I've had an awful cold the last few days, but I'm trying to refrain from posting about that, and focus on the good news. Sorry for the long post. Those of you who are dog lovers may be interested (and helpful!?)

I had been sneaking around the shelters and adoption events in San Diego looking for a dog to surprise my husband with, but I always came home disappointed. On Christmas Eve, I drove all the way to L.A. to visit their 6 shelters, after seeing on Craigslist that all adoption fees were being waived for Christmas thanks to an anonymous "Silent Santa". The whole experience was pretty heartbreaking. The dogs were generally kept in kennels outside, with temps in the 40s, and no space for them to run around and keep warm. Most of them were shivering and either barking desperately or curled up in a depressed heap. I found out that the box in the back of each kennel was heated and lined with blankets, but no one could see them back there. So when people came by, they chose to shiver rather than miss their chance to find a home. There were so many beautiful dogs, I wanted to turn my house into a shelter. They had a lot of large breeds, including puppies which I knew would grow to be 100-pound dogs, something my tiny yard could never accommodate. A lot of the smaller breeds were very noisy and hyper, which I also know is not tolerated in our neighborhood. I was starting to think I would go home disappointed again.

When I saw "Larry", my eyes suddenly went misty. I don't know if it was the sight of his ribs and spine through the patches of missing fur, or the way he stood quietly, hopefully, staring at me... maybe it was just timing, the point in my own thought process when I spotted him. It was probably his heavy black eyeliner, which makes him look so genuinely emo even when he's bouncing and wagging his tail. Whatever it was, the image of his small frame stuck with me while I was exploring the other shelters. I kept thinking he was too big -- when I first saw that his tag said "Pit Bull", I assumed that he would grow up to be a fairly massive dog. Shows how much I know. This puppy's already 4 years old. My age, basically. My little monster. I went back for him and began a very long trip home in the worst traffic I've yet encountered. The shelter was out of carriers and the little monster was afraid of the car, so it was (I say again) a Very Long Trip.

When I got him home I tied him to our front door and did a Ding-Dong-Ditch so I could hide and watch my husband's reaction to him. Poor thing. Both of them, I mean. So confused... We got the dog settled in as well as we could before bedtime. My hubby (the one who had to get up at dawn for work) got up 4 times to clean up after our new friend. He is very well behaved, housebroken and quiet... and completely obssessed with food. This may sound normal for a dog, but this particular dog was a stray for quite a while, and has more street smarts than we can handle. After picking up all the garbage that had been dumped and strewn across the floor, we had to dog-proof the house by moving all trash, cleaning products, tissues, medicine, plastic bags, etc. It's kind of scary getting into the mindset of a truly desperate creature to think of all of the sights and smells that might be associated with food. This was not quite like baby-proofing. This one was not discouraged by childproof caps, and even opened a screw-top container which contained the only actual food item we had left out (chocolate, of course).

We took him to Petsmart the next day and discovered the only thing that makes him more crazy than food: other dogs. We were worried that there was something wrong with his vocal chords because we had never heard him bark, but he is a lot less shy with strange dogs. He will pull on his leash to the point where he can no longer bark or breathe, and he doesn't seem to care because he MUST get to that dog. Mostly he just wants to go through the usual sniffing routine, but I've learned that he will snap at dogs that are smaller than he is. I am only surprised because I haven't known a lot of pets who have a realistic concept of their own size in relation to other animals. Again with the street smarts. It makes me sad to think about him having to learn how to break into trash cans and who to pick a fight with. The bright side is that I'm not worried about him getting hit by a car if he ever runs off. He refuses to cross the street when there are cars present.

We've been calling him Max, officially Maximillian Trouble Todd, unofficially Buddy (as in, "Knock it off, Buddy!"), Caninus Maximus, Maxi-Poo (he hates that one. it cracks me up), or Little Monster. It may be a while before he's off-leash or impressing all our friends with his death-defying tricks, but I think we'll keep him. :)

All comments, questions, suggestions welcome!
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