THE STORY OF WINNIE

Enough people have asked about this that it seemed worth sharing. I try to keep the content around here candid, motivating and uplifting, and I think this story fits the bill for the 'uplifting' category. 

Some of you may know that I had a miniature dachshund in college; she was a surprise from my then-boyfriend and I made the very tough decision to leave her with him when we broke up and I decided to move to New York. When I moved up here, I had no idea what my everyday life was going to be like and even though we didn't work out as a couple, I was confident that he could give her a great life in Florida. It was the right thing to do, but definitely not the easy thing to do, and it haunted me for a few years after the fact. I'd have this horrible nightmare, over and over again, that she did in fact live in NYC with me and I'd forgotten about her. She'd crawl out from under my bed, emaciated and limping, not having been fed in weeks. I woke up sweating and screaming every time. It was awful. It took me years to rid myself of the guilt and when I finally did, I thought often about having another dog someday when my schedule was conducive to it. I was kind of bummed when I found out Ben wasn't a dog person, but in the back of my mind I told myself there was still hope...

A photo from the day we took her home - December 18, 2016. 

It took me years - no exaggeration - to warm Ben up to the idea of getting a dog. In the past year his resistance began to melt as we started to talk about our future... leaving Manhattan, building a house, starting a family... someday. My dad is a dog person - that's who I get it from - and he loved the idea of us getting a dog that he could spend some time with, too, since his lifestyle wouldn't really allow for him to be a full-time pet parent. He suggested I look into the Havanese breed since we have a few of those in our extended family and they're great dogs. A few months ago, I found a great-looking breeder online and emailed them for more info. 

Fast forward a few weeks... I broke my ankle, was chained to our couch for a few weeks, and we had to cancel our Florida vacation because I refused to hobble down there in a boot. Those first few weeks post-break were miserable. I kept saying to Ben, "NOW can we get a dog?! I need something to look forward to!" The more I brought up the possibility of getting a dog with Ben, the more we started to come around to the idea of adopting a dog in need of a home rather than purchasing a dog from a breeder. I'd spend hours reading about different breeds online, and I came across an ad for a "Holiday Super Adopt". It's an event put on by the Best Friends Animal Society where they bring together lots of different animal rescues in one place so that hundreds of animals (mostly dogs) can find forever homes around the holidays. I told Ben about it and he said we could go. It was a three day event (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday) and we agreed to go Friday evening around the time when they opened. On the inside I was hopeful we'd find "The One" but on the outside I played it totally cool and let Ben take the lead; I knew I could fall in love with almost any dog but it was going to take more for Ben to want to take one of these guys home with us. 

We walked up and down every aisle of dog crates, stopping to pet a few and read the info written on the cards about the breeds, ages, and origins of each. After we'd seen everything, I said, "Is there any dog you liked and want to go see again?" He said, "Yea, I like that little black and white one named Winter." So back we went, and asked the volunteer if we could hang out with Winter. I held her in my arms and Ben looked me right in the eye and said, "We could do this. I think we could do this. But we need to think about it. And we really need to clean and fix up the apartment." I nodded and turned to the volunteer to hand Winter back. She clawed at my jacket trying to hold on as we gave her back. Before we left, I filled out an adoption application. 

We walked to dinner and daydreamed out loud a little bit about what it would be like if we took her home. Suddenly a thought came to me. "We could call her Winnie! Like The Wonder Years!" Ben liked the idea.

The next day, I knew she was on both of our minds. I had to hold myself back from asking, "Are you still thinking about Winter?!" every 5 minutes. I called and emailed the animal rescue and asked if Winter was still there, and if my application had been approved. She was so soft and cute that I worried someone else would scoop her up, but I kept telling myself that if it was meant to be... it would be. I got an email back that my application had been approved and that Winter was still there. Not wanting to make a big decision in a hasty manner, Ben and I agreed that if we woke up thinking about her on Sunday morning, we'd head back to the event to make her ours.

Sunday morning came and I emailed Social Tees to see if she was still there. The event started at 11 and I wanted to be there as soon as it opened. I made breakfast and told Ben to get dressed. He dragged his feet; he was afraid we'd get there, she'd be gone and we'd be heartbroken. He kept telling me to call Social Tees to ensure she was still available and I kept telling him that the process isn't perfect and just like anything in life worthy of loving you have to be prepared for the possibility of having your heart broken. (Also it was Sunday and their office was closed so there was no one there to answer the phone. Also Ben is very stubborn.) After a bunch of banter, I finally got him out of the apartment. I checked my email again as he hailed a cab and saw that Social Tees had written back. "Winter's still here. Are you coming?" I squealed, told Ben and replied, "We're on our way." 

We got there, paid the adoption fee, and carried Winter, now our Winnie, to the nearest bench so we could wrap her up in a blanket before heading outside. Ben and I looked at one another with the same gleam in our eye we had right after we walked up the aisle on our wedding day and sat in a holding room by ourselves in our shiny new wedding bands. A mix of sheer excitement and being scared shitless.

My dad took this photo about a week after we got Winnie. He bought her this bed which she soon after tore apart...

Winnie was rescued from a high kill shelter in Tennessee where I'm almost certain she was taken from her mom too soon and possibly abused, because she had severe separation anxiety that thankfully has eased with time. The first few weeks we had her, she'd cry if she wasn't within touching distance with one of us. She wouldn't get in her crate for anything and would cry even if we turned our plexiglass coffee table on its side to act as a barrier. She could see us, but she hated that there was something between us. 

Having her has changed our lives a lot. She's our first priority. I haven't even seen my dad's new house in Miami yet because I can no longer run down to Florida any ol' time I want. And I want to apologize to anyone I ever gave a strange look to when they told me their dog went to day care. I TOTALLY get it now. She goes several times a week when I have a bunch of clients in a row and can't get home to her often enough. If I'm gone for less than four hours, she hangs in her crate with a bone. For the first month or so she'd scream when left alone and we got a lot of complaints from our neighbors. (I replied by leaving them each a bottle of wine and a note that said, "We apologize for the extra noise - we rescued a puppy and she's still getting used to her new surroundings.") She now stays quiet when crated and her anxiety has definitely lessened. She gets a little more confident each day and it's so fun to watch her grow, not just in size but also in stature. 

Winnie has made me cry more times than I can count. I cringe to think about what she may have been through in her life before we adopted her. She bit a hole right through a pair of lululemon leggings (while I was wearing them!) and she's still learning not to be quite so mouthy. And I'll never forget the first time we left her alone, enclosed in our kitchen. Ben and I went to see a movie a few blocks from our apartment and I left early because my ankle was really bothering me. I came home to a screaming Winnie and poop EVERYWHERE. I forgot about my ankle, got down my knees to clean the floors and turned around to see she was throwing up. I cried for a LONG time that night. I'm happy to report she's come a long way since!

Our little family at the dog park on February 19, 2017.

It hasn't been all sunshine and rainbows, but Winnie has without question changed our lives for the better. Ben and I were always content to hang out at home but now it's way more of an adventure as we learn more about Winnie, her personality and her quirks each day. She's already taught us so much about love, perseverance, and patience. People stop us on the street all the time when we're walking her to ask questions, and we're so proud to tell everyone that she's a rescue. She may drive us absolutely crazy sometimes but she's brought new meaning to our lives...truly.

Winnie loves to eat (especially our food) and she loves to play and she loves to sleep. She wants to stop and say hi to every single person along our walks. She loves to stretch and does a mean downward dog! My dad lives a few blocks away and he and Win are best buds. He's an amazing help to us and I'm so grateful. I literally can't walk her by his building without her trying to drag me inside of it. She knows he lives there and ALWAYS wants to go see him.

I wanted to share this story especially for anyone who is considering adopting a dog. If you live in Manhattan, I can't say enough good things about the work Social Tees does, and I'm so glad we were able to adopt from them. I don't know much about other rescues but if you have any specific questions I will do my best to help you.