford  fuel gas tank“What should we call him or her?” I asked my daughter. We were discussing the possibility of adopting a puppy. Our first. Growing up, I hadn’t had the pleasure of owning a pet. My husband had. But our family, Mom had always claimed, was big enough with four young people and a dog would just be another added responsibility. Perhaps she was right. With our busy schedules, music lessons, rehearsals, school, we were hardly home and, when we were, we were practicing our instruments or doing homework and chores. When would we have had the time for a dog?

Owning a pet was a responsibility, not one I would ever take lightly. Both my brothers had dogs, adopting them as soon as they had homes and families of their own. I decided to wait until my two were old enough to be interested and to help. And, since I worked from home, I would be able to provide the daily care that a family pet deserved.

“Misty.” The answer came quickly. I had been sharing with my daughter the wonderful stories of Misty of Chincoteague (a children's novel written by Marguerite Henry). In fact, we had recently returned from a family trip to Chincoteague (Virginia) where we were lucky enough to have the wild ponies walk right up to our car for a photo shoot. It wasn’t surprising that my daughter would choose the name Misty.

“But what if we adopt a male puppy?” I asked. Misty, the wild pony of Chincoteague, was a mare. Misty was considered, by many people, to be a name one gave to the female gender. Could we call a male dog, Misty? “Why not!” Indeed, why not?

Later that week, I was in the vicinity of the local shelter, so I decided to drop in and investigate the options. There had been a call out for homes for abandoned dogs and cats. The shelter was overflowing after the massive ice storm a month earlier. It was the beginning of March, but winter had not abandoned its icy grip on the city, so the numbers at the shelter were increasing on a daily basis.

As I entered the shelter, I was greeted with a cacophony of barking dogs and meowing cats. The cats I greeted first, but, being allergic to cats (in fact, the entire family was allergic to cats), adopting one was not an option, cute as they might be. I was directed to the kennels at the rear of the building with the vague instructions of “see if there’s anything you like.” The cacophony of barks intensified when I walked down the first aisle. Every dog, large and small, was vying for my attention, their barks seemed to be saying, “adopt me, adopt me.” I really wanted a medium sized dog. There weren’t any. All the kennels were full of large, adult dogs or tiny yappy ones (not my favorite). Except for one kennel. A lonely black puppy with white around his nose, peered up at me with the saddest eyes I had ever seen. I read the card on the gate: “black lab mix, male, 3 months old”. A puppy. Was I up to training a puppy? I was beginning to think there was something wrong with the little fellow. All the other dogs were yapping away and jumping up on the cages. This one merely lay there, studying me as I studied him.

I crouched down. Here was the test. “Misty,” I called to him. He bounced right up and trotted over to greet me, tail wagging, that is tail with a cute little white tip at the end. I held my hand against the grating and he sniffed and licked.

An attendant came in holding a leash. “Why don’t you walk him around?” She opened the gate and latched the leash to my new friend’s collar. He was jumping around with excitement now. He must be thinking that his ‘get me out of here’ sad look had worked. I crouched down and rubbed his head. He lay down and I tickled his belly. This was the one. But would the family agree?

“Can you hold him for me?” I asked the attendant. “I can bring the family back to meet him later in the week.” How naïve I must have sounded.

She looked at his card. “He’s been here for a week. If he’s not adopted today, we’ll have to euthanize him.” “No.” I shook my head. I couldn’t let that happen. Misty was coming home with me.

An hour later, paper work filled out and adoption fee paid, I left with Misty in tow. I lifted him into the van. After a quick stop at the pet store where Misty helped me choose some essentials: food (of course), food and water bowls, a better collar and leash than the one provided at the shelter, toys and a crate, we were set to head home. Just in time for my two young people to return from school.

Misty quickly muzzled his way into our hearts and, for the next thirteen years, he was a valuable member of the family. The chewed boots, slippers and shoes long forgotten, we cherished the memories of the fun times we had and the silly things our beloved dog did. Every March, as the snow reluctantly melts away, usually at a snail’s pace, I remember fondly, the day I brought Misty home. He was our first dog, but certainly not our last.

Emily-Jane Hills Orford has published several books, creative nonfiction stories mostly about her family. Growing up in Toronto, then Hamilton and finally London, Emily-Jane has lots of family stories to warm the heart. In her most recent novel, “Mrs. Murray’s Ghost: A Piccadilly Street Story”, the author returns to her roots and the fond memories and dreams, growing up in a haunted old Victorian mansion in London. For more information about the author, check out her webpage at: http://emilyjanebooks.ca