A few years back, my daughter had her heart set on adopting a dog, but my husband’s memory was still vivid with the array of crusty droppings in the backyard, yellow stained-grass peppering his lawn and tumbleweeds of fur hair floating across our cherry hardwood floor that once belonged to our beloved lab mix, whom passed at the age of twelve.
With these recollections still fresh, it had been a difficult task for him to concede that an addition of a canine to our balanced family of four humans would greatly enhance our lives.
Like anything else that is worth fighting for, the three of us (my children and myself worked diligently to convince him- he was missing out on a loving experience.
So when reason and pleading did not work, we resorted to bribes and when that failed, we ignored his stubbornness and began to look anyway.
We filled out applications online, visited pet shops with adoption centers and rescue shelters with not much luck.
One frigid Saturday in late January, our quest for man’s best friend led us to the Atlantic County Animal Shelter in Pleasantville, NJ
We were greeted warmly and not made to feel like Cruella de vil (the Disney villan using puppies for clothing) as some of the online applications for the private adoptions demanded a kidney donation or far more to prove our love and devotion.
After filling out some reasonable amount of paperwork (just enough to avoid hand cramps) we were escorted to the area where the dogs were kept.
Surprisingly, there were a few bouncy beagles (a breed we had grown partial) eager to demonstrate their talent.
As we turned the corner to the second aisle of excited dogs all clamoring for our attention, I believe it was love at first sight for the two youngest females in our family. I admit, I thought Bella was not really the prettiest beagle when I first cast eyes on her, but Rachel, our youngest, knew she was the one.
It was fate when Bella and Rachel locked eyes, as if they had some secret mind language we were not aware of because from the many she could have chosen; my spunky, confident twelve-year-old insisted on taking the most timid and unassuming older resident out for a walk. Can opposites really attract?
Bella (formerly named Lizzie by the shelter) was a mild-mannered gentle creature with a giraffe spotted coat of brown and white that covered her small but round body.
Her pleading eyes spoke volumes, yet her past life holds as a mystery, but it didn’t matter at that moment, because when my young daughter knelt to her level, the senior dog moved in gently, nestling her head upon her lap.
Two weeks later, my defeated and softened husband, eager son and love struck daughter picked up our newest family member.
Unfortunately, while home sick, I missed a touching moment shared between the four of them, that I can only romanticize about, now. On the car ride home, Rachel could not contain her excitement and began to cry tears of joy, as her dog rode along side her with its head resting peacefully on her lap, this in turn, transformed my husband into a melted mess of emotion or at least he shed a tear or two, as I am told.
It has been approximately three years since we took Bella home. She has been a bit challenging, but worth the effort of getting to know her habits.
She showers us with unconditional love and affection and in return for her devotion, we feed her two meals per day (not withstanding the occasional chicken that mom sneaks under the table) provide a warm bed and blankets- several, because she alternates sleeping in my daughter’s bedroom or my bed and a comfy couch with more fuzzy blankets to snuggle upon when the family settles in for a night of TV.
Neighborhood walks are encouraged, since she has an affinity for Italian food.
Always up for a car ride, it is so difficult to leave our paunchy pooch behind. A well-mannered and seasoned car dog she rides shot-gun and takes her turn in the back seat if she must.
Bella came to our home at time when we needed her most, when I needed her most that is. The kids are growing and our lives are busy, as we longed for something to keep us grounded and a reminder of our love for each other.
She seems to unite us as a family, completing our circle. The old dog has breathed new life into our lives. She makes each one of us feel as if she cannot live without them, but in reality, it is she that we need.