Our family loves dogs. Sue and I got our first puppy, Jedda, soon after we purchased our house. Lucy followed two years later. By the time Carl came along, both of these dogs were fully entrenched as members of our family, and they accepted him as one of their own.
All of us thoroughly enjoyed the dog’s companionship so that when we lost Lucy in 2005, and Jedda in 2008, our household became uncomfortably quiet. Sue and I both were caught up in the sadness that occurs when a pet dies, so we wanted to wait several months or longer before getting another dog. Carl also missed Jedda and Lucy, but started asking to get another dog a few days later. He was at the age where he spent time in the house by himself and said he felt safer with a dog.
After a month of pleading from Carl, we finally agreed to visit our local animal shelter, Circle of Friends Humane Society, to just “look around.” We went on a Friday evening and as expected, discovered the shelter full of Labrador retriever crosses. I focused in on a female named Daisy who was very engaging and full of energy. Daisy did bark a lot, which Sue said might be a problem, but she agreed that Daisy was a very friendly, pleasant dog. We looked around some more but because the shelter was closing soon, decided to go home and get a night’s sleep before making a decision.
As we were leaving, we walked by the last kennel, where a female named Astro had spent the evening quietly lying in the back of her enclosure, not paying us any attention. Astro lifted her head and made eye contact with Sue. As Sue neared the bars, Astro slowly stood up and walked over to check us out. Sue put her hand inside to greet the black dog who gently nudged it with her nose. Astro stepped back a bit and while watching us, began slowly wagging her tail.
We drove home talking about Daisy, but Sue said there was something really special about Astro too. We agreed to go back the next day and look again.
We drove back to Circle of Friends the next morning feeling more excited than expected at the prospect of possibly becoming dog owners once again. I asked to take Daisy out into the walking area, and was given a leash. Daisy came out and barked at the dog in the next kennel. She proceeded to bark at every dog or cat we passed on our way outside, but eventually settled down once we got outside. Daisy proved to be a pleasant, affectionate dog!
Next, I asked to take out Astro. All night I had pondered why the staff at Circle of Friends had given a female dog the name Astro, which I associated with the male Great Dane from the animated television show “The Jetsons.” Sue told me she thought Astro was a gender neutral name which could be used for either sex, but still I wondered. I quickly understood why she had been named Astro when I was handed her leash and she bolted towards the door with such violence that my arm was nearly yanked out of its socket! She reared up on her hind legs and started jumping up and down against her leash, struggling to pull me towards the door. We continued down the hallway in the same manner; Astro pulling me along with every ounce of her strength, her front legs rarely touching the floor.
Like Daisy, Astro calmed a little once we were outside, but she was still the craziest dog I had ever been around. She pulled me over to the water dish, and after she drank her fill, purposely used her foot to overturn it. I remember thinking Astro was incredibly smart, but also a little defiant and naughty. I didn’t know if I wanted Astro as my pet or not.
Our return back inside was as chaotic as our trip out had been, with Astro lengthening both of my arms several inches with her lunging and pulling. Sue had remained inside to complete the adoption request in the event we wanted to take a dog home that day. When Astro and I returned, Sue tried to quiet the wild beast, and within a minute, the two were sitting on the floor together. Astro had her head resting on Sue’s lap while she looked up into Sue’s eyes. Sue was hooked!
We returned Astro to her kennel and held a quick family meeting to discuss if we wanted to adopt her. Sue and Carl both wanted Astro, but I was a little hesitant due to how out of control she had been for most of the time I had her on a leash. I agreed that Astro was a nice dog, so I asked the manager what she thought. She said Astro was a very adoptable dog that she had kept around longer than normal because of how gentle she was with people, especially children. She said most dogs at the shelter are craving human interaction, and get kind of crazy when someone talks to them. She thought Astro would calm down after we got her home.
We agreed to adopt Astro, and played with her while the manager checked out our suitability as pet owners. She eventually returned and said we could take Astro home.
Astro pulled like a team of horses as we left the Circle of Friends Humane Society and headed for our van. I recall thinking that if Astro got loose; she wouldn’t stop running until she was in a different county. Once inside the van, Astro made herself comfortable in the way back instead of by Carl’s feet like he wanted. We asked Carl if he wanted to keep Astro as her name, or if he had another one in mind. Carl said he wanted to call her Maxie, so that’s what we did.
It has turned out that we were all correct about Astro/Maxie. She remains, as I feared, a dog which frequently becomes so focused on something that she totally ignores us completely, becoming uncontrollable. She has also proven to be extremely gentle and sweet; which is what Sue saw in her. Most of all though, she has been a faithful companion to Carl; which is exactly what he wanted from a dog. Maxie has been with Carl as he changed from an adolescent into a young man and I’m sure that having a dog to love and care for has made him a better person. Maxie has been good for our family!