After our heartbreaking loss of Mandy, the Bear-Shaped Dog, there was a dark cloud over the Sheen household. We have five cats, and love them, but I've always been a Dog person, and Mandy taught Cindy to crave canine company as well. It was clear we'd need to adopt another dog. We set about scanning online dog adoption listings. There were some false starts: There was Christy, a ten-year-old Chow Chow, whose adoption was on-track until the adopting agency insisted on a condition we'd ruled out in our very first communication. Then there was Arlo, a very sweet and loveable boy who was far too rambunctious for the safety of our cats. He spent a few days with us, and had to return to the shelter he'd come from, which we found gut-wrenching and heartbreaking, as well.
More recently, I read the story of a pair of Lhasa Apso/Shih-Tzu mixes who had excaped from a situation of dreadful neglect, only to be refugees from Hurricane Sandy, a terribly sad story we hoped to give a happy ending, but couldn't, as they turned out to be relentless cat-chasers. The agency that had them was one that specialized in American Eskimo Dogs. I was drawn to that breed, known colloquoially as "Eskies," because they are built and furred similarly to Chow Chows, and so would recall my beloved Bear-Shaped Dog. There were a couple of Eskies who had been in a neglectful environment, in whom we were also interested, but the lady in charge of the rescue agency had a different idea. Having read my tale of life with Mandy (included to give a sense of the sort of relationship we would want with any dog we adopted) Denise of Eskies Online had a very strong feeling that a dog she'd re-rescued so recently that he wasn't even listed on their website, would be a good fit for us, so she sent us two pictures of a dog thought to be a Golden Retriever/Collie cross, named "Gito:"
He certainly looked like a sweet fellow, but Cindy and I were sort of fixated on an Eskie named Simon, and there were some factors about Denise's recommendation that concerned me. He had been adopted out previously to a married couple, and that adoption hadn't worked out, because Gito had taken against the wife, who had a sort of nervous energy about her, which is a description I would, when stressed, apply to Cindy. That tail hanging down behind Gito also concerned me. It didn't look to me, after 8 years with Mandy, like a happy tail; it looked to me like the tail of a sad, defeated dog. Lastly, and most trivially, neither Cindy nor I liked the name "Gito." Still, it didn't seem fair to me to reject him out of hand, and he was clearly a good-looking dog, so we were open to meeting him as well as Simon.
Another wrinkle arose. Denise's usual method of adoptions is to bring the dogs to the home of the candidates. But we Sheens are fierce about our privacy, so that wouldn't work for us. We offered to go to Denise, but she had similar concerns. There was discussion back and forth, trying to come up with a comfortable alternative, until — and I'm inordinately proud of this — I hit upon the ideas of meeting up at a PetCo or PetSmart store, where patrons are encouraged to bring in their dogs, and there are usually benches for owners to wait while dogs are groomed or seen by veterinarians. When I suggested this to Denise, by Text Message, she looked up from the restaurant table where she was having lunch in her area, and across the street to where a PetSmart stood, and the plan was made on the spot.
The following Saturday, January 26th, 2013, we drove the two hours from our home just south of the New Hampshire border to the PetSmart in Johnston, Rhode Island. When we were within a couple of miles of the store, my phone rang, and it was Denise telling me she was going into the store with Gito. Honestly, I was disappointed. We were really thinking about Simon. But, hey, there's nothing wrong with meeting any dog, and it was hardly his fault he had a name we really hated! So we arrived, parked, and went inside. We recognized Gito immediately, and went over to introduce ourselves to Denise and her husband, and, of course, to Gito.
He was a very calm, sweet-natured dog, placidly greeting us and accepting petting from us in a way that reminded me a lot of Mandy. He was also extraordinarily soft and fluffy, with such amazing, warm, soft, lovely fur, we could hardly keep our hands off him. His tail was still hanging down behind him, but, without my having mentioned it, Denise said that his tail was one of her favorite things about him, and that, when he was happy, he carried it curled over his back. I was thrilled to hear that! I also took note that, while we were talking, a lady approached the nearby veterinarian's counter with two open cat-carriers with cats inside. That would have been enough to pre-occupy Arlo, but Gito paid the cats no mind, any more than he did passing dogs. Even though we saw no sign of the curled-above-the-back tail, and the ears still hung slack, he was so sweet, and so calm, that he totally stole our heart. After maybe twenty minutes sitting on a bench, petting Gito, I leaned over to Cindy and asked, "Do you want to meet Simon the Eskie?" She shook her head firmly. "Certainly not." So we told Denise and her Husband that we had decided. We would adopt Gito. We brought him outside, signed papers, paid an adoption fee, shook hands all around, and climbed into our car, me driving and Cindy in the back with Gito.
As we drove North, we talked to Gito, who was very relaxed and affectionate and placid, and talked to one another about him. Cindy thought the Golden Retriever/Collie theory was wrong. Those brown dots on his snout said "Spaniel" to her. I asked her how she was feeling about the name "Gito." She still didn't like it, and frankly, neither did I. I asked her if she had any ideas, and she brought up a series of commonplace male names, none of which grabbed us, and then she chuckled and suggested "Samuel the Spaniel?"
That joke didn't tickle me as a serious name, but there was something we both liked about "Sam" or "Sammy." We wandered about as we drove, considering names, and I found myself remembering that our grey-and-white cat, known by the nickname "The Little Man," was really named "Gandalf," and it struck me immediately. "Samwise?" I suggested. Cindy readily agreed, so we started calling him that. By the time we stopped at the Donelan's supermarket in our home town of Pepperell, Massachusetts, he was already starting to identify with that name, and with us as his people:
When we walked in the door on Saturday afternoon, he completely ignored our cats. By Saturday night, I took this picture:
As I write this, it's almost bedtime on the night of Monday, January 28th, 2013, after two and a half days with us, he's completely bonded with us, and he knows his name quite well. He's a very happy dog, and Cindy and I are sort of stunned that we've been lucky enough to bring him home. Research online has led us to conclude that the "Collie/Golden Retriever" theory is incorect. There could be Collie, and there could be Golden Retriever, but we're quite sure that he's partly Brittany Spaniel, and that that breed is so dominant that he may as well be a purebred -- if, indeed, he isn't! He's already a completely essential part of our lives. He's become more active and playful, but without losing his gentleness. He's extremely deferential to our cats, who are getting used to him, he sits with an audible thump in front of the door when approached with a leash -- although he also gets so excited he jumps up, and sometimes gets so excited when we go out that he races at high speed to the limit of the leash and back, like a cat with the crazies, grunting with pleasure at the fun he's having. He's really enjoyed today's snow.
So here, for your enjoyment, more of our wonderful new family member, Samwise: