When he returned to the shelter I thought, "This has to be a sign. Why would he come back if he's not meant to be with me?" I was determined to find a place to live. Weeks went by and still every option or possibility that I thought I had always fell short of the right match. All the while I continued to walk Higgins every day. I took him to Bad Rap class on Saturdays and I always gave him extra food to eat before our walks together.
I became incredibly depressed over the 3 months that I was looking for an apartment. I became consumed with finding a home where Higgins and I could be together and with each and every, "No - we don't accept pit bulls" or "No big dogs allowed" I began to break down. I was on the verge of tears most days -- I loved this dog and it killed me that I couldn't find a way to make it work. But all the while....I think deep down I knew that Higgins didn't belong with me, as much as I wanted him to.
3 days before my trip home (to visit for 3 weeks with my family in Maine) a family came in to look at some of the shelter dogs. All the while I'm introducing some of the dogs to this family, I was thinking, "This family is nothing short of fabulous. Large animal veterinarians that work in their 'at home clinic' on their 14 acres of land. They have previous pit bull experience, they already have another friendly dog, they have 2 teenage sons to play with whichever dog they adopt, horses, cows, sheep, and cats even! Not only do they have the perfect environment for a dog, but they are such nice, loving, genuine people." This family was interested in meeting Jody first, but after their visit with her they decided they wanted to meet Higgins, too.
And believe it or not....the first feeling I felt was relief. Why? Because I knew the moment that they met Higgins that they would love him as much as I did. I knew that once they met him that he would be the dog for them...and that they could give him the home that I couldn't. And they did love him. All it took was one short walk over to his favorite place: a nice private beach over the pedestrian bridge near the Marina. 1 hour with him and they knew that he was the one. And although my head was telling me, "Yes, this is wonderful. Higgins will have a home, a real home!" my heart was breaking that he would never be mine.
Christmas Eve (only 2 days after I had left Berkeley) I got the call: Higgins had been adopted. And I hadn't had the chance to say goodbye. That night I cried myself to sleep -- both tears of joy...and tears of sadness. Joy that Higgins no longer had to be kept in a cage. Joy that he would have a dog to play with every day. Joy that he'd live on a farm where he could run off-leash, like he couldn't at Pt. Isabel that day we took a field trip together. Sad because I wouldn't get to see him grow from the goofy puppy that he was, into the wonderful family dog he was going to be. Sad that I felt like I was losing a dear friend. Heart broken that over time, he wouldn't remember me - but I would never forget him.
And imagine my surprise when I returned to the shelter to find an email waiting for me:
"Well, so far so good. He has definitely calmed down since he has been with us, in fact he is snoozing in his bed next to my desk as I am typing this. We are taking things slowly as far as introducing him to our cats (for our cats sake) but he and our corgi, Ruby, are doing fine so far. Rudy doesn't want to play as much as Higgins would like so we take up the slack and make sure he gets plenty of playtime. You can't help but smile and giggle at him when he plays, but obviously you know that. We have already had our first outing to the beach and he did great! We will definitely continue with training classes, but mostly he has been a gentleman. You do a great job there. It amazes me that a dog who grew up in a kennel environment is proving to be such a great, well behaved and happy companion. Thank you...Please know how much we love him already and that you are more than welcome to visit at any time." - Jean H. (Higgins's new mom)
That weekend I called Jean and planned a time to come up and see Higgins. And that's where I was today.
My boyfriend Derek came along with me to keep me company for the hour long drive to Petaluma. After a few long country roads, we pulled into the long driveway and made our way to Higgins' forever home. When we stepped out of the Zipcar, the first thing we noticed was how quiet it was. Jean's husband Mark came out from around the corner, introduced himself and called Higgins for us.
From the distance I saw a small red and white blob making it's way (very fast, I might add) up the drive way. Higgins stopped suddenly at the top of hill and looked in my direction. And as if no time had passed at all, Higgins literally bounded toward me and leaped into my arms licking my neck and face.
I couldn't stop the silent tears that streamed down my face as he nuzzled his muzzle into my neck and snorted with glee. Immediately Higgins ran for a tennis ball: fetch, his favorite activity. Jean handed me the ball thrower and said, "He's all yours."
Derek and I played, cuddled, snuggled, and fawned over Higgins for an hour...and by the end of our trip I knew that I couldn't have imagined a greater home for the world's greatest dog, my Higgins.