Sunday, January 31, 2010

Higgins in his Happy Home

Over 6 months ago I met and fell in love with Higgins. For months I walked him every day, trained him every day, and loved him every felt like Higgins belonged to me and that we were meant for each other. With each passing day I grew more and more attached to his goofy personality, his tenderness, and his joy. Until one day he was gone. In October, the East Bay SPCA chose Higgins and another shelter dog, Buffy, to transfer to their facility in Oakland. When I heard the news I immediately felt that I couldn't lose him.

And so began my frantic search for an apartment where I could live that would not only let me have a dog, but an American pit bull terrier. I checked newspapers, I checked craigslist, I made walk throughs near my neighborhood looking for available apartments and everywhere I turned I was constantly running into a dead end. While I continued looking for an apartment I went to visit Higgins in Oakland a few times a week to help him become adjusted there, just in case I couldn't adopt him the way I wanted to...I wanted his stay there to work out because I knew that Higgins would be noticed more at the SPCA than he was at the shelter. At the shelter, he is just one of many pit bulls. But at the SPCA he could have a real chance...But for whatever reason, Higgins didn't do well in that environment and sadly, Higgins and Buffy were brought back to the shelter 4 weeks later having been deemed "unadoptable".

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.

He did remember me! He did! And not only did he remember me, but he missed me, too.

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.


kathy said...

This is such a wonderful story Sam. Thank you for all the love and dedication you gave this sweet soul. You gave him hope that love can indeed be his! Thank you!

Joel said...

Come on now Sam, are you SURE Higgins doesn't want to go back to his kennel???? What a great situation for Higgins, but he's a great dog and he deserves it. It's also really nice of his new owners to be willing to keep in touch. Everybody has a soft spot for the dogs that are at the shelter for long stays. I hope we can find something half as nice for the other dogs at the shelter!

Pam said...

Sam, this has made me cry. And how wonderful to shed tears of joyful poignance, rather than of sorrow and loss. How beautifully you capture the everlasting bond between you two. You will be in his heart forever, just as he will be in yours forever, too. No doubt about that.

Anonymous said...

Hi i am looking for a dog at bacs and i just read this and i cried. your amazing! and i understand your struggle to find a place in Berk that allows pitts. i struggled to find a place too, but now i have! and i am ready to adopt! its been a long time coming. thank you so much for your wonderfully loving and happy story. Thank god the shelter has people like you! keep on loving with that big heart of yours!

Anonymous said...

Great story!

What happened to Buffy? I was ready to adopt her and at the last moment my boyfriend changed his mind. i always wondered what happened to her. Do you know? please email me at:

-Thank you!