On a wintery spring break (or how I met Honey)

Spring break, the week-long gap between my Women’s Health/Peds and Surgery clerkships, comes to an end today. We had far more snow than we expected, given the springy weather of the previous weeks. Winter in its final throes, I’m sure.

Our goal this break was simple: obtain a dog companion and love them with all our hearts. We drove down to Philadelphia that first Saturday morning in an attempt to find our canine and bring them home, same day. Otherwise, we would need to begin a long application process via the local animal shelters, which would involve a home inspection, checking of references, and about two weeks of turnaround.

In our mad dash to finish the clerkship, we didn’t look too hard into the actual bureaucratic process of obtaining a rescue hound. We simply set the intention and hoped that all would work itself out. In the days leading up to spring break, Mackenzi had her browser full of tabs upon tabs of doggy profiles at the local animal shelters.

At the Philly SPCA, we did not fall in love. Or, we might have, but the dogs that we connected with were the ones that had humans waiting for them or that we could not take home that day. Crestfallen, we decided to relax our expectations for doggy love and to quit forcing a canine into our lives.

Over the next few days, Mackenzi replaced her tabs of shelter profiles to messages from local pet owners. We began a casual online dating presence of pooches in the area via a home-to-home adoption service that circumvents the shelter. In this way, we need not wait for a drawn-out application process and the current human caretakers can interact directly with the hopeful suitors.

This is how we met Honey, a lovely 10yo pibble mutt covered in rich brown spots on a white base of short fur. Built like a tank at about 80# and full of love, her human made her a profile because he received a job offer in NYC and could not reasonably care for her there. For him, time was the biggest factor as he would start the new work on Sunday, the final day of our spring break.

We planned to meet her on Friday night, after her human got home from work. We thought about meeting up earlier, but a storm on Wednesday dropped about 12inches of snow and reminded us that spring is now here yet. And we thought, perhaps someone else would find her a suitable pooch for their home and that we would find a dog that better suits our situation; we had been searching for a smaller companion, one that might handle long hours cooped up inside while we completed our clerkships.

When Friday rolled around, no one had claimed her and we found no other suitable leads. We spent the morning in Easton with a trip to the YMCA for some movement and some sauna, then some noodles and liverwurst at an adorable market. Then, we made our way to Honey’s home, about twenty minutes from Coopersburg.

For Mackenzi, it was easy love at first sight.

When we walked in, Honey waggled her way to us and I could see the decision on both their faces. With some perspective, they share many traits: warm and open hearts, a bit more zest for life than physical grace, and a deep, unquenchable thirst for snuggles. We walked around the block with her and learned a bit about her humans.

As the sun began to set, we asked if we could bring her home tonight, to introduce her to our space and to see if this truly is a good fit. I could see the conflicting emotions on his face. He raised Honey from a bottle. He also knew that if we didn’t take her, then she would end up in a shelter; all of the no-kill shelters within 50mi do not take surrenders from owners, only rescues and strays.

So, we brought her home. We’d bring her back the following day to pickup some final items, but mostly to allow her humans a proper goodbye.

She found the drive very exciting. And she found our home, with the resident cat, full of interesting smells. Honey slept well that first night, after many walks and lots of exploration with her nose.

The next day, she showed signs of settling into our Coopersburg home. Less active and more relaxed. She pulled less while on walks. And when we drove to her humans, she only found it mildly interesting.

The goodbye tugged at my heart. Honey picked up on the melancholy in the room and seemed to wallow in it. She walked with her human, the last time for a while. He will return to the valley, as he has lots of friends and family here, and we agreed that he had visiting rights to Honey.

We spent about an hour at the home, drawing out the final moments as long as possible. We played with the children in the house and talked with the guests. Felt like Mackenzi and I fit right in.

Eventually, his lady nudged him and we all stood up. He fitted the collar on Honey and held her leash. With sad reluctance, he handed the chain to us and the moment passed.

We became her humans.

On this second morning with Honey, I cannot help but think of Frank. He rumbled into our lives last summer and he died in the fall. Reading my reflection of his death, I am struck by how much I have already forgotten about him.

I know, somewhere deep inside, that I am already preparing for Honey’s passing. She is an older lady, a very spry 10yrs old, but time will catch up to her sooner rather than later. I am glad that, like Frank, we can take this aged animal into our home and give them love. I am also glad that we can take this responsibility from her previous human, so that he does not need to worry about her death.

I look forward to the years ahead with Honey.

Already, I am filled with love to see the joy on Mackenzi’s face when they play together, to hear Honey bothering Mackenzi when she cooks in the kitchen, and to watch Honey wait at the window for Mackenzi while she runs to the grocery store. She belongs with her.

Welcome home, Honey.

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