Every time I think about the day we walked into the shelter and first saw Athena, the image of her laying on the concrete floor with her nose up to the metal door is what I always see. She was full of fear with urine in the corner of her kennel and dogs jumping and barking all around her. Among all of the great potential inside each and every other kennel, something drew B to Athena.
My eyes were flooded with tears when I approached him to say that I had had enough. I couldn't bare to be at the shelter any longer and see so many dogs begging for us to save them and take them home. I was about to tell him "let's go home, it's too sad here," but instead I found B sitting on the ground in front of Athena's kennel. She was a dog that I had passed by on my first walk through because her intake paper said "dog aggressive." We hadn't gone to the shelter to adopt a dog, just to look, so why fall in love with the one who may be the hardest for us to help.
Just as I was ready to walk out the door, B asked a shelter worker to see Athena out of her kennel. As the woman pulled the rope over Athena's head, a part of me was terrified. It was my first real encounter with a pit bull and even though I believed that pit bulls were good dogs from everything that I'd read online, I had never met one in person to see for myself.
Athena's leash was removed in the play yard as she showed us her love for the ball. She brought it back and forth to B to throw and I was able to pet her a few times. As we continued to play with Athena, something inside of me just knew that she was a special dog. We hadn't gone to the shelter to adopt, but I started to feel anxious that if we didn't put in paperwork for her, she might not be at the shelter the next day.
Of course the shelter worker thought that we were serious potential adopters, so she gathered more information about Athena's "dog aggressive" label. We learned that Athena originally got to the shelter as a stray and then was adopted by a family who returned her after two weeks because she was aggressive towards their other dog. We were assured that Athena showed no signs of aggression during shelter play groups and that there may have been something else that caused the family to return her. Being new to dog ownership, I was still a bit hesitant about the aggressive label, but of course B assured me that everything would be alright.
Even with all of my jitters and feelings of "OMG--we're going to adopt a pit bull-- maybe TODAY!" it was me who begged B to put in an application for Athena. I was so nervous that if we didn't make our decision right then and there (which happened to be 30 minutes before the shelter closed), we wouldn't get Athena. The shelter told us that they would consider our application among any other applicants and would give us a call the next day. Of course I figured that we had a slim chance seeing as we were first time dog owners, let alone being first time pit bull owners.
I remember calling my mom as soon as we got in the car and breaking the news to her that we put in an application for a dog...and it was a pit bull. Being the wonderfully supportive mom that she is, she was happy for B and I and a bit of my worry went away. The next day B got the call from the shelter saying that Athena was ours and we could pick her up in the afternoon. We rushed to the nearest Petsmart and followed a kind trainer around the store as she filled our cart with the essentials seeing as we had no idea what we were doing or how to prepare for a new dog.
Once at the shelter, we were given all of the details about Athena's medications, microchipping, kennel cough, vetting, return policy, etc. and I started to freak out again. I honestly didn't know that adopting a dog would be so official and I had doubts about whether or not we would actually be cut out for dog ownership.
Athena was finally brought out to the lobby and her leash was handed off to us. I remember a comment made by a shelter worker as we waved them goodbye. She said, "oh, you've got to watch out for that one, she's alpha." Such a delicate goodbye that surely added to the knots in my stomach and the feeling that we were in over our heads.
But here we are, 353 days later and I couldn't be happier. With a lot of love and training, Athena has turned into an amazing dog and friend and I owe it all to B for looking into her sad eyes that day at the shelter and choosing her to be our heart dog.