The more I got to know him, the more I fell in love. Rico had been through hell and back. Last year, he was hit by a car. Bloodied and broken, he was taken to an animal shelter. This is where his story could have ended--this is where the story ends for many dogs like him.
But Rico's story didn't end. Because there are good people in this world. Real, true heroes. And one of them is my friend, Tiffany.
Tiffany is a veterinarian who started CARMA (Compassionate Animal Rescue for Medical Aid), an animal rescue organization committed to saving animals who need medical attention. Last November, Tiffany busted Rico out of the shelter and brought him to her animal hospital where she performed surgery--a complete amputation of his right leg.
And then another angel showed up. Michelle is a "foster mom" and she took Rico in during his rehabilitation. She nursed him back to health, took him on walks and encouraged him back into an active life.
Eventually, Rico began attending adoption fairs and looking for his new, forever home.
A month ago, I saw Rico's picture on CARMA's Facebook page. I gasped when I saw him. I just knew he was The One.
Well, OK. Rico was My Second One.
My first rescue, Penelope, is a pit-bulldog mix who was found pregnant and wandering in Costa Mesa. Tiffany took her in and helped Penelope give birth to ten (yes, 10!) huuuge puppies. After nursing her pups and watching them all get adopted out, Penelope was left alone in the animal hospital. That's when I came along.
I was SO nervous about Penelope. I'd never had a Big Dog--let alone a pit bull. I'd heard so many horror stories about pit bulls. But Penelope was nothing like the stereotype. She was calm, submissive and eager to please. The moment I met her, she rolled over on her back, begging for a tummy scratch. Pitbulls, I discovered, have a horrible reputation that is NOT at ALL like their true nature. The reason a pit bull is "mean" is because a mean OWNER has forced them to be that way.
Anyway, we took Penelope in on a trial basis. Two weeks later, we were head-over-heels in love with her. And so was Darby--our tiny little King Charles Cavalier. So, we adopted her. Two years later, my Instagram feed is pretty much ALL dogs ALL the time. :)
I can't help it. My dogs have taught me so much about unconditional love. My heart could just explode.
And that's why I needed Rico. Because my heart was so full of love and I was ready to love more--but in a deeper way, in a more helpful way. I already had a snuggle dog (Darby) and I had my Big Family Dog (Penelope). It was time for me to give back and help a dog that wasn't easily adoptable.
Rico was that dog. He'd been to lots of adoption fairs, written up in a newspaper and gotten close to adoption multiple times. Everyone loved him but nobody adopted him.
I met Rico at Tiffany's animal hospital. He was alert, watchful but oh, so gentle. I knew he'd be a good fit for my other two dogs. So, I brought Darby & Penelope to meet Rico for a walk in the park. The dogs were immediately friendly, casual and relaxed with each other.
I was thrilled. The kids were thrilled.
Matt was not.
"No way," he said. "Absolutely not. 100% NO."
"Please. He's calm. He's mellow. He sleeps most of the day!"
Experience has taught me that this is when I'm supposed to shut up. So, I did. Also, I prayed. Lots of desperate prayers like: "GOD, PLEEEEEASE" and stuff like that. Also, I may or may not have texted Matt cute pictures of Rico. Because Valentine's pictures of dogs are worth a thousand words, anyway:
At bootcamp, I told one of my friends about Rico. She laughed and shook her head: "I mean, how do you say NO to a three-legged dog? Matt is NOT that guy. Just wait."
This gave me hope. And a little more patience for waiting.
But then....Rico was adopted. By someone else.
I cried the whole entire day. I mean, I was happy for him. Really, I was. I wanted him to be in a good home with a loving family--and it had finally happened for him,
But Rico was mine, you know? He had my heart. How could I just let him walk away, leave without a trace? He's the only one who really knew me AT ALL.
SO TAKE A LOOK AT ME NOOOWWWW, THERE'S JUST AN EMPTY SPACE!
Ahem. Please excuse my inner Phil Collins.
So, there I was. Crying. Karaoke-ing to old love songs. You know, the usual.
It took a few days of melancholy love songs, but eventually I let Rico go. I moved on.
Ok, wait. DO WE EVER REALLY "MOVE ON"? Because I hate that phrase. The answer is no. No, we do NOT move on. But we adapt. We make do. We look at our amputated heart and we say: "Ah, well. At least I've got three hearts left." Or one leg. Whatever. WHO'S MIXING THESE METAPHORS ANYWAY?
The point is, a piece of my heart was lopped off and there is no MOVING ON from amputated. There's just sort of gluing it back together somehow.
So, I was limping along and stuff when last Thursday happened. Mainly, this text (and yes, that's my IMMEDIATE response in blue):
Did I mention I responded BEFORE I talked to Matt? Ahem. But then Tiffany saved my bacon by asking if we could just "foster" Rico temporarily.
Ahhhh. Yes. TEM•PO•RAR•I•LY, from the Latin 'temporâius" meaning impermanent, passing, a TRANSIENT CONDITION.
In other words, ding-ding-ding!
So, me and the kids waltzed down to the animal hospital and brought Rico home for a TEMPORARY stay. You know, cuz the kennel was FULL. And Rico's original foster mom was gonna be out of town. It's all TOTALLY LEGIT is what I'm trying to tell you, MATT! And I'm NOT trying to ADOPT him, this is a TRANSIENT CONDITION. This is TEMPORARY--as in! From the root word TEMPORÂRIUS!
Five minutes later, Matt was love--on the inside. He doesn't SHOW these things in recognizable human facial expressions or words. But! I know the signs. I knew it the moment he was all: "Hey, let's buy Rico a bed. Oh, look! Here's an ORTHOPEDIC bed that'll be good for his shoulders."
I tried to be all demure: "Good idea, Matt. That'd be nice."
But inside I was SHRIEKING with joy because hee-heeeee-victory is miiiiiine! I mean. You do not buy an ORTHOPEDIC bed for a dog who is on a TEM•PO•RÂR•I•US stay. Do you? No, no you do not.
What I'm trying to tell you is: if it's meant to be, not all the 100%-absolutely-nots can stop it. Not time. Not circumstance. Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers....er, please excuse my KJV.
*shakes head* *clears throat*
Maybe sometimes you have to let go for awhile. Make do. Mend your broken heart by finding a way to be of loving service to others.
Love, if it's meant to be, will be.
Which is to say, this is my boy Rico. We're keeping him.