At 9pm Nick collected me from my friend Brenda’s house, rescuing me from death by chocolate fondue, which was a near certainty until he appeared in Brenda’s kitchen, ate one chocolate covered strawberry and said, “It’s time.”
The car was loaded with a collar and leash, plus blankets and crib mattress pads to line Galina’s crate. (See? Isn’t it a good thing we didn’t get rid of those pads we haven’t needed for ten years?). We’d be getting a loaner crate from OPH at the pick up. Many of the dogs coming from these shelters aren’t housebroken, so the crate and crib pads would be necessary to save our carpet.
We headed down the road, only to turn back after I checked my e-mail enroute and discovered the transport truck would be delayed by accidents in North Carolina, and our pick up time was pushed back to 11pm. To kill time we watched an incredibly pointless sitcom called Two Broads. That was 30 minutes of my life I’ll never get back, but at least I wasn’t eating myself into a chocolate coma.
Finally, at 10 we took off for Pikesville. It was a balmy 5 degrees and I wondered what our little southern girl would make of that. Nick asked how we would find the OPH crowd, but when we pulled in the bowling alley parking lot it was immediately evident. There were a multitude of SUVs with motors running, next to a streetlamp where a small group of eskimos chatted, handing out dog crates, bags of bedding and food, even cookies, oblivious to the cold.
We received our crate and Nick put it together in the back of our SUV, lining it generously with the pads and warm blankets. And then we waited.
Nick stayed in the warm car, but I wandered over to chat with some of the experienced fosters. I learned that two pregnant mama dogs were in this shipment and many of the families were there to retrieve multiple dogs. Two of the other Pennsylvania foster mommies talked about their experience with state inspections. They’d both fostered over 25 dogs in one year which made them qualify as a kennel and required the inspections. I couldn’t imagine doing this 25 times, but then maybe that’s what they thought the first time, too. I found it heartening that, to a person, everyone was friendly and kind. They were happy to be there and excited to meet their new foster dogs, even on a night as bitter cold as this.
My fingers had just about solidified like hot dogs in the meat case when a small white enterprise rental van zipped into the parking lot. I followed those-who-knew and we formed a semi-circle of half-frozen people while Gina, the enthusiastic transporter, unloaded dogs in crates, calling each dog’s name and waiting for its foster person to retrieve it. The dogs were stacked in carriers, secured by bungee cords in the back of the van. As soon as she opened the door, you could hear the excited barking. I simply cannot imagine driving 12 hours, or even 10 minutes, with that kind of ruckus, and immediately my stock in Gina as a real rescuer went up.
It was just like my favorite children’s book, Go Dog Go, as dogs, big and small, cute and not-so-cute, in every shape and color were off-loaded, handed over to their person, and their carriers pulled apart and stacked back in the van. It was an impressive operation made even more so in the brutal elements.
Galina was actually in the first crate pulled off, but it was a shoebox size crate and no one called her name, so we assumed she wasn’t our dog. As dog after dog was called, I took a second look at the little dog in the small crate sitting abandoned next to the van. I crouched down and saw her sweet face. She was about the size of a large Chihuahua and shaking like a leaf. I don’t know how big a beagle is supposed to be, but I thought she’d be bigger than this.
We quickly claimed her and while Nick ran her around the parking lot, Erika, the coordinator for OPH, explained the meds in the bag we were given. There were cranberry pills to prevent UTI infections common in shelter dogs because they hold their pee for so long in transport and out of nervousness. There was a heart worm preventative, vitamins, probiotics, coconut oil, and flea preventative, plus a few goodies – treats, food sample, and chew bone.
Once in our car, Galina flitted from one side of the cage to the other watching out the window. Maybe she was looking for her buddies. Although it was warm in the car, she was still shaking. When I put my hand through the cage bars, she placed her head beneath it and stopped moving, allowing me to pet her. I was smitten. We were just getting off the beltway on to I-83, when Galina finally sat down. Her head sagged nearly to the floor of the cage in exhaustion, eyes closed, but she refused to lay down.
That’s when it happened. And these things never happen on a pretty afternoon when you’re out for a Sunday drive. They always happen near midnight, when it’s 5 degrees and you’ve just picked up a beagle from South Carolina in a bowling alley parking lot.
That’s when your tire blows.
All I could think was, I am the luckiest woman in the world to be married to a man who can change a tire in frigid temperatures on the side of a highway after picking me up from a party where I’ve had plenty of wine and too much chocolate and then driving me to a bowling alley parking lot to meet some equally crazy people to retrieve a tiny beagle and a very large crate. And to not curse while doing it.
It was a long night, but Galina made it safely from rural South Carolina to our living room. Now the adventure really begins!