Updated: Nov 18, 2019
Almost 13 years ago, my ex-husband found an ad for wolf-hybrid puppies in the Palm Coast Penny saver magazine that were $100 each. (Yea, I didn’t think it sounded like a reputable source either). To be honest, I was a little hesitate for a multitude of reasons: 1) wtf is a wolf-hybrid, and will it eat me in my sleep, 2) can I get a dog, I thought I was a cat person, 4) did I want to take care of a pet? Despite my reservations, we loaded up one afternoon and drove out into the boonies to check out the pups. When we arrived, I was a bit shocked at the conditions of the “house”. When I say this place reminded me of a Florida version of Deliverance, I ain’t lying. We pulled onto the property and immediately saw tons of broken-down cars that looked like they hadn’t moved in decades, the front porch of the trailer was falling in, and the place was just in general disarray. But we pushed onward! While talking to the nice couple, they share with us that the pups were an accident encounter between their dog and a stray, oh and that they loved Whitney Houston. I think they had about six or seven pups left, with one boy remaining. Since my ex wanted a boy dog we tried rather unsuccessfully for a hot minute to even get him to approach us. The owner even tried picking him up for us and held him tight as he pissed all over her. Alas, even with the piss fest, he would not even get near us.
As you can imagine, my ex was starting to back off the need for a boy dog and started to look at some of the female doggies. After a few minutes, we had narrowed it down to two of the dogs and were standing off to the side discussing the merits of both. All the sudden, something told me to look down. At our feet, was this beautiful, little, tan doggy with a face colored like a mask. She had her two front paws on top of a concrete block and was looking up at us, seemingly begging with those beautiful eyes “please take me from here.” She was no dummy and could see the ship to freedom and wanted to get on board. We spent a few minutes meeting her and were even able to hold her on her back (a sign the woman assured us meant she was a good match for us). We quickly decided that we would indeed take her home. On the way home, we tossed around some names and decided that Shelby was it. We made a quick pit stop and grabbed some doggy items and spent the rest of the evening bathing her. A few hours into the process, washing and rewashing and removing fleas and ticks from her, we discovered she was a bright white and not the tan color we originally thought. We had ourselves a new pup.
As with much of life, those first years passed with a blur, sequencing and timing losing their ground. But these are the things I do remember: Shelby really loved people or really didn’t. If you were one of here favorites, she sounded like Chewy and would just smother you in the sweetest love ever. But if she didn’t love you or she was protecting her mommy, you could def see where the possibility of a wolf in her immediate gene pool had occurred. Although she could be a bit of a wild card with people she didn’t know, she was always sweet with children. She would cross her paws while she was chilling, she liked laying on my ex's feet. She never destroyed much but would always eat the plastic tips off my shoe laces (only my shoes). Shelby was super intelligent and highly driven, she loved having chores. Some of her self-assigned and quickly learned chores involved recycling, bringing in the mail, carrying things between my ex and I, opening the refrigerator door, and putting things in the trash.
Even though for the most part owning her was enjoyable and went by uneventfully, we also had some difficult moments with Shelby. In the span of five years, she tore both of her ACL’s. This injury called for an expensive surgery with a bit of a difficult recovery, I honestly didn’t give a shit if it meant not having to put her down. To see her in pain was perhaps one of the most difficult things I would have to encounter as a doggy mommy. And I was her mommy. since my ex and I had decided to forgo the kids in our relationship, but Shelby wouldn’t have known that – she was our child.
When my ex and I decided to end our marriage three years ago, inevitably talk of who would get the dog began. I honestly remember thinking that she was more his dog and she would end up going with him. However, since I had lost my dad a month before and was also now in the middle of a separation and subsequent divorce, I ended up getting custody of her. I have never been more grateful for anything in my life. During the year and a half that I had Shelby to myself, I underwent some of the most excruciatingly painful moments of my life. I had no idea at the time, but many of the events that occurred during that period were part of my spiritual awakening. Events that shook me to my core and made me question my own sanity. I remember feeling anxious, alone, sad, depressed, angry, unfocused, and those were all emotions I had on my good days. LOL. Joking, but kinda not. I just couldn’t be with a lot of people during that time period. What I could do however was lay my head in the softest white fur of my Shelby girl and cry myself stupid.
When the day came that I was unable to keep Shelby anymore, I knew I had to give her back to my ex. It took me a few weeks to come to terms with the need to do so and I fought it for a bit. At the time, we were not really on speaking terms and I was afraid I would never see her again. However, we all know how persist God can be when he wants us to do something. So, I gave her back to her daddy and then I bawled like a baby. I cried every day for what seems like months. I cried every time I saw a dog, I cried every time I went for my morning walk (the first ones I had taken solo in almost 11 years). But I knew it was the right thing to do. I tried for a bit to visit her every few months but there comes a point where we have to allow nature to take its course and not fight the change we are presented with.
Fast forward to the call I received this evening from my ex. Shelby at the emergency vet, with cancer and internal bleeding, needing to be put down. I’ve known for a bit this was coming. Call me crazy (you most def would not be the first), but I am connected with that mutt on a soul level. I don’t logically know how I knew, but I could just feel it. For many of us, we typically think of soulmates in reference to human beings – but they are not limited to human form. If we are lucky enough to experience it, our four-legged friends bring the most beautiful, unconditional love we may encounter during our lives. They love us in spite of our negative qualities, our bad days, our stupid mistakes. They just love us – all in – 100%.
So, please join me while I take this opportunity - my Shelby girl (aka: Chewy, long face, schmoopy, muttikus, mutt face, poopy, Gene Simmons) I thank you for all the sweet love you gave, I thank you for the laughs and the kisses and that noise you made when your dad rubbed your ear in the right spot. I pray that wherever you're going, you get as many ribs, cherries and pistachios as you can handle. My love for you will never end. Your momma