Leading up to my birthday, I was reading about dogs who had lost their homes in Hurricane Sandy. I was overwhelmed with stories about rescued dogs, and information about where to find dogs to rescue close to home. I’ve been thinking about adopting an older dog for a long time now, but I’ve been intimidated. All my life, I’ve only had one dog at a time, but lately I’ve been meeting a lot of people with two dogs, or more, and I’ve been tempted to have a pack of my own.
I talked to Mom about it and she said why don’t we just go take a look?
So, on Tuesday, November 20th, we went to North Shore Animal League, on Long Island. I loved all the big dogs. If I had a house and more energy I would have adopted five of them on the spot, especially the hound who stood on his hind legs and looked me in the eye. I’m pretty sure he winked at me.
But then there was Betsy. Her little pink tongue stuck out, and she had huge brown eyes and a sweet little snout and feathery white hair. She was a Lhasa Apso and the tag on the crate said “Adult +” so she was at least eight years old. The volunteer told us she was a puppy mill dog.
I don’t know what Mom was thinking when she encouraged me to have a visit with Betsy. She should have rushed me out of there right then.
I spent an hour with Betsy, staring into her eyes and coming up with potential names: Snowy, Dawn, Fawn, Buttercup, Cinnamon, Butterfly. I was loopy. We filled out a preapproval form and Mom said we should go home and think about it. But the longer it took to get the approval, the more I went back to see Betsy and the less likely it became that I would be able to leave without her.
I worried that Mom would not be happy, and a second dog would cost too much, and Cricket would be jealous and my own health problems would make the extra effort unmanageable. But I lost control of my brain. I was just a puppet nodding my head.
I decided on Butterfly as her new name, to fit in with the insect theme of Cricket’s name, but also because of the transformational effect I hoped we would have on each other. Love is a magical thing.
Then the vet tech took Butterfly to see the vet one last time. We’d been there for three hours by then and I could barely stand up, let alone think straight. When they came back to tell us she had a heart murmur and that we should probably leave her there and not take her home with such an uncertain future, I almost cried. They listed her issues: she was at least eight years old but probably more; she had been a breeding mama at a puppy mill and couldn’t walk on a leash or pee and poop outside; she was skittish and afraid of being touched; some of her bottom teeth had had to be removed because they were rotted out, so her tongue lolled out of her mouth; she’d had a cyst removed from under her armpit; and now the heart murmur. She’d need an echocardiogram before they could even tell us how serious it would be, and then she’d need one every six months for the rest of her life. But that was what clinched it for Mom. She has a leaky heart valve too. She would never want to be left behind in a shelter. She’d want someone to pick her up and take her home. So that’s what we did.
I carried Butterfly to the car and she stood on my lap in the backseat and looked out the windows the whole ride home. She was so much more curious than we’d expected, though she did drool up a storm, flicking droplets of water onto her forehead and onto my sweater.
Cricket was, as predicted, not happy with the interloper. The first night, I sat on the kitchen floor with them and Cricket stood with her front paws on my leg in her ownership pose accepting scratchies with noblesse oblige, and then I reached out with my free hand to pat Butterfly. Immediately, Cricket pushed my arm away from Butterfly with her nose, and then she walked across my lap and out of the room in a huff.
She’s such a person.
But, given her resentment, Cricket has been pretty well behaved. For the first few days she ignored Butterfly entirely, and then she started to sniff her and walk near her instead of avoiding any room Butterfly was in. It helped that Butterfly couldn’t climb the stairs, so Cricket could come up to my bedroom with me and leave the interloper downstairs for a while and pretend life had gone back to normal.
But Butterfly has been blossoming.
She’s had two baths so far. The first one took off the surface dirt and left me thinking that she was off white with grey and apricot markings. But she kept scratching her ears and neck, so we bought an oatmeal shampoo to help her skin and her second bath took off just as much dirt as the first one, and turned her into a white dog with apricot markings all over her feet and back. I’m afraid of what we’ll discover with bath number three.
We’ve had Butterfly for a week and a half now, and she’s already pooping and peeing outside. She’s gotten used to the lawn, and she walks on the leash and has made friends with every dog she’s met. But her favorite dog is Cricket. She sniffs her and follows her lead and learns from everything Cricket does. She even makes a point of finding the spot where Cricket peed and hopping into a squat to pee on that exact spot.
Cricket thinks that’s just weird.
What a beautiful thing to do. Two dogs are such great companions and Cricket it teaching Butterfly how to live in a house and all the normal things puppy mill dogs don’t get to experience. Wonder if she’ll be all white after the next bath!
Cricket is a very good mentor. She’s teaching Butterfly how to beg for potato chips and bark at closed doors and wiggle away from ear cleanings. They’re gonna be a great team.
That’s what sisters are for!
Oh my gosh! Beautiful story! I am so glad someone adopted Butterfly!!!
Me too! She actually hugged me today. I have to pick her up to take her outside to pee (she’s not up to stairs yet) and usually she keeps her distance. But this morning, she grabbed on like a baby with her legs around wrapped around me.
You’ve had her for a week and a half. We’ve had Kaci for a month and a half. She opens up more each day. She was a fearful dog because she was in a pen in a kill shelter with all sorts of big dogs-who cares about her comfort on death row? Dogs make amazing transformations and you’ve got yourself a gem.
I don’t think I could handle even walking into a kill shelter, I’d be crying and crawling on the floor in minutes. You were very brave to go in there, and she is a super trooper for being able to thrive after that. It’s amazing to me what they can survive and still have the capacity for happiness.
Rachel, I really like your insect nomenclature. And the metaphor of a chrysalis (in this case a poor, bath-deserving dog, basically in shut down mode) metamorphosing into a butterfly is so appropriate. Butterfly will thank you and Cricket, again and again, for the transformation.
I was at the point of adopting a four year old rescue myself, but the logistics of getting a skittish animal to travel to Bermuda (she was in Oregon) were so formidable that the board at the shelter decided that a local adoption would be in the animal’s best interest. But out of that disappointment came Ariel…
Best of luck with the new pack (Butterfly and Cricket are two very fortunate dogs).
Butterfly really is blossoming. She’s learned to gallop just for fun and she walks with her tail all the way up now, like she has nothing to be afraid of. It’s so exciting to watch. If I had more space I’d be in real danger of adding to the pack.
Hooray! Such a wonderful story and an amazing transformation for Butterfly. It’s like she’s just been born, a whole new world. Your family is really incredible.
It’s so exciting to watch her do all of these puppy-like things as an eight years old. Right now she is devouring a rawhide, very successfully, especially for a dog missing some of her lower teeth. She is having a great time.
What a beautiful story! You brought tears to my eyes. This reminds me of when I was a little girl, my grandmother brought home two abused pocket sized poodles. They were left in a closet, and covered in their own feces. My grandmother took them to get professionally cleaned up and their nails done. They looked like little angels and turned out to be amazing dogs. God bless you for your kindness! Such an inspiring thing to read on a Sunday morning! Best, Maryanne xo
Oh thank you! I wish I could say I was being generous, but I just fell in love with her and, selfishly, I didn’t want anyone else to take her home but me.
Aww, totally meant to be! I look forward to hearing more stories as your relationship with Butterfly grows 🙂
Butterfly is the perfect name–she is transforming under your care and love.
She’s becoming a scratchy glutton, just like her sister. It’s a good thing I have two hands.
Butterfly is very lucky to have a new forever home. I think I’d like a pack-mate here too that I could show how to do things and we could play together….
I hope Cricket will learn to like having a new sister. So far she’s already enjoying the extra walks and the extra treats. She’s a little less excited about having someone bump her head out of her food bowl.
OK, thanks for putting tears in my eyes. I love this story! The girls look so sweet together.
Good for you and I am certain there is a special place in heaven just for you
I am so grateful that you took her home.
I would love to meet her and chase her tail…….Elsie
Well, she loves to wag her tail, so you’re in luck!
Butterfly has beautiful eyes. Bless you and your mom for taking care of her.
Her eyes are HUGE. I think she must remind me of a stuffed animal I had in childhood because she seems so familiar.
We had a rescue dog that was almost certainly a puppy mill dog. She was so loving and attentive -and did really well in obedience, winning ribbons, but was always nervous, all her life. I’m so glad some of these dogs are finding “forever homes” and happy lives.
As Butterfly gets more comfortable she’s becoming more attached. She’s learned from her sister how to do the excited greeting when we come home. She smiles and hops and runs back and forth and licks me. It’s hard to believe this kind of happiness is possible after what she’s been through.
lucky girl and how fantastic that she has clearly settled in. Well done!!
Butterfly has clearly found a new and very loving home!
Thank you! I hope she agrees.
Butterfly is such a perfect name, and I am so happy that she has found such a wonderful, loving home. My humans adopted Lexi, my late K9 sister, from a shelter when she was about eight or nine years old. Her name was Alexis in the shelter. She was older, not terribly outgoing (she had probably led a tough life), and had some pretty bad teeth. My humans knew that she would have a hard (if not impossible) time finding a home,. My human daddy fell in love with her, so they brought her home, started calling her Lexi, and she never looked back. She crossed the Rainbow Bridge in October at the ripe old age of 15 or 16. She had a good second act.
It’s amazing how resilient these dogs are. Sixteen is a great age. I hope Butterfly can get there too.
Bless your ever loving sweet heart for rescuing Butterfly. The girls look so cute together, sisters for sure! Paulette
Thank you! Every once in a while Cricket and Butterfly touch noses for a moment and I feel hopeful, and then Cricket starts to growl, so, yeah, sisters.
lol, so true. Good one. 🙂
Love, love, love. I would have, oh I don’t know, dozens of dogs if I could!!! So sad about the puppy mlll. Ugh, that just makes me want to scream and I hate that people treat dogs that way! Congrats to Butterfly and her new mama. May you two have a wonderful future together! 🙂
Thank you! I keep thinking that I’d like to know what Butterfly’s life was like at the puppy mill. Did it look like those awful videos you see of raids? How is she this sweet if she came from that? It boggles my mind.
She has you now, so she can put all that horribleness behind her. Our second dog, Blackberry is a shelter dog and I like thinking we gave her a second chance.
wOW! Your stories really are remarkable! Butterfly is a beautiful dog, if you didn’t tell me her age I never would have guessed 8! She looks so young. I must say I would have understood if you were not able to get her after you heard about the heart murmur problems, but my heart really skipped a beat when you said “so thats what we did”. Im so happy for your little pack you have now, even if cricket isn’t yet…lol. I think my dog kirby would equally fit in there! 🙂
I think Butterfly would love to add more dogs to her pack, but I may have to take Cricket to therapy to work through her sibling rivalry issues. She did better yesterday after a long bout of tug of war. She even let Butterfly walk right next to her for a while without sniffing at her and running ahead. It’s a start.
And a good start it is. Kirby’s much older brother/bff is also the same way.If you are petting Kirby and not him at the same time, it is simply unacceptable to him!
Rachel: Thanks for stopping by my blog, and letting me get acquainted with yours. I’m so glad you and your mom took the risk to get a second dog. Isn’t it fun? Their companionship becomes another relationship in the house, adding another dimension to the family. I hope you all enjoy each other for a very long time. It sounds like your love and nurture are bringing health and vitality back to Ms. Butterfly. So Sweet!
Thank you! Things are getting better here every day. Even Cricket is adjusting well, though she’d never admit it.
I just found this post and have to say you’ve done a wonderful thing for Butterfly… I hope the adjustment is going well with love and patience
Thank you! Butterfly is doing great. She thinks she should be able to run and jump as high as Cricket. the only thing she refuses to do is go down the stairs. She looks over the edge like she’s contemplating the grand canyon.
I’ve just tweeted three posts about Butterfly. 🙂
You’re amazing! Thank you!
Thanks! I did it again 🙂