For the next several weeks, we were hot on the trail of a new rescue dog. Almost every morning, before we even got out of bed, Don would pull up Petfinder on his iPad, and we’d browse the new rescue pups who’d been added since the day before. Even while enjoying happy hour at a neighborhood bar one Friday night, Don and I ogled dog pix while sipping our drinks.

We considered a variety of pups—from a tiny guy named Little Bobby to a larger flat-coated retriever named Koda to an 8-year-old poodle mix in Northern Virginia (sorry, pup, I can’t remember your name!). I was soon addicted to Petfinder, certain that the next time I opened the site the perfect pup would be staring back at me.

But alas, it didn’t happen.

As we approached the holidays, I decided to stop looking because adopting a new dog at that point would likely mean canceling our out-of-town plans for New Year’s. But my sweet husband, knowing how much I wanted a dog for Christmas, kept bringing new furry faces to my attention anyway.

One Saturday, after learning that one of the dogs who caught our eye on Petfinder was possibly going to make an appearance at a Petco pet stand, we stopped by on the way home from the gym. That particular dog wasn’t there, and unfortunately, no one else called out to me (all hounds!). Don asked if I wanted to check out the stand at Petsmart. At first, I said “no.” If we hadn’t seen the perfect dog on the Petfinder site, chances were good that he or she wouldn’t magically appear at a pet stand since rescue organizations typically put all available animals on the site first. But then again, it was possible that an unphotogenic pup would steal my heart in person. So we headed down the road to Short Pump Town Center, in Christmas shopping traffic no less, to give the Petsmart pet stand a try too.

Because Don wasn’t 100% from his surgery yet, he stayed in the car while I ran in. The first thing I saw, as soon I walked through the door, was a pen full of yipping, scampering, tumbling blonde puppies. People were crowded around the pen watching the puppies play, while others were cuddling some of the fur balls in their laps. That corner of Petsmart was absolute puppy mayhem (I felt really sorry for how the several adult dogs were being shortchanged of even the slightest bit of attention).

Now, it’s important to mention at this point in the story that I did not want a puppy. I told people this fact repeatedly. If you talked to me about our search for a dog, you probably heard me say it yourself. I had never had a baby, human or otherwise, and I wasn’t sure I was up for it now. After all, I had an arthritic knee and a cranky sacroiliac joint. How in the world could I manage the all-around neediness that comes with raising a puppy? Not to mention, my work demanded quiet time and focus, which you never ever hear in the same sentence with “puppy”!

But when I saw these adorable fluff balls (supposedly a mix of schnauzer and something called Norfolk terrier), I began to have a change of heart. I ran to the car to get Don.

There were 10 4-month-old puppies total, with about half short-haired with scruffy beards and the rest shaggy furballs like I loved. After holding one of each variety, I fell in love with them both. Sort of jokingly, I suggested to Don that we get one of each (after all, I wanted to have two dogs eventually … why not now?!). He reminded me how easily overwhelmed I could be. One was a big enough responsibility in itself. I was forced to agree.

We left sweet on a lovable shag-a-muffin named Larissa but still wrestling a bit with the idea of a puppy. The competition for these pups was fierce, so Don suggested that we make like Doris Day and fill out an application … que sera, sera. (For those of you under 40, Google it!) Keep an eye on this page for the next installment of ISO Shaggy Dog.