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A Long Road Adoption Story

Echo and Li Li

Just over a year ago, I lost my best friend – my black and white Siberian Husky, Sunday. He was almost sixteen years old. It had been our plan to ultimately adopt two more Siberians – preferably one at a time, in order to integrate the new family in steps; however, the house was too quiet, and I couldn’t wait. Huskies had become my lot in life, and somewhere early in our ten years together, Kate understood they were part of the deal. Since losing Sunday’s partner, Nikki, two and a half years earlier, Kate had perused the Husky rescue websites periodically. Since Sunday’s death, I was paying closer attention. Two weeks after Sunday’s death, Kate and I went to Susan Scofield’s kennel – a foster home of Siberians Needing Owners – to meet Echo, a strangely brown, black and gray Siberian Husky needing a home.

Echo was a whirl of activity, running the fence line back and forth following the play of two other dogs playing outside of the fence. She would occasionally stop for a brief pat on the head and scratch of the ears, and then back to running. Among the other foster dogs in the enclosure with us, a white dog kept barking at me, just out of reach. He looked familiar.

“Is that Elias?” I asked. I recognized his face from a rescue website, but I didn’t expect to see him here.

“Yes, that’s Elias – one of the rescues out of Alaska.” We were familiar with the story: a large number of dogs basically tied out, underfed and unsheltered.

Each time I crouched down to pet a dog, Li Li would approach me from behind to bark or smell me, again just out of reach out my outstretched arm. After a few rounds of this, he made his move: he moved within reach and let me stroke his side. Whenever I turned my head to face him, he would back off again, but each time I looked forward, with him still behind me, he would approach again within reach. It became a game, and Susan was surprised.

“He’s never approached any visitors like that before. I’m really happy. This is a major milestone for Elias.”

Before we left, while we were standing on the deck talking to Susan, I took one last look down into the enclosure; Li Li was lying on his side in the gravel, enjoying the early Spring sun, just like any other dog would do. It was difficult to understand what he had gone through, but he was clearly already in a much better place.

On the drive home, I told Kate “I can’t leave Elias.” Of course, she already knew this. Over the next two weeks, the question became whether or not to take Echo along with Elias. In Elias, we really didn’t know what we were getting into because of his background; but we had made a connection. If I believed in fate, this would be proof. The concern with Echo was heightened by the possibilities being raised in the home evaluation: the idea of a dog bounding off a two-foot air conditioner over a six-foot fence three feet away didn’t settle my anxiety. I know from experience that Huskies can be high-strung, and with the energy we saw in our visit – and the fact that she had escaped her previous home twice – could Echo be a special needs dog in her own right?

The decision here was inevitable, whether you lead with your head or your heart; Echo needed a home committed to absorbing her energy level – evidently at the higher end of the Siberian Husky spectrum – and Elias needed a partner to show him the way into the life he fully deserved.

Echo came in the house on the first day and plopped down on the rug, like she’s lived here all her life. She’s been like that since. A minimum of three walks a day keeps her energy in check; in other words, a tired dog is a happy dog. Li Li, as we now call him, has come a long way in a year; he is no longer as hesitant to approach people, most of the time he runs right up the ramp into the pickup and he loves going for his walks. Much of the time, people don’t notice the subtle signs of his neglected past. We still see them, but they continue to fade with time. Li Li barks at us more all the time – when he wants his dinner, wants his treat or just wants out of the kennel when we get home from work. We love seeing him grow in self-confidence, and I still feel the healing of the crack in my heart, caused by knowing he was basically tied to a chain for the first three years of his life. Li Li has taught us patience, and much more about hope.

Kate thinks we were lucky with these dogs. I tend to think dogs become their own pieces to an ever-evolving puzzle. For our family, these two pieces are now firmly in place.

Li-Li (top) and Echo (bottom) relaxing!