Throwback Thursday – March 20, 1988

Twenty six years ago today, I made the move to adopt my first pet. I wanted a puppy. From a shelter. My mom happened to call a local shelter after she learned I planned to drive more than an hour to one of the more popular places. Well, at the local shelter, she learned about a shih-tzu who had been there for one day short of two months. The dog was five years old.

I reminded her that I wanted a puppy, not a five year old. Thing is, when the shelter told her this dog had already been in their care for one day short of two months, they also told her dogs who are not adopted by the two-month period are put down. Healthy, young, happy or otherwise. This was not a no-kill shelter.

The five year old shih-tzu had only hours left to live unless someone got over there and signed her out.

My mom, my sister, my grandmother and I piled into the car and hightailed it over. High-tailed was the shih-tzu the moment she saw us. It was as if she knew we were there to rescue her from imminent death.

Tiffy in her sweats greeting a piglet

The shelter didn’t know anything about her except her age and that she seemed like a purebred shih-tzu. They said she was found wandering the streets and, from her appearance, had been out and about for at least several weeks. This was March 20th. That means this little one had suffered the worst winter weather with few chances to find food or even water instead of ice. But she survived and happily came home with me where I immediately gave her a bath and a haircut.

She must have been treated well with her family, with baths and other pampering, because she lifted her chin, turned this way and that, closed her eyes and seemed to bask in her day at the spa.

Her name was Tiffy. She became my constant companion, my sounding board, my cuddle queen, my full heart.

I knew nothing about dogs before her because I’d never been able to have a pet – allergies, partly. House rules, mostly.

But Tiffy taught me what I needed to know. She was patient and understanding. Never seeming to forget what nearly happened to her and never – ever – letting me forget that she was not only grateful but more than worth the effort.

Tiffy in her favorite sweater and hat

Tiffy lived to the ripe old dog age of 117, which is only 16 human years. I had her for 11 of those years and my life was enriched because of that time with her. Because of her. I’ll never forget that precious beauty. I’ll never forget her prima donna stubbornness nor her unconditional adoration. I’ll never forget how she waited to have her hat and coat put on before we went for a walk, nor how she’d run and bark at dangers in her sleep. I’ll never forget the way she looked at me with love when I carried her out of that shelter, nor how she looked at me with bittersweet thanks, years later, when I helped put an end to the suffering of her cancer-riddled body.

I’ve rescued other animals since then. I’ve adopted, fostered and adopted out kittens and cats. I have six cats now in my house, and I love each of them more than I can ever express. But there will never be another to fill my heart and soul like Tiffy.

Tell me about your first pet. Who was he or she? What do you remember most, what made you smile, what melted your heart?

4 Responses to Throwback Thursday – March 20, 1988

  • *sniff sniff* What a sweet story. I’m so glad the two of you found each other.

    Angel was the first pet I had as adult. She came to me when she was 3.5. Her first owner had terminal cancer and really wanted to make sure someone would care for his dog before he died. We had her less than a month before her first owner passed. I guess he was just waiting to make sure his dog had a home.

    Anyway…Angel lived 13 more years with me. She went to Colorado, Gracelend, and, honestly, everywhere else I went. The final couple of years of her life, she was blind and deaf. But she was so sweet. When my husband would come home in the evenings, she’d still try to jump around and act excited he was home. She taught me about loyalty, courage, and responsibility.

    In the end, my final lesson from her was to cherish each moment for what it is. The intense grief I felt at her loss was a small price to pay for all the years of fun and friendship. I held her in my arms while the vet put her to sleep as a final thank you. I’ve still got her ashes.

    • Oh Catie, what a beautiful story. I can only imagine the comfort Angel’s owner felt knowing his baby was safe and loved. The lesson you learned from her is one I learned from Tiffy. A lesson they teach with such passion. I held Tiffy at the end as well. I don’t think I’ll ever part with her ashes. Thank you for sharing your experience. It wedged a lump of love in my throat.

  • What a nice story, Debbie. We’ve had countless pets, so it’s hard to say who the first one was — but I remember a purebred red dachshund named Amber that used to meet me at the bus stop when I got home from kindergarten. I really loved that dog but my parents didn’t keep him very long — I don’t recall exactly why, since I was only five. Years later I was in a pet store buying hamster food and there was a little red mini-dachshund puppy for sale. It probably took all of ten minutes of being crawled all over by this creature that fit in my palm before I whipped out the credit card and brought him home. He supposedly had a zillion health problems — the vet would say every time he saw him, “Well, he might last another two weeks” — but he was our “first kid” for 13 years. Thanks for making me remember him.

    • What a great story, Lynnerose! I love how you found a little red dachshund again after all those years. And yes, they are like children. Tiffy was my first and only for so long, my parents referred to her as their grandchild. :smile: I think our furbabies know we still think of them and sigh with love. I’m sure of it.

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