Since marrying a man who likes dogs just fine but doesn’t live and breathe them in 2004, I’ve shown enormous restraint.  No new dogs acquired, not one.  Of course, he did distract my attention by twice getting me pregnant.

In fact, it’s been nearly a decade since my black Lab Olive put the tally at five (fosters and paying clients don’t count). I’ve put down four since, three in the past three years. Recent casualties included my first pair (dogs acquired prior to drinking legally also don’t count). They were Halberd and Shay, a pet-store reject and a pit-mix from the projects, coincidentally acquired the same winter day in 1993, dead at 17 and 16. And last fall I put down my Jack Russell Lucy at 11.

I was okay with allowing my pack to dwindle through attrition, while focusing my brain on drawing every conceivable parallel between dog training and child rearing, at least short of attaching an actual leash.

But while no one was looking, I was plotting my next acquisition.

My next dog would have the capacity to be reliable around my kids (June, 4, and Conrad, 1), my husband, my Lab (who, bless her, trusts my judgement in such matters), and my clients. He’d be young enough to do some work, but not a puppy. And, while I admit the allure of owning a no-one-but-a-trainer-could-possibly-handle-him type faded sometime into the second decade of enjoying that not-so-rare privilege, the ideal candidate would require a greater-than-zero difficulty level in order to be minimally interesting.

I’m not the sort to get my hopes up too quickly, but when I heard from another trainer about the 2-year-old pit bull he’d become fond of while volunteering at a shelter in North Carolina, a small part of my brain said maybe, just maybe.

Not that I let on. Instead, I struck a deal with the shelter whereby the dog was delivered to me for evaluation of his sociability, a little training, and my efforts to place him in an appropriate home.

It was a sound plan. And I hate to refund anyone’s money, even a non-profit’s. But screw it, ’cause this boy’s a keeper.

Here’s to North Mecklenburg Animal Rescue (the check’s in the mail, guys) for knowing a good dog when they see one, and for taking a chance on rehoming him in Chicago.  And thank you to Dan for planting the seed and making it happen.

We’re three weeks in, and in for keeps.

© Ruth Crisler and Spot Check, 2010.