“So what do you have that will fit in this crate?”
The world is a little lonelier around these parts tonight. A few hours ago, I said goodbye to Lexi the luckiest Chihuahua in all of north Texas as she left to begin her new journey in Austin.
It’s amazing how such an eensy weensy dog filled so much room inside my heart. Being the bridge doesn’t mean it’s always easy to let go once you’ve reached the other side. In the case of Lexi, though, kismet seemed to be hard at work, and you can’t fudge around with that sort of thing. It was time.
Lexi was supposed to have been three, four-day-old wild brown rabbits. At least, that’s what I thought I was going to be transporting when I met her at Dallas Animal Services.
A few days earlier, I was at the counter of the shelter picking up a dog for DFW Rescue Me when someone brought in tiny bunnies, who were likely candidates for being euthanized. After calling my friend whose family is experienced in bottle-feeding baby bunnies, I said I’d be back to retrieve them when they were processed.
Lexi’s stroke of incredible fortune played out at the same counter 72 hours later like so:
“I’m here to pick up the three bunnies tagged by Jim from DFW.”
“Jim got them about an hour ago.”
“I’m pretty sure he didn’t, you guys. He’s on his way here now.”
[Head scratching all around]
As it turned out, there are two Jims: Jim from DFW Wildlife and Jim from DFW Rescue Me. The bunnies were safely in the capable hands of the wildlife crew, but there I was with my cat’s empty crate in the lobby. I’d driven forty-five minutes in rush hour traffic, so I wasn’t leaving until that thing had some weight in it.
“So what do you have that will fit in this crate?”
Mark Cooper, DAS rescue coordinator extraordinaire (BEST WISHES WITH THE NEW GIG AT THE VERY COOL OPERATION KINDNESS!), escorted me to a room full of small dogs whose only shot was a slim glimmer of accidental fortune. Stopping at a small, fawn-colored Chihuahua, Mark sighed, “This is Lexi. She comes with a closet of clothes and everything. A lady brought her back because she’s really dog aggressive. She likes cats…and birds! She had a pet bird who rode around on her back, even.”
Lexi was wearing a pink polka-dotted hoodie. Terrified and cowering, she looked up at me from the frilly princess basket in which she’d been dumped by the woman.
Mark continued, “This is her second return. I don’t know what happened the first time, but I can’t hold her any longer.”
Within half an hour, Lexi and her fancy wardrobe were in the cat’s crate, sitting next to me in my truck. Kismet, like I said. I texted my husband a picture with the caption, “I’m sorry, but I couldn’t leave her there. She’ll get adopted fast, I promise. Don’t kill me.”
Once home, we learned Lexi was perfect, except that she’d never been cared for properly. Her teeth were jacked up. She was scared to be alone. My dog Nova was frightening to her because little Lex wasn’t socialized very well. Her doe eyes were so kind, though, and I could tell it would take a while for whatever sadness she’d known to subside.
Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of folks who want a five-year-old dog. Adoption applications fell through. Home visits were canceled. She spent some time in foster/possible adoption arrangements that didn’t work out in the end. With her lucky streak quickly ending, my husband and I decided to take Lex under our wings, even if that meant we were her forever fosters.
It wasn’t long before Lexi’s spirit began shining a little brighter. She talked to us — the cutest squeaks imaginable. We spent our nights separated in bed by her burrowed body. I must have a bazillion photos of Lexi — the morning sun lighting up her enormous ears — as she was fast asleep, curled inside my husband’s arms. We took her on outings, bought her nine million dollar dog food, and flooded our Facebook feeds with Lexi pictures and videos. She’d established her place in our family, and, as much as I didn’t want to admit it, I fell in love with the little dog who was supposed to have been three bunnies.
So back to the kismet: During the time we fostered Lexi, we’d also been caring for three abandoned kittens. Ready for new homes, I took the kitties with me to an adoption event in Dallas last Saturday. I hadn’t planned on taking Lexi because she was having dental work done that would require recovery the next week, but I figured our two adult cats might like a quiet afternoon without pipsqueaks running around. That said, I lugged my cavalcade of tiny animals to Fair Park, hoping to return kittenless.
Within a few hours, I noticed a friendly face making goo goo eyes at Lexi. Lexi was smiling back, also with goo goo eyes. I’ve seen that kind of love connection enough to know what was about to happen, and my heart sank and skipped a beat all at once.
The young woman staring at Lex explained she didn’t have a dog or anything, that she was there with her parents who were with the Greyhound rescue. She was saying all the right stuff that I’d hoped to hear from the person who would take Lexi one day. She was smart. Her boyfriend had a cool tattoo of a classical guitarist’s autograph on his arm. They were laid back, brainy people, who seemed as if they could make Lexi’s third time a charm. And her parents’ rescue background was a deal sealer if there ever was one.
“Would you like to hold her?”
The woman smiled, “Can I?”
I handed her to Lexi, and my foster cuddled into her chest right off the bat. Very sweet. Felt right.
Later in the day, the couple returned with an adoption app. We walked outside with Lexi a bit, and the amount of showboating Lexi exhibited cracked me up. I’d never seen her laugh like she did that afternoon, going between us all, smiling, prancing around like the gentlelady she is. The young woman, Stav, and I exchanged information, and we kept in touch while I continued to commit to Lexi’s medical treatments this past week.
Last night, my husband told me, “I won’t be able to be there when she leaves.” And that broke my heart. I thought back to that first text when I asked him not to kill me. I guess it turned out alright. Heh.
This morning I pulled up to the event — kittens in tow, but this time it was about Lexi. Stav’s father was already waiting, and I knew these were my final moments with the blonde Chi next to me. It was the end of the bridge for us.
As we finalized the adoption, he carefully put a teensy gold tag on Lexi’s little pink collar with her new phone number on it. This was real.
I said goodbye, but I couldn’t watch her leave like I usually do. I found a pillar to stand behind for a minute and collected myself. The rest of the adoption event was before us, and I had three kittens who needed me more than I needed to cry in front of an Office Depot in Grapevine, TX.
A while ago, Stav wrote to say everything was fine. Lexi was fine. She was fine. Her dad’s trip was fine. I was…fine. Kismet happened, and that’s more than fine.
In the world of rescue, there are dogs we’ll never forget — dogs who “found” us as much as we needed to “find” them. I’m so very glad we found “something” that fit in that crate those months ago. Best of my best wishes to Lexi and her awesome new family. Austin is a luckier place tonight.