Adopting Panchita

Reprinted from

Listen to Majo read this post:

It took me about five years after Buddy’s death to be ready for another dog.

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My Buddy, age 10

In that fifth year, I started showing signs that I was ready.  I was asking a lot of customers in my grocery store checkout line about their dogs – I was really curious about the dog, but especially about their relationship with the dog.  These sometimes extended conversations made my checkout line even slower than usual, but I often just ignored the signs of anxiety or even irritation in the person next in the line.  “Hey, we’re talking about dogs here – this is important!”

I started talking about dogs in my weekly psychotherapy sessions.  Lorrie, my psychotherapist, had recently lost her beloved dog Poppy and totally understood why this topic was important enough to use a therapy session for it.

After one of these sessions, I came home and told my roommate Marvin (who was crazy about animals, and I knew would be interested in this) “In my therapy session today, I got really clear – I’m ready for another dog.”  Marvin seemed totally unsurprised by this and said with great poise, “I’ve got your dog.”  Well, I was surprised.  “You’ve got my dog!?” Marvin explained to me that his good friend Lucy had told him that morning that her MS had progressed to the point that she could no longer pick up her tiny (5 lb.) dog Toni – and she decided that it was time to give her up.

Sherri Lynn cashier with Toni
Toni the junior cashier, at Earth Fare

Marvin – who always spent time with Toni on his frequent visits with Lucy and was very fond of the adorable little dog – had that morning promised Lucy that he would help her find a home for Toni.  So he was, in fact, completely unsurprised by my disclosure.  Toni was an extremely sweet, very special little dog and he was sure we would be a match.

When we went to visit Luci and Toni, I was immediately smitten with this adorable little yorkipoo.  Lucy was obviously having a hard time with Toni’s imminent departure, but said “We have been saying our goodbyes – our karma with each other is complete.” Lucy’s roommate said two very telling things during our half-hour visit.  Shortly after I got there, she said “Toni is really liking you already.”  And as I was leaving with Toni, she said, “She’s really happy to be going with you.”

with diana
Toni with Aunt Diana, in front of Battery Park Apartments

I adopted Toni at age 8.  We immediately became very close to each other.  People would frequently say, “She adores you.”  She was a rarified being – almost another species than a dog.  People on the street, who had never seen her before, would often say “She’s an angel” or “She’s an angelic little being.”

I had Toni for just two years.  A year into our life together, she was walking even less than usual and was diagnosed with congestive heart failure.  The vet said, “Like people with heart disease, she may last a long time – or she could have a heart attack tomorrow.”

After a slow decline, she was diagnosed with liver disease and I knew her days were numbered.  Three days after the liver disease diagnosis, my friends Lisa and Karen punctured my denial: “She’s looking really terrible – it’s time to let her go.”  Three days later, I had the mobile euthanasia vet come to my apartment – and six of Toni’s best human friends joined us as we let her go.

I took Toni’s death hard.  People in our senior living facility almost immediately started asking me if I was going to get another dog.  I was very clear with them: “It’s way too soon to be asking me that – I’m not going to be ready for another dog for at least a year, maybe two.”

Toni died on October 1, 2018.  On December 22, I was at Petsmart – strictly to buy a “smart tag”.  I was doing professional dog sitting and was about to have a seven-day overnight pet sit with Freddie, a very cute 20 lb rat terrier.  I got the gig through and Rover recommended that for an extended job like this you should get a smart tag with your information on it – and put that tag on their collar for the duration of your visit with them.

As I was looking at the tags at Petsmart, the overhead speaker announced that Rusty’s Rescue from Marion, NC, was having a dog adoption day.  Much to my surprise, I had just a few days earlier begun thinking about getting another dog.  On this particular Saturday, I was very clear with myself that no way was I yet going to get another dog – “But let’s go just look at them, to get some idea of what I’m looking for.” Famous last words, right?

The first two dogs I looked at were very cute, but didn’t stir my heart.  The third dog – sitting way back in her crate, was a chihuahua.  I have never liked chihuahuas.  But she looked at me.  She stared at me with her big brown eyes.  For what seemed like an eternity, she just would not break eye contact with me. 

When I finally broke the eye contact, I think I said out loud “My doggie.”  I took her for a walk around the parking lot, but I knew that was just a formality – she was already mine, and maybe even more so I was hers.

in Susie's car
Pancho in one of her favorite places – in the car.

By the time I drove away with Pancho, we were already totally bonded.  Three days later I took her on a walk on my favorite stretch of the Mountain-to-Sea Trail, where I had taken Buddy many times.  I knew that a leash was unnecessary.  She stayed right at my heal for the 30-minute walk.  We belonged to each other.

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Panchita and I bonded fast – like right away.


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These days all of my identities are converging: whether I am offering a blessing in the grocery store checkout line, offering a prayer in a poem or experiencing the kinship with all life while walking my or a client's dog - it's all the same. It's all Life.

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