May 01, 2016

Adopting Henry

On Friday, I had errands and meetings in midtown, and afterward I took the subway down to Chelsea Market because I had read that an adoption van from North Shore Animal League would be parked outside on 9th Avenue.

It was indeed there, with a sizable crowd waiting to get in. I entered the narrow hallway inside the van, lined with cages of puppies, dogs, and cats. There was an overwhelming crush of people inside, too, some holding dogs, some kneeling next to nervous potential pets, with two young women doing their best to answer all questions and process adoptions.

Earlier in the week, I'd gone to Animal Care & Control and the ASPCA to look for a dog, but although the staff in both places were mighty helpful, the dogs were older and scarier and bigger and there were just fewer of them than I expected. My apartment building has a 30 pound limit for a pet, and they specifically told me, "No breeds dangerous to humans." So all the abandoned pit bulls were out of the question, even if I had felt the need for such strong company, which I didn't.

So back to the adoption van a few days later, I peer in the cages and smile at the animals and suddenly a 9-year-old boy turns around and he's holding a tiny black puppy shivering in his arms. The boy smiles and asks, "Do you want to hold him?"

So I take the puppy and he curls up against my chest and licks my chin. "Uh-oh," I say. "I'm in trouble." The boy grins and vanishes into the crowd and I never see him again.

Holding the tiny black puppy, I sidle deeper into the van, and end up in front of an empty cage where a blond woman in her mid-thirties is holding my puppy's brother. They paw for each other and we let them cuddle suspended in the air. This woman has decided to adopt the puppy she's holding. I'm already think that mine is named Henry and I love the white spot on the back of his neck in a shiny sea of black seal fur. The woman tells me that she heard the puppies' mother and siblings were adopted earlier that day. The puppies are 8 weeks old, which makes their birthday approximately March 1. (It sounds crazy, I know, but I wanted a Pisces pet.) They're not supposed to grow larger than 25 pounds. The mother was a white and brown hound/terrier mix who weighed about 20 pounds, and the father was a black chihuahua. Apparently, this blend is called a Feist, which just means small mixed-breed dog, usually used in hunting small game from antiquity. The word "feisty" actually comes from the outgoing, energetic nature of these Feist dogs.

So we're on line waiting to adopt these puppies, almost by default, because 20 minutes already has passed and Henry is asleep in my arms, hot against my chest. I'm protecting him from the crush of people. One of the young women volunteers comes by and repeats what I've just been told, and we're told how much it costs to adopt these puppies (more than I was expecting), which has to be in cash. As instructed, I fill out an application on my phone on the adoption partner's website (In Our Hands Rescue), and I'm told that it's approved in a few minutes. We place the brother puppies back in their cage, and we're assured that they will be kept for us while we get cash.

I return quickly with the money, although the blond woman beat me back and is already in the process of adopting Henry's brother. She finishes and takes my contact info in case we want to set up a puppy brother play date. Then she leaves and it's my turn. I pay up, and sign to adopt Henry. I hear about his vaccinations and how to get him neutered and what to feed him. I'm given a voucher for a coupon book at PetCo and then I'm told I can leave with him.

"Do you have a box I can put him in or something?" I ask.

"Nope," the other volunteer says. "Just tuck him in your jacket."

And I step off the van holding tiny Henry and we're together in the world.

My 15-year-old cat Mabel was furious and puffed for a couple days but now she's doing better than I expected. It helps that Henry is terrified of her, which is very smart of him.

Now I have to teach an 8-week-old puppy what not to eat in my apartment and where to pee!

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