To tell the story of how Django joined our family, I need to step back a bit from that day in November. In June, our family lost Jessie, our 12-year-old golden Retriever. She left behind her best friend, Max, my 13-year-old Lab mix. I knew Max was nearing the end of his own journey, and what a journey it had been for the two of us. We had lived in three different time zones, moving from the ocean, to the mountains, and finally to the snowy northland. I assumed it would be too hard for an old dog to accept a new puppy, so I made it the best summer I could for my old friend. By November, his years were showing, and I hoped to share one more Thanksgiving with him before saying goodbye.
A couple weeks before we would give thanks, a friend needed me to take her Lab for the weekend. Max just lit up having a canine friend in the house - and made sure I noticed. He would touch noses with his friend, look at me with those big, bright eyes, then touch noses again. When I would come home, he greeted me at the door like he did when he was young, tail wagging, full of kisses. I heard his message loud and clear; the next morning I headed off to the Animal Humane Society to see if there was a fit for our family.
I thought that if I had misunderstood what Max was telling me, the puppy could have a week at our house, away from the shelter, gain exposure to cats, dogs, and a little time to relax before finding the right home.
When I arrived at the Coon Rapids shelter, I saw so many people milling about, but so many more animals hoping to go home. There were only a few younger dogs, and I was lucky enough to bring two of the youngest brothers into a visiting room for a few minutes.
One pup cavorted around me, flirting and romping happily. The other pup sat frozen in the corner, afraid to lift his eyes, unwilling to even take a treat. He shook and cowered wherever he was set down, and inched to a corner when he could muster the courage. Eventually, the staff person needed to return one dog to the adoption center, and I asked to have a bit more time with the broken-hearted puppy. We sat together quietly in the room, and I couldn’t imagine how this dog could fit into my lively household. I decided to try one more time with the treat. He very tentatively took the treat from my hand, walked a few steps away from me, dropped the treat on the floor and sniffed it very carefully before tasting it. I burst into tears, knowing I had found my match; this was the exact same ritual my Max performed every time I gave him a treat.
After a silent ride home, I carried the new puppy into our backyard where the sun was shining, the grass still warm. When I set him down on the lawn, curled tightly into a ball, I waited to see what would happen. His head came up and as he looked around, his ears perked up, he stood to his full height and his tail began to wag in slow, long sweeps. It didn’t even take a week to know he was the perfect fit. After a few short days, Django was a permanent part of our family.
Now, spring is fast approaching. As the snows recede, Max and Django are exploring parts of the yard that were shut off due to deep snows and Max’s bad hips. Max is teaching Django about the best places to explore, what to do with squirrels, and how to bark at passing cars. While I know Max’s time with us is limited, Django has given us one more Thanksgiving, one more Christmas, and one more chance to lay down in the grass together, soaking up the warm sun together.