Our family is built on second chances.
Ry and I started our relationship over ten years ago and spent the majority of the first few years doing everything we could to screw it up. The dogs, well they had a rough first couple of years themselves; being bounced around from shelter to shelter.
I knew Ry was the person I wanted to partner with on the journey of life, but with 3000 miles between us and distractions of careers I didn't know how to get there. I followed him to New York where he was embarking on the very casual existence of Medical Student, but the pressures of living far away from family and friends and no tangible idea of who I was outside of those groups proved to be too much for us or our relationship to handle. I moved back West and we decided that parting ways was the logical solution to our heartache. It absolutely was not.
In a hail marry effort I returned to New York with a new plan- discover my own passions and my own sense of self while remaining friends with this person I once called my boyfriend. It turns out that I liked the person I was growing into, and he liked that person as well. We would see each other every few weeks, while I tried to cram a full weeks worth of work into four days so I could take the Chinatown bus up to Albany, New York to spend the weekend with him. By the time he graduated medical school, we were loading up our New York lives and heading back to Portland as a couple.
Osa... well technically she is on her third chance. Osa was plucked from the streets of Northern California as a stray when she was a puppy. She spent some serious time in a shelter in the Sierras, enough time that they gave up on her and had her next in line to be euthanized. Enter the Oregon Humane Society and their stellar "Second Chance Program". Once a week they scoop up pups in "kill" shelters and save them from a morbid fate, driving them back up to Portland where they get a new opportunity to find a forever home. A different family, likely captivated by her glacial eyes and friendly ears, brought her into their lives where she got a new name, Aneetcha, and a couple of human siblings. Unfortunately, Osa's demeanor did not vibe with the hordes of children running around the house and tugging on her ears. She was returned to OHS after several months, serendipitously at the same time when I was volunteering as a dog walker.
Her eyes drew me in, but it was the way she curled shyly into my lap that made me send Ry a text saying "can she come home?".
Do you believe in fate? If not, you're about to.
The Humane Society allows an interested human to put a 24 hour 'hold' on a dog, meaning that they have one full day of consulting family and preparing their home for the potential new family member. They allow up to 3 holds on a particular dog. I was Osa's fourth, a benefit of being a volunteer with the organization. After carefully filling out my paperwork describing everything from our work schedules to our lifestyle, I left feeling hopeful but nervous.
That poor, patient receptionist... I must have called every fifteen minutes. Every time I called she told me the same message, the first in line hasn't returned our call. Eventually, however, the message was that the first hold had passed. Then I called again and was told that the second hold passed, but, and she said this with the utmost care and concern, the third in line had been calling just as incessantly as me. I hung up feeling completely deflated. I joined my friends at a picnic table and just as I sat down, my phone rang with a familiar number. I stepped away from the group as tears welled up in my eyes as I braced myself for bad news. "The third hold fell through, their landlord wouldn't permit a German Shepherd mix in the residence!" the receptionist sang to me. I left Ry a voicemail telling him the good news, completely forgetting that I hadn't actually told him how far along in the process we already were while he was busy at work.
She almost wasn't, but now she always will be, our dog.
We weren't the first family Jasper had either.
I was laying in bed perusing an Alaskan Malamute rescue organization's website, hey, we all have our hobbies, when I came across a big eared, gangly-legged boy. I turned to Ry, shoving the screen of my iPhone assertively into his face. I have shown him many, many, many profiles and photos of adoptable pups over the years, but as he tilted his head to the side I saw the corners of his lips curl upward. That was all the green light I needed to immediately send in an application pleading with the powers that be to consider us. It was an incredibly extensive application which required photos of our fences to prove it's height and durability. Luckily for us, whoever owned our home previously believed in locking themselves behind a stealthy forest of timber and concrete, but I like to think it was the impassioned letter I wrote describing the life I envisioned for this proclaimed high energy fella that swayed them to pick us. A few days later we received an email stating that Jasper's foster mom picked our application out of the bunch.
Osa and I drove two hours north with one objective: meet Jasper, and a secondary objective pending how the first concluded: bring Jasper home.
The dogs, utter strangers, immediately took to each other. While they chased and wrestled and took breaks to guzzle water, I spoke with the woman who ran the rescue organization. She told me that Jasper was purchased from a breeder by a woman who, frankly, had no business getting another dog. She had several children and several dogs at home already and was completely overwhelmed by the addition. Jasper spent the first nine months of his life living in a pit of mud in her back yard. She called the rescue organization and asked if they could take him off her hands- what is known in the adoption circle as an "owner surrender." When she was asked for photos of Jasper that the organization could add to his online profile she sent pictures that were taken through the screen of a window. She couldn't even walk outside to join him. This thought still devastates me.
But he would never know that type of solitude again, I promised him as I drove southbound on Interstate 5.
We are the family that came together because we were all offered second chances, and I think that pushes us to provide a life of extraordinary love and endless adventure for one another, a life we all deserve.