Thursday, May 22, 2014

I’d always been an animal lover, but I thought of myself as a cat person. Cats are affectionate and cute, but they’re also quiet and don’t demand as much attention or exercise.

When my husband started hinting about wanting a dog, I stalled. IF we were to get a dog, I said, I’d like one that could chase a Frisbee. I’d always thought that would be fun. Something like a lab or a retriever. No, he wanted a dachshund. A little wiener dog? Sure, they’re cute, but what good are they? I dragged my feet. The kids joined in his campaign: “Let’s get a dachshund, Mom! Please?”

I liked to do my writing away from the house, making the rounds of the local coffee shops. What would the dog do, left alone all day?

A friend mentioned needing a temporary home for a dachshund puppy. I thought about it. A foster dog? Perhaps this was the answer. It would give my family the opportunity to get this nonsense out of their system. Once they realized how much work it would be, we could give the animal back. Everybody wins.

Mystery the dachshund-mix arrived one spring afternoon, sad and trembling. She glued herself to my ankle. I looked down at her big brown eyes and melted. A little. “I didn’t ask for you. This wasn’t my idea. You should kiss up to someone else.” She didn’t budge.

I sat down at the kitchen table to write. She curled up on my foot. I got up to use the restroom—she followed, whining at the door. I walked to the living room and sat on the sofa. She jumped into my lap and shivered.

“Poor thing. You must feel lost, being shuffled from home to home like this.” I rubbed her velvety soft ears. She laid her head on my knee and fell asleep. I moved her to the cushion by my side, grabbed my laptop, and got back to work. Maybe I’d go to the coffee shop tomorrow. How could I leave this baby alone?

Days stretched to weeks. Mystery stopped trembling, but she continued tracking my every step. I started singing a Chris Tomlin song as I moved around the house: “Where you go, I’ll go. Where you stay, I’ll stay. When you move, I’ll move. I will follow you.”

The kids fell in love with her. My husband fell in love with her. Mystery fell in love . . . with me. I didn’t care to admit it, but my heart was softening.

I pulled into the drive-through of my favorite coffee shop. The barista frowned at me. “Where have you been?”

“We got a dog.” 

Other than a few incidents and accidents, Mystery was a good pup. She was quiet company while I wrote—as long as the UPS truck didn’t rumble past the house. She reminded me of the importance of taking breaks.

I started to dread the day she’d leave. Why had I agreed to foster? What was I thinking?

Eventually we got the call—Mystery’s owner couldn’t take her back. They could find her another home, or . . .

“No. We’ll keep her.” I heard myself say. “Um . . . the kids are very fond of her. My husband, too.”

Mystery looked up at me with those chocolate-brown eyes.

“She’s staying.” I sighed, pressing the phone to my ear. “I can’t part with her, either.”

Our local dachshund rescue organization calls a situation like ours a “failed foster.” Failed in the sense that the foster family got overly attached. Frankly, I don’t see failure anywhere in this equation.

Mystery has become my buddy, my muse, and my writing assistant. She takes her job seriously, to the point of delving into social media. She has her own FB page and an Instagram account, and she inspired a dog character in an upcoming novel.

Do you call that a failure? Not in my book. 

Bio: Karen Barnett is the award-winning author of Mistaken and several articles published by Guideposts and other national magazines. Her latest release is Out of the Ruins (May 2014). She
lives in Albany, Oregon, with her husband, two children, and an attention-loving dachshund named Mystery. For more information, visit her website


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