Puppy Love

A rambunctious rescue succeeds in stealing hearts

By Andy Viano

The latest love of my life has short, reddish-brown hair, perfect white teeth, beautiful big brown eyes and the unfettered exuberance of a pit bull.

Although, in fairness to her, I’m pretty certain that last part is because she actually is part pit bull.

I met her just three months after my wife and I put down our companion of 13 years, and in classic fairy tale fashion it was love at first sight. That is to say, she was in love from the moment she saw us.

Luna, as we named her, had been in the custody of the Flathead County Animal Shelter for a month and had spent that time earning a less-than-glowing reputation. She bore her teeth and growled at visitors as they walked past her cage (the shelter, cleverly, said she had a propensity for “smiling” at people) and refused to sleep in her crate, instead resting on top of it, I presume, in homage to one of my favorite cartoon characters.

But when my wife and I walked past Luna she was simply curious, and when we took her for a test drive in the toy room she grew on us almost immediately. Still, a decision remained since we had been to Kalispell’s other shelter, the Humane Society of Northwest Montana, earlier that day, and there were some pretty strong candidates there, too. So we went back-and-forth on a Saturday afternoon, standing in a hallway near Luna’s cage in tense deliberation, before flagging down one of the volunteers.

“OK,” we said, swelling with sudden confidence, “we’ll take her!”

“I’m sorry, we’re not doing any more adoptions today,” they responded.

Undeterred, we drove back to the shelter two days later, making sure to arrive early to secure our place in line, and this time Luna came home with me, sprinting back-and-forth in my car in a harbinger of things to come.

This, then, is the part where I tell you about her, um, rough transition to domestication. Luna is a lady of mystery, hailing from parts unknown and with a first two years (or thereabouts) left open to the imagination. What I can say, with confidence, is that she was not somewhere that put dogs through finishing school.

It didn’t take long for Luna to bolt from our front door for the first time, her powerful legs and boundless energy propelling her through our neighborhood while I chased on foot and my wife drove with her head out the car window. It happened often enough that our neighbor’s teenage children became trained to dart out their front door and join the chase when my wife or I would unleash a frantic “Luna!”

In the days since, Luna hasn’t lost that instinct to run, or the one that tells her to open her mouth and hurl herself, quite literally, at people (myself included) who greet her, or the one that says to lift her front legs up and hug every new dog she meets, a hug that is rarely appreciated.

The thing is, though, that if you look at it closely enough you can start to see something else entirely. You can start to see a dog so starved for companionship that she explodes with glee, or a dog so grateful for a fresh bit of rawhide that she cries a little when she gets some, or a dog so affectionate that she’ll plop all 50 pounds of herself in a stranger’s lap, smiling ear to ear.

If you ask me, it’s the kind of stuff that can make a guy fall in love.

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