the pits.

The day after Puppy Disappointment, Josh asked how long before I wanted to go pick out a dog at the shelter. I asked if he had any plans for the afternoon. There was more googling, and I discovered that the Wake County Animal Shelter has an online list of pets available for adoption.

In the throes of my renewed Puppy Anticipation, I somehow forgot that the animal shelter is one of the most depressing places you might care to spend a Sunday afternoon. Cage after cage of dogs of all shapes and sizes. Some of them looked up at you hopefully, and if you stood there for just a second, they would hop up and start with the tail-wagging. Others didn't even turn their heads, as if they'd given up hope of ever being loved by a people. We had talked about getting a puppy, but once at the shelter, it seemed like getting an adult dog, who was far less likely to be adopted than a puppy, would be the better plan. We had felt like good samaritans for offering to rescue a puppy, but we soon realized that there had been tremendous need all along.

I was almost too bummed out to even imagine which dog I might want, because I had to look at fifty others that I would not be able to save. Josh, however, was feeling up to it, so he picked out the biggest pit bull in the place, who was named Patrick and had a humongous head. Every dog that he pointed out was a pit bull. I was surprised at this, since we had previously discussed more houndish options. But then I realized that it was the internet's fault.

During our first phase of Puppy Anticipation, we had both done a lot of research about boxers and pit bulls, because when you haven't got the puppy yet, the best you can do is read about other puppies on the internet. We thought we were getting a breed of dog that much of the country considers to be a menace. We are the type of people to embrace our own eccentricities, so we became full-throated Pit Bull Defenders. We told anyone who would listen that they were unfairly maligned, a dog bred to fight, taught to fight, then hated for being exactly what we made it. Did you know that sometimes the media won't even report on a dog bite incident if the dog in question is not a pit bull? Have you heard about Sergeant Stubby, the most decorated dog in WWI, who used to warn his unit of poison gas and incoming artillery and also caught a German spy?

Fully half the dogs in the shelter were some mix of pit, which the shelter euphemistically labelled American Staffordshire Terrier, or Staffy, in the hopes that you fell in love with the face before you pictured it mauling you. If no one wants this kind of dog, how come are there so many of them around?

So now that Josh had aligned himself with the cause of the pit bull, that's all he wanted. The man likes his underdogs. We settled on a blue one that the shelter had named Madison. We took comfort in the fact she had her complete tail and ears, which meant that she was probably not raised to fight. The shelter people will let you in the kennel to do a meet-and-greet, but they might as well call that the Sucker's Downfall. You get in there with this dog that is even more desparate than a regular dog for love. She started out aloof and trembling, but inched closer with every scratch of the ear before finally trying to give me doggy kisses. She acted like a dog, you know - man's best friend, not a ferocious baby biter. I was still very hesitant about signing up for pit bull ownership, so the shelter employees offered to do a "cat test." I took the California Achievement Test in the third grade, but this was completely different. They put a cat in a cage and then brought in the dog to see what would happen.

This is what happened: Madison walked by the cat in the cage without noticing it, looking up at the lady in hopes of attention. Oh crap, I thought, she's lost her sense of smell. So they turned her to look right at the cage. She sniffed at it, then looked again at the lady. Finally, they let the cat out. Madison sniffed her up and down before looking once more to the lady. The cat calmly walked out, neither animal the slightest bit concerned about the other. I decided that a pit bull that opted to sit nicely rather than eat a cat was just fine with me.

Madison was a stray who had only arrived at the shelter that very day. They give owners a week to claim lost pets before allowing them to be adopted, so we couldn't take her home just yet. I paid my deposit and arranged to pick up my brand new blue pit bull the next week. I prepared my mind once more for being a person with a pit bull. I was ready to tell anyone about how pit bulls are just like any other dog - if you teach one to be mean, it will be. If you give one a loving home, it will be a steadfast friend (okay, and fierce guardian). I imagined us - me, Josh, and Madison - changing the way that people thought about pit bulls. Everywhere we went, people would pet our sweet and pretty dog and think, Huh. And then all the pit bulls at the shelter would be given loving homes, even Patrick, who is 75 pounds and not house-broken.

The next afternoon, right after Josh posted a picture of our soon-to-be dog, the animal shelter called and said that Madison's owner had come by and claimed her. BAM: Pit Bull Disappointment. I never realized it was so hard to get a dog. I thought building the fence was the hard part, but it turns out that it's darn near impossible to get an animal to put inside the fence that we still don't have.

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