We lost our sweet, 14-year-old girl, Ava Marie, in October. Three years before that, we had lost her brother, Alfie (AKA Alfalfa Sprout). While our cat, Sammy, was doing his best to fill the hole in my heart, the house was feeling pretty lonely by November, without a dog shadowing me. I made it my mission to have a new pup in the house by Christmas. This would give my husband, Don, who had had a complicated orthopedic surgery, time to get back on his feet. Plus, who doesn’t want a dog in the house for Christmas? (I, for one, had filled a doggie stocking for the past 30+ years, and I was bound and determined to do it again this year!)

We started shopping for potential canine companions on Petfinder in early December. Putting in all of our criteria and searching the rows of cute faces felt a bit like using Match.com in my single days. But also, just like my single days, none of these pooches seemed like the perfect fit. Either they were too young or too old, didn’t like cats or had issues like separation anxiety or aggression. Not to mention, they all seemed to be hounds and labs. I have absolutely nothing against hounds and labs, mind you, but I do have a serious predilection for fluffy, scruffy terrier types (see Ava above).

Finally, we found a guy who filled the bill, a shaggy, multi-colored two-year-old named Sparky. We jumped in the car and headed to the Amelia animal shelter, almost an hour away, to meet him. I was beyond excited and nervous, or as the kids call it, “nervited”!

When we arrived, we found out that a family had recently decided not to adopt Sparky because he was too energetic for their daughters. Hmmmmm When they sprung the rambunctious character from his kennel, we immediately saw what they meant. Sparky bounded into the office like a bullet and raced around, sniffing and jumping and acting exactly like someone who had been locked up for hours on end. I had to physically restrain him to even see what he looked like. We gulped but took the leash they handed us anyway and headed outside for a test drive.

It was just a day past the snow in early December and the ground was in that slushy, muddy state that happens as it starts warming up. Not a great terrain for walking a dog who hasn’t seen freedom for a while! He ran circles around me, hopelessly tangling me up in his leash so much so that my husband had to free me a couple of times. He pulled so hard he almost caused me to lose my footing. He jumped and darted and tore around the grounds of the shelter like a bat out of hell! Despite how cute this ruffian was, I finally had to admit that I simply wasn’t up for the likes of Sparky.

We made our apologies, wished Sparky well in finding his forever home and left the shelter with our tails between our legs (at least mine was, not sure about Don’s). Before leaving Amelia, Don tried to distract me from my disappointment with a home-cooked lunch at a local diner. The people were nice and the food was tasty, but sadly, it didn’t work. I had had my heart set on bringing a dog home. But as Don reminded me, I didn’t find him on the first try (or the 50th)! Back in RVA, we resumed our search for the perfect match. Keep an eye on this page for the next installment of ISO Shaggy Dog.