full Harley.jpg

I shoved open the heavy metal door with a “whoosh”. I was sporting a chip on my shoulder as big as a boulder and a “whatever” attitude that would put a ticked-off teenager to shame. This was our last stop. My goal was to get in and out – alone. Okay – maybe alone wasn’t the right word since I was closely followed by my determined 12 year old daughter and recently diagnosed, cancer-filled husband. The three of us had spent the entire day dragging in and out of animal rescue shelters. At this point, all I wanted was to go home, put my feet up and bury myself in a bowl of ice cream smothered in chocolate sauce. Most importantly, I wanted to do it without a dog!

Our entire family was reeling from my husband’s diagnosis. His chemo was scheduled to start next week. I was already juggling the lives of three daughters, my husband and his health crisis, a 50-hour-per-week job, our house and two cats. Injecting a new dog into this chaos was nuts.

My husband convinced me we had to look. Our youngest daughter was begging for a dog. Right.... One more critter for me to take care of.

Yup – I had a great attitude!

I whipped up to the front desk and asked to walk through the kennels. The peppy young girl behind the counter greeted me with a smile and pointed toward the area where about a dozen dogs were jumping and yelping. “Let me know if you want to meet any of them. There are some sweeties in there!”


I breezed by the kennels and clicked off my judgments: “Too old, too big, too yappy, too young, too grumpy, too shy….”

Nope. Not one fit my criteria. “Let’s go home.”

“Mom, did you see this one? It’s a girl and her name is Harley! You know – “Harley” like your motorcycle! She’s not too big, Mom. She’s two years old. She’s house trained. Please, Mom. Please? Look at her, Mom. She loves me!”

Shoot. She found one that met my basic criteria plus one with the same name as the motorcycle I had inherited from my Dad. I took a deep breath and tried to slide the boulder off my shoulder – or at least attempted to chip away at its size. “Okay. Let’s meet her.”

We settled into one of their "family" rooms. My daughter and I sat on a bench and my husband leaned against the wall. Harley came in dancing and prancing. I shook my head. “Nope. This isn’t going to work. She’s got way too much energy.”

But then I looked down into her black button eyes and she looked straight into my soul. Next, she twisted around and sat on my feet. Wow. How did she know our last dog did that?

Persistently Harley nuzzled my husband’s hand until he knelt down on one knee to pet her. As he did, she pressed into him and gave him a full-body dog hug.

I was sinking fast. The boulder I’d been carrying on my shoulder had been destroyed and the “whatever” attitude was long forgotten. In just a few minutes this black lab/Australian shepherd mix had knocked down my walls and was stealing my heart. I needed some air and to clear my head. This wasn’t supposed to happen.

I stood up and stumbled to the door. As I began to leave the room, Harley jumped into the spot I’d vacated, leaned into my daughter, put her head on her shoulder and gazed into her eyes. My daughter reached her arm around Harley and tugged her into her lap. “See, Mom? She loves us!” Harley leaned deeper into her arms and snuggled in with a groan of satisfaction.

“Okay, okay. I get it. Give me a minute.”

I pushed the door open, quickly shut it behind me and leaned back, tears streaming down my cheeks. I looked over at the still smiling young lady behind the counter, swallowed the lump in my throat and croaked, “I think you’d better show me the information on Harley.”

As I read the second line on the page she handed me, I gasped and then laughed out loud. Harley was born on my mother’s birthday.

I was now the one smiling as I pulled out my checkbook with a “whoosh”. We weren't going home alone. Harley was meant for us.