My dog Janey wasn’t much to look at when I met her at the Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland in the summer of 2019. And I mean that literally. She was so curled up in her crate that all I could see was her snoot and the glint of her eyes.

When my now-ex and I arrived there that day looking to adopt, I only had two requirements for a dog: They had to be safe with cats (because I already had Juno) and they had to weigh less than 50 pounds (I wanted to make sure I could pick them up and carry them in case of emergency). The staff showed us around the kennels. All the dogs stood up at the front of their kennels to bark at us – except Janey. “She crate-trained herself” is how the staff put it. We met a few dogs, and all of them were lovely, but none was quite right.

They brought Janey into the “meet ‘n’ greet” room. The poor girl was obviously terrified. She hid underneath a chair and refused all the treats we offered her. Clearly she was cat-safe; she was terrified of everything.

She had a history. A bit of a reputation. Her first attempt at adoption involved her jumping out the window of a (parked!) car and running away for two days. She had to be caught in a Havahart trap like a skunk. So of course I fell in love with her immediately. And I’d say that was that, except it almost wasn’t. As soon as I signed the papers and walked out with Janey to my car, she slipped out of her harness and fled to a nearby field.

I don’t think I’ve ever felt quite as embarrassed in my life as when I had to walk back in to the Refuge League and admit I had lost my brand-new dog (without even getting her all the way to my car). Fortunately, Janey was pretty easy to find. She had sprinted in a giant loop and ended up at the back basement door of the Refuge League, trying to get back to the last familiar place she had known.

Once she was corralled again the animal trainer on staff gave her a Martingale-style collar and told me to never ever take it off. Somehow, even after all that, they let me take her home. My mom said they were probably just grateful someone wanted to take Janey and were operating on the economic principle of “no takebacksies.” I like to think they saw that we were one soul in two bodies, destined to belong together.


She hasn’t run away from me since that first incident (and to be fair, fear of commitment is totally normal at her age). In fact, now the challenge is to get her to give me any personal space at all. My house is a 900-square-foot rectangle; there is no place to hide and you can see end-to-end easily. Still, she has to follow me around it at all times. I don’t know if it’s because she just loves me that much or if she figures she should stick with me since I was the one who busted her out of doggy hoosegow. As I write, I am on the end part of the sectional couch and she is 18 diagonal inches away from me with her head under the coffee table. She’s allowed on the couch but really likes the plush early 1990s carpet.

Janey spent the first three years of her life, until her transfer to Maine, as a stray on the streets of Tijuana, Mexico. She’s a survivor. Like many survivors of a rough early start, she doesn’t trust easily. She’s more feral than not, which has its upsides (intelligence, independence) and downsides (intelligence, independence).

Some dogs greet every stranger as a brand-new best friend. Janey assumes every new person is trying to kill her until proven trustworthy. She’s made an enormous amount of emotional progress since I adopted her. For instance, now she understands what toys are. (Her favorite is a stuffed scientific model of the Ebola virus. I told you she was weird.)

She’s never going to be a normal dog and that’s OK. I’m never going to be a normal person. Janey may be abnormal, but she is my best friend. She provides me with unconditional love and constant companionship (sometimes a little too constant, like in the bathroom). This has helped prevent me from seeking those things from more unscrupulous providers (men who don’t deserve me). She is also a highly effective mobile home security alarm, off-brand Roomba, self-propelled pest control and personal bedwarmer – a rescue dog is cheaper than a tank of heating oil, especially this year.

If you are considering adopting a dog, give the problematic ones a chance; the shy ones, the anxious ones, the ones with the history or the bad reputation, or the skin condition. If you won’t, I sure will.

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:
Twitter: @mainemillennial

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