I was completely devastated when I found out I wouldn't be going back to work as expected. However, one thing that kept me from sinking into utter depression was teasing Gene that I guessed this unexpected time off was A Sign that I was supposed to get a puppy. Of course I didn't believe the "sign" business at all, but it made me giggle, and really, what would be a better time to get a puppy? I was searching Petfinder dot com when I found a listing for a "chi-weenie" puppy. A chi-weenie is part dachshund and part Chihuahua. The photos looked like a dachshund with slightly longer legs and ridiculously huge erect ears. It was one of the cutest things I'd ever seen! And it was only 30 minutes away at the TAPS shelter in Pekin!
The kids and I piled into the car and headed for Pekin. I got Brady-dog from TAPS, but that was ages ago when they were in a different building on the opposite side of town. The "new" building (I seriously don't know if they've been there a couple of years or more than 10) is really nice and based only on my two recent visits, they appear to have hoards of dedicated volunteers. Anyway, Sunday viewing hours were listed online as noon-5pm. We arrived just as the doors were being unlocked for the day and were surprised to find out that we came for the winter open house. The meeting room was filled with several tables covered with all kinds of cookies and other goodies. The kids were instantly sold on the greatness of this shelter.
We headed back to the dog areas. They have many kennel runs for big dogs as well as a large room for small dogs and puppies. TAPS is a no-kill privately run shelter. That means they can (and need to be) somewhat selective of the dogs they allow into their system because they keep them until they get adopted. In other words, their kennels are filled with cute, desirable dogs rather than the endless pit bulls and giant obnoxious mixed breeds of the publicly funded shelters where something like 2/3 of the dogs end up euthanized. Both types of shelters are necessary and have their place. I have huge amounts of respect for the "kill" shelters because they are doing a necessary and important service for our communities. I volunteered at the PAWS shelter in Peoria for a while and love their work. I will admit though, the no-kill shelters are fun instead of depressing. The employees love their jobs and don't possess the bitterness acquired from complete disgust with the human race that the "kill" employees seem to own.
Anyway, we looked at all of the dogs. We checked out the chi-weenie and it was indeed, the cutest puppy in the universe. There were even a few back-up dogs/puppies we could meet if the puppy was already adopted. We headed to the cat rooms so I could think it over. The cat rooms are amazing! They have 3 large rooms (one is huge) that the "tried and true" cats are allowed to freely mingle with each other and with the public. Kaylin was in heaven. We played and played and played with cats. We were in the largest room and a volunteer was working, playing with the confined cats. We were chatting with her off and on when Kaylin said "When I'm older and a Crazy Cat Lady, I'm going to have a room exactly like this!" The volunteer, who happened to be a woman in her late 50s, proclaimed herself a Crazy Cat Lady and told Kaylin all about her 7 cats at home. I'm pretty sure she's Kaylin's new hero.
Meanwhile, I was thinking long and hard about the reality of puppy ownership. I mean, the puppy will be a total blast while I'm off work, but what about when I go back? Do I really want to be kept up all night by a puppy and then come home to clean up mess after mess? Gene's new job is too far from home to come home at lunch to let a puppy out. That means I would have to spend every lunch (the ONLY time I get to sit and rest) driving home and back to work. I had plenty of time to puppy proof the house before going back to work, but did I really WANT to? Did I WANT to come home and take down the Christmas tree before Christmas? Did I WANT to buy a new laptop or new winter coats for the kids because the puppy destroyed them? I'm shocked to say it, but common sense kicked in. I was the only person in the house who wanted a puppy, anyway. The kids both wanted a kitten! They both requested a kitten as a family Christmas present. They were both beyond thrilled to be playing in the cat rooms rather than meeting a puppy. Logan kept his fingers in his ears the whole time we were in the dog/puppy area. In the cat area he was happily playing. I said I wanted to go back and look at the puppy one more time, but Kaylin INSISTED we go into the cat room we hadn't yet entered first. Good call, Kaylin! That's where we met Princess.
A giant orange tabby was waiting by the glass door. We entered and she immediately started rubbing and purring on all three of us. It was love at first sight! We played and played and I finally went and got our volunteer friend to give us more information on this cat. It was a 5-year-old spayed female named Princess. I won't lie, my heart sunk a bit at the name "Princess" but I'm sure I'll get over it at some point :) The volunteer brought me an adoption application and I filled it out in the meeting room while the kids stuffed their faces from the huge spread of cookies. We were then ushered to a private room where we got to meet Princess without the distraction of other cats. There were other cats in that room? Anyway, we played for another 30 minutes and then filled out more paperwork to specifically "reserve" Princess. We learned that TAPS requires a reference from your vet and since it was Sunday, the vet's office was closed. TAPS is closed on Monday, so we had to wait until Tuesday to find out if we would get Princess. Ugh. We went back into the meeting room so I could have a couple of cookies and then left the shelter without ever visiting the dog area again.
Tuesday morning I kept both my cell phone and my cordless landline phone in the pouch of my hoodie. Every minute felt like an hour. Every hour felt like a day. FINALLY, a little after noon I got the call that we had been accepted! The only catch was that Gene needed to meet Princess before we could take her home. They had never mentioned that, so it was a surprise. I was pretty disappointed because I assumed they closed at 5pm and knew there was no way Gene would be able to go until Thursday. Happiness! They closed at 7pm! Yes! We will almost certainly be able to come tonight! I immediately texted Gene and then left a message on his work phone. I then waited and waited and waited for him to call. FINALLY, at 4pm, he called. He still had to return a work van from the proving grounds to the tech center and then drive home. Ugh, okay. Hurry! We arrived at TAPS a little after 5:30 and they were busy. We visited with Princess in the cat room and showed Gene around. We looked at the dogs and the chi-weenie puppy was gone. Logan was disappointed the meeting room was now just a meeting room instead of a cookie wonderland. We completed our paperwork and instructions and headed home. She wasn't a fan of the car ride, but she just meowed uncomfortably, she wasn't yowling or anything.
Home. Time for the true test. Princess has never lived with dogs. How will she react? I kept her in her crate and allowed Scout to come sniff her. He got too excited and started barking uncontrollably so I banished him to the garage/outside. I then opened the crate and Princess walked out immediately and began to explore the house. She wasn't at all concerned with Tiger. Tess is rarely in the house, but she was last night. No issues at all between the cats. I brought Scout back in the house but put him in the pet carrier. He barked and whined to get out while Princess continued her explorations. Princess was comfortable resting in Logan's room and Scout was driving me insane so I put him on leash and we walked around. Princess was nervous, but not exactly scared. Scout was showing respect for the kitty who is at least 5 or 6 pound larger than him, so I eventually took him off leash. It was ~7:15 and we were eating dinner when we heard terrible yiping from the dog. Gene and I both jumped up, but Scout was already tearing out from Kaylin's room. I'm not sure what Princess did- there was no blood or anything- but Scout had definitely learned his place. And his place was BELOW the giant kitty!
Overnight wasn't too awful. Scout woke me a couple of times because he would either leap off the bed to chase Princess or he'd bark at her. Otherwise, I can't believe how well things are going. I think most cats would have found a place to hide and we wouldn't see them for a few days. Princess isn't like that. She came up on our bed knowing Scout was up there. If Scout tries to sniff her she discourages him with a low growl. So far, he's respected the growl. I have little doubt that Princess will dominate any future confrontations. Hopefully, Scout's peanut brain will accept his place without the necessity of bloodshed. We shall see...