What we find, and what finds us

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When I was a kid, I used to tell people I was going to travel the world and get pregnant in different countries and end up with a multi-lingual, multi-ethnic brood of kids. As I got older and understood adoption, I decided I'd do it that way. I had in mind a family that looked a bit like Brad and Angelina's, actually. I loved the idea that I would have a family that had all come from different places, at different ages, and had different life experiences. In my biological family, people tend to resemble each other quite a bit physically, talk in similar ways, and live in similar conditions. I wanted something more exotic (remember, this is when I was a kid, please, and no flames for what I now recognize as a pretty obnoxious thought patterns). A mixed bag.

As an adult, I have no plans to adopt an international brood. Or, really, to adopt even one child (at anytime soon, anyway). But it occurred to me today that my motley passel of canines and felines in some ways fits the dream I had all that time back, without the nasty using-kids-as-accessories undertone. The folks who came to visit Eugene the other day asked us where our dogs had come from, and this started us down a path of explaining it to them, and in doing so, I realized that the stories are pretty funny. We haven't gotten a pet from a breeder, but we've gone just about every other route.

Our first dog, Chance, came to us from Blue Dog Rescue, a local multi-breed rescue organization. Chance had been a puppy at the city pound who was adopted for a year and then given back to the pound, where the rescue picked him up.

After Chance died, we adopted Leo from another multi-breed rescue organization, this one several hours away. Leo was found living alone on a farm in the middle of nowhere, pretty clearly abandoned. More than any of our other pets, Leo was "shopped" for, only really, it was just that the pictures of him drew me in and I couldn't not go get him.

After we'd had Leo a few months, we adopted Atticus. Atty was a kitten born at the county shelter the next county over, but I found him at Petsmart, where they were displaying local shelter animals in the hopes of clearing the shelters out to make more room for animals after Hurricane Katrina.

A few months later, we added Atakan. Ata was our first true pound puppy, rescued off doggie death row at the county kill-shelter with fleas, mange, a horrible ear infection, and nearly starved to death. He'd been picked up as a stray. He was our biggest risk, with clear health issues, no temperament testing, and no sure way to even tell his breed. We had no idea what we were getting into.

About a year later, we added another cat, Esme. Essy came to us from our good friends when they moved to Norway to a small apartment where she wouldn't have an easy way to stay away from their dogs, who are friendly but not much for respecting kitty peace and privacy. She was born a barn cat in Oklahoma and came to our friend by way of her parents.

Now, finally, we have our new kitty (still no name), who is your basic off-the-street stray, found by our next door neighbors and brought to us because we now have a reputation as people who will help animals in need.

Twenty years ago, or even ten, this wasn't what I pictured. Pets, beyond perhaps a fish, were never my intention, and certainly I didn't think of myself spending my future living in what is quickly turning into a menagerie of lost or discarded animals. Each new addition has been sure to be the last for a while, and yet the more of them there are, the easier it becomes to open our arms one more time, make a little more space on the couch and in the budget. And the more sure I am that the offensive crap about multi-colored babies I spouted as a child was, in fact, coming from somewhere inside me, something I knew I was meant to do. I just didn't know then that the babies would be of the furry and four legged variety, or that I could get them all within a few square miles and still have them be so different and have come so far.

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April 2012

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