The first photo accompanying this blog post is the first I ever saw of Keely, which was on her bio at the Big Dog Rescue website back in August, 2016. My plan had been to spend a few weeks perusing available dog listings before deciding to meet a few and then pick the best match. That entirely reasonable and sensible plan was shot to hell when I saw this floppy-tongued doof of a dog. I sent an email within five minutes to her foster guardian begging to take her.
Of course, nothing is that easy. Keely had a severe case of heartworms which she had just started treatment for, and even getting a chance to go meet her in person was difficult because I don’t have a car. I also had to convince my landlord that I was not adopting a pit bull (he heard the word “terrier” and said “no” so I ended up sending him this picture of her).
I did not actually pick Keely up to take her home until September 23rd, 2016. I kept the whole operation private, asking only my friend Martha to give me a ride out to the foster guardian’s farm that afternoon. While I knew most of my friends would be supportive of my getting a dog, even if they did not understand why, it just felt like a very private experience for me. In a lot of ways it was a moment 20 years in the making — I had not really owned my own dog, ever, and after my parents’ dogs had to be put down, I could not bring myself to consider sharing my life with a dog that I would eventually lose. Of all the things I’ve done and accomplished (and, to be fair, failed at) in life, this is without a doubt the most selfish thing I have done. I am far from being an ideal pet owner for a lot of reasons, but I wanted a dog, and the dog I got is Keely.
And now its six months later and I feel like she has been a part of my heart and soul forever. She’s affectionate and easy going, as anyone who meets her will tell you, and she is so cute that people go out of their way to pet her and talk to her. There are a few homeless people who camp at/near Lake Ella who love her morning visits when we go for a walk at the crack of dawn, taking to her and petting her while she wags her tail. She is gentle with kids who want to pet her and happy to meet new people. She’s a good, pure soul.
She has her quirks — other dogs make her very nervous, and she is not a “water dog” by any stretch, so bath day is always a mutually assured trauma. She’s not much of a snuggler, enjoying her own space as must as wanting to be near me. She’s very wary of getting on my bed, despite the fact that I put steps there for her to use and always encourage her to come up and join me. She really loves coconut oil, to the point of trying to lick my hands when I use it on my feet…and then tries to lick my feet as I walk. Coconut oil…who knew? She’s good at ye olde guilt trip whenever I get ready to leave the house, too. She’s smart though, and while she has no idea what “sit” means (nor, honestly, am I trying to explain it to her) she quickly picked up on instructions like “go on” (walk ahead of me) and “cross the road!” (pick up the pace for crossing the street) and, of course, the old standby “treat?” Hahahah! I want to get around to teaching her the “come” command, for safety reasons, but I haven’t yet.
The vet says she’s about six years old, which means if luck holds I’ll have her for six to eight years. No one knows for sure what her situation was really like for the first half of her life, although indications such as tooth damage, having had at least one litter, and an embedded BB pellet in her neck suggest one that was not very happy, if not outright tragic. That she made it into foster care at all is a miracle, as she had such a fear response at the shelter she had been in that they did not think she was adoptable and were planning to put her down. Sometimes when I’m petting or walking her she looks over at me with wide, uncertain eyes, like she’s not sure what’s really going on and is just waiting for the other shoe to drop. It’s projection on my part, but I do feel like it is some kind of doggy PTSD, where she expects the worst to happen at any moment. If nothing else, I’m dedicated to proving that fear wrong.
At this point, I can’t (won’t) imagine life without her, although I know that’s likely to happen eventually. I try to make time every morning as I get ready for work to sit on the floor with her for about 10 minutes, to reassure her that she’s loved and that I am trying my damnedest to take good care of her. When I leave, I mostly spend the day waiting to get back to her.
This is that same dog from a morning walk a few weeks ago. If you want more like it, check out my Instagram which should probably be renamed “JustKeelyThings”. <3
Also published on Medium.