My dog Effie does this thing where she jumps up on me with her front legs. It feels like she’s going in for a hug. She did this so much during her first week with us, it was almost funny. I felt like she was saying, “Thank you so much for bringing me here.” It’s been about two years now, but I feel like it was yesterday.
My brother Evan and I had planned a really last-minute trip to Mexico for a dose of Vitamin D. After we booked our tickets, he said, “Hey, we’ll find a dog for you down there!” I didn’t picture this to be the real mission of our trip, and it wasn’t. But one night, some friends told us about Mariposa. She was this older Mexican woman who lived in Pescadero (where we were staying) and was well known for rescuing some of the stray dogs in the area. I didn’t think we had time to visit her, let alone organize canine immigration papers, but on the morning we were scheduled to fly home, we got up, set off for the airport, and realized we were quite ahead of schedule. So Evan said, “Let’s try to find Mariposa’s.”
We didn’t have an address. The roads were dusty and there were no street signs. After half an hour, we saw the first human being we’d seen in a while, walking along the side of the road. We pulled over and asked him if he knew where Mariposa lived. To our surprise, he said, “Yeah, she’s my neighbour, she lives right there.” We’d made it.
We pulled up and got out of the car. I didn’t see many dogs, so I suggested we continue on to the airport because time was getting tight. “Just wait a second,” Evan said. And then, right then, a dog ran up to me, she scooted up close, and I started petting her head. As I stroked her, she put her head flat on the ground in between her hands and shut her eyes. I stared down at this dog, taking her in, and realized how sweet she was. At that point Mariposa came outside, and we learned that Effie, a mixed breed or “Mexi-mutt”, was the only dog she had who was available for adoption.
We observed Effie for 10 minutes with Mariposa; I’d never seen a dog move quite like she did. She was so playful, had so much personality, and actually had a sense of humour—she was flirty and coy. I could see her acting this way with Mariposa, so I got Mariposa’s card and promised to call once we’d figured out the next step.
Evan and I got back in the car, and within seconds I burst into tears. I had always wanted a dog, but I didn’t have any requirements breed-wise—my focus was to find “the one”, the right character for me—and I knew that I’d just met the girl I’d been waiting for. I called my partner back home and said, “I’ve found our dog.” Without even seeing her, he said, “Do what you’ve got to do.” I was so happy I could barely speak. I called Mariposa back and said, “We want her.”
A lot of people say that rescue dogs are damaged goods, but I think we’re all damaged goods. Think about us in relationships—most of us have had one or several that have failed. Does this mean we don’t deserve to find love again? It’s not about what happened in the past, it’s about whether or not you have that spark and connection. That’s what enables you to get through the hard stuff.
According to the Canadian Federation of Human Societies, 4,358 dogs were euthanized in Canada in 2014. Even more in the United States. So why adopt a rescue animal? To save a life. And to bond with a creature who will return your favour with eternal loyalty and gratitude, every day. For those who do have a certain breed in mind, there are often purebred rescue options, and puppies, too. Rescue dogs are also extremely inexpensive. Effie cost $30 (the airline crate fee); buying a newborn puppy would be thousands of dollars.
As for the mutts like Effie, health-wise they are believed to have fewer issues, which means lower vet bills. And I think their “imperfections” give them character. My girl has scars and she’s missing her front teeth, but I love every inch of her. I think these characteristics tell her story. They say that she’s a survivor. Plus, there’s no other dog in the world that looks just like her. She’s unique.
Mariposa has since passed away of a stroke. When I found out, I started crying. Without her altruistic efforts, would we have Effie today? Mariposa said Effie had just shown up at her door one night while she happened to be watching Hachi, a movie about a loyal dog. What’s so crazy is that Effie has turned out to be the definition of loyal.
I feel like she’s my partner in everything. Life wouldn’t be the same without her.
Styling by Erin Harder.
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