I couldn’t avoid his pleading brown eyes.
Even as other people came up to talk to him, his brown eyes followed me. I talked to others, I turned my back. Still, they were on me.
Finally, I acquiesced. I walked up to his cage, put out a hand and got a tentative, soft kiss.
Ainsley, 2, shrieked with delight. My husband, much older than 2, gave me a hesitant smile.
We already had two rescue dogs at home, collie mixes Layla and Ginger, and an ancient, grumpy cat rescued on the day we got engaged. The cat is firmly mine. If John isn’t the one to feed her for more than two days, she will no longer tolerate his presence. She tolerates Ainsley insofar as I think she realizes that I would rise up with fury should she turn her grumpiness on my child.
Other than that, Maggie could easily be mistaken for a cat-shaped pillow.
Layla’s a family dog, but prefers my company because, in her youth, we had a rat terrier named Jenny that claimed John for her own.
Jenny, also a rescue, was John’s stalwart companion and the reason we started dating. It’s a long story, but basically she, fresh from the pound, relieved herself on his carpet. I felt bad and took him to dinner. She was fiesty, cunning and an unabashed glutton who sampled many of my recipes for herself before the humans ever got a chance. At the grand old age of 14 (ish), just a few weeks after Ainsley was born, she suffered a series of devastating strokes.
We had to make the gut-wrenching decision to put her down. Layla became the family’s sole dog until we adopted Ginger. Ginger’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but she’s touchingly devoted to Ainsley and as entertaining as the day is long.
Now there was Mickey, a handsome 20-pound beagle mix from Yelp! Baton Rouge. As I bent down to talk to him, he lifted his mahogany ears and those aforementioned baleful brown eyes. His soft, cool nose had two pink spots on it that twitched as he sniffed my fingers. We sat in the grass with him for a while.
Were we crazy for even considering a third dog? Could we afford it? How would he do with the others? We eventually decided that yes, we were probably crazy, but we could probably afford it and thought he might fit in. He might even give Ginger a more willing playmate than Layla, who is starting to feel her age. To be safe, we first decided to foster him with the intent to adopt. That way, we could see how he fit in before committing.
At home, he was quickly sniffed over and accepted by Ginger. Layla, nominally the Dog In Charge, took a little more time to warm up, but quickly fell into playing with him and Ginger. He also proved an eager learner, mastering both the vocal command for sit and our hand signal. In just an hour, he did it better than Ginger, who’s been trying for more than a year. He even got a new name because Ainsley couldn’t say Mickey without following it with Mouse, which seemed a little undignified. We rechristened him Andy, or Handy, if you’re Ainsley. He also proved to be a champion snuggler, most content curled next to John with his long, slightly crooked tail over his nose.
Just after dinner, Maggie woke up and noticed the newcomer. She’s a striking, inky black cat. As she stretched out, Andy was riveted. Maggie slunk down the arm of the couch and, just before she pooled on the floor, Andy sprang. With a yowl, Maggie bolted for a corner, Andy right behind. Ginger, excited for a good chase, followed, crashing into all manner of furniture and walls as she went. Layla, who was napping and couldn’t be bothered, just barked from her blanket.
Andy thought cats were for chasing. This would be a problem.
Maggie may be ancient, grumpy and antisocial, but she’s my ancient, grumpy and antisocial. Andy was satisfied with just cornering her and never tried to hurt her, but I had visions of my poor old cat dying from cardiac arrest fleeing from a very focused beagle and a not-so-focused Ginger. He knocked it off when we corrected him, but couldn’t stop himself from chasing her every time she moved. Were she younger, she might have taught him a lesson. But she’s not, and something had to give.
The next morning, many, many chases later and a good deal of wheezing from Maggie, Andy was Mickey again, back at the Yelp! House.
It was heartbreaking saying goodbye to those brown eyes, but he was left in good hands. Yelp! is a no-kill operation that takes adoptable dogs from the East Baton Rouge Parish animal shelter. The volunteers we met were caring and devoted to finding all of their animals, including Mickey, a forever home. I’m told that Mickey was adopted shortly after we dropped him off. Best of luck, Handy Andy Mickey, and may all of your Yelp! buddies find a good home soon.
Beth Colvin is The Advocate’s assistant Food editor. She can be reached at bcolvin@the advocate.com.