Readers were so kind when I wrote, in 2010, about the death of my 13-year-old black Labrador retriever. Jack was the sweetest old fellow, and irreplaceable. Many of you sent cards, emailed or called to share stories about your beloved pets. Consider this is a very belated thank-you.
Last fall, my family had another hard loss. Our orange cat, Madison, joined Jack in pet heaven. He was 18.
Besides Yogi the hamster -- that critter makes a nightly racket on its wheel -- our house had been without a pet and too quiet since before Christmas. That all changed Feb. 23, the weekend of the Oscars.
We had been looking at puppies online and in The Herald's classified ads. But that Saturday, my 14-year-old son and I began our quest with a kitten in mind. Our cat came from the old Everett Animal Shelter, which was east of Broadway near downtown, back in 1994.
Although I have written about the city's nice new shelter on Smith Island Road, I hadn't visited before. Snohomish County's only public animal shelter, the facility took in more than 3,000 cats and nearly 2,500 dogs last year. On the Saturday we visited the Everett shelter, we didn't find the one pet meant just for us.
I was tempted by a black-and-white cat, but with a slip of the tongue I told my son, "You know, there's another shelter up north." With his answer, "Let's go," we were back on I-5 headed to the N.O.A.H. (Northwest Organization for Animal Help) Animal Adoption & Spay/Neuter Center near Stanwood. And we were still looking for a kitty.
That's where we found him, a tiny brown puppy who had two lighter-colored sisters. From the minute we saw him, he was ours. The pup we named Oscar is a dachshund-chihuahua mix. Try as I might to not use the silly label, I do call him "chiweenie" now and then.
I adored my big dog Jack, but I will turn 60 this year. Looking for a pup, I had to think hard about what kind of dog I'll want at 70. Will I still be living in my house, or in a smaller place? Where I go, Oscar will go.
My parents had a dachshund years ago, and my grandmother had one. I'd been looking for purebred dachshund puppies, but now I'm glad we have given a permanent home to a dog who needed one.
Puppy adoption from N.O.A.H. isn't cheap. It's $125 to adopt a dog, but it costs $325 for a pup younger than 6 months. The fee, though, includes vaccinations, spay or neuter surgery, microchip identification, a collar and ID tag. That's a lot of peace of mind.
About 3,000 dogs and cats are adopted each year from the facility. Unlike other shelters, the center doesn't take animals from the public. Lani Kurtz, animal welfare director at N.O.A.H., told The Herald last year that the organization takes animals from around the state to help those shelters with their overflow, "so no animal has to be euthanized because of space."
Oscar, now 3 months old, and his sisters were abandoned or relinquished in Yakima. I'm so happy he made his way to my house.
My mom sent me a "New Baby" card. My daughter and son-in-law brought Oscar a chew toy and a book -- 50 tricks to teach your puppy. He's not yet very good on his leash. Potty training is a work in progress. He likes tugging on towels and stealing slippers.
Oh, but what a great big welcome I get from that funny little dog. It's unconditional love -- the best kind.
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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