When Magic Happens…

I was walking into Golden Gateway after our last Meet and Greet Day when Adoption Manager Julie Reber motioned me over. “Do you want to see magic in the works?” she asked with a sly smile. I knew she was doing an adoption match for one of our prior adopters, a woman I’d helped to adopt her first DVGRR Golden in 2007.

Julie and I walked down to the grooming room (which often doubles as an adoption room) and I peeked inside. Kathy, the adopter, was sitting in a folding chair, reading a dog record. Sitting at her feet, leaning into Kathy’s side and gazing adoringly up into her face was Dixie, a pretty, blonde four-year-old who was clearly, unequivocally, in love. A sweet but somewhat independent Golden, Dixie had not shown this kind of attentiveness at Gateway before. She and Kathy had only met twenty minutes earlier but there was no doubt this was indeed a “magical” match!

During my years with DVGRR, I’ve witnessed numerous other magical matches. While still a volunteer on the Adoption team, I attended a 2004 Meet and Greet Day when we thought one of the adopters coming would be perfect for a very timid, fearful Golden up for adoption that day.  I knew Amy very well, as she had previously adopted one of my foster dogs, in the pre-Gateway days. She was a gentle, quiet person, ideal for a dog with a timid personality. When Amy arrived, we introduced her privately (and hopefully) to the dog we’d “selected” for her and she politely spent some time getting to know her. Saying she wanted to walk around a bit, she then went outside where the other dogs were “meeting and greeting.”

I’ll always remember the sight that greeted me when I too went outside. There was Amy, kneeling in front of a 6-year-old redhead named Star, holding Star’s outstretched paw in her hand. Dog and woman were transfixed with each other, seeing nothing else around them but each other’s eyes. Amy reluctantly pulled her gaze away when I came over and smiled a bit ruefully at me. “The other dog is nice enough,” she said. “But Star is meant for me.” Indeed she was! Their life together lasted for five years until Star sadly passed away from cancer in 2009. Magic happened that day, even though it was with a different dog than we expected!

I don't have a picture of Amy and Star, but this was a very similar moment shared at a Meet and Greet in 2009. This is five-year-old Sadi meeting her future mom, Denise, for the first time. She and Star actually looked a lot alike, and they were each adored by their human family members.

I don’t have a picture of Amy and Star, but this was a very similar moment shared at a Meet and Greet in 2009. This is five-year-old Sadi meeting her future mom, Denise, for the first time. Sadi and Star actually looked a lot alike, and they were each totally adored by their adoptive families.

I have wonderful memories of other magical matches I participated in during my Adoption Manager years.  Heidi with Baron, Emmett with Susan, Lily with Brandon and Janemarie, Sammie with Kristin and Merrill, Ken with Ziggy, and many others. It’s trite to say, but it’s like something just “clicks,” like the dog looks up and says, “There you are!! I’ve been waiting for you!” Call it magic or whatever you choose…it’s pretty special when it happens.

Now, this is not to say that every successful match has to start with such a magical moment – certainly that is not the case. I’ve always said that adoption matching is part art, part science, and sometimes the “science” part plays much more of the prominent role. By that I mean that all the right factors and qualities are there for dog and family to mesh together, and while there may be a few points of uncertainty, the positives vastly outweigh any potential negatives.  Thus, a match is made, the dog goes home, and the spark is still very much there…it just builds and grows with time rather than going off like a firecracker!

Honestly, with my own five adopted DVGRR dogs, I’ve yet to experience a “magical moment” pre-adoption, though each Golden has brought incredible joy, happiness, and love to my life. Bailey (96-109) and Hobo (99-083) were both foster dogs that ended up staying permanently as adoptees. When I adopted Tyler (01-047), I was so ambivalent about it that I almost tried to bring her back (not one of my prouder moments!!). Morgan (01-063) had been returned from his first adoptive home and was the “office dog” for a while at Gateway so by the time he came home with me in 2007 we were like an old married couple.  And Alli (10-239)….well, I’ve always said that our relationship for the first six months together was best described (by HER) as “I am the princess and you are my lowly servant.” Now, after two-and-a-half years, we are joined at the hip and fiercely bonded, but it sure didn’t start out that way!

"Give me the treat and no one gets hurt," reads the caption on this photo of Alli in my office. Don't mess with my Alli-girl! She pretty much saw me as there to do her bidding at first. Now she's completely connected and bonded to me. (She still orders me around when she feels like it!)

“Give me the treat and no one gets hurt,” reads the caption on this photo of Alli in my office. Don’t mess with my Alli-girl! She pretty much saw me as there to do her bidding when she first came home. Now she’s completely connected and bonded to me, but no “magic” took place until six months down the line!

One More Story…

I want to end this post by writing about Jack (09-091), whose adoption day story always makes me smile. And since Jack is the featured Golden for July on the 2013 DVGRR calendar, it’s fitting that I include his magic moment too.

Jack (named Holden at the time) had been highlighted in our Golden Opportunities newsletter because he’d been with us so long – he was an exceptionally anxious young Golden who’d endured many changes in his life and not always handled them well. A couple saw his picture and story in the newsletter and the wife (Ellen) called to get more information.  She had the most soothing, calm, gentle voice and I immediately thought she’d be a good influence on the very nervous Holden. Ellen worked with Alzheimer’s patients and was very used to bringing people down from agitated states, so that gives you an idea of her personality!

From the front page of the Fall 2009 newsletter. Those are my hands cradling Holden/Jack's head (in a rare moment of calm for him at that time).

From the front page of the Fall 2009 newsletter. Those are my hands cradling Holden/Jack’s head (in a rare moment of calm for him at that time).

The couple wanted to meet him at the next Meet and Greet but Ellen wasn’t available that day so her husband Hank came without her. We had agreed that if introductions went well with Hank, Ellen would come on her own the following week to meet Holden and if that too went well, she would take him home.

Well, Holden did fine with Hank although his anxiety was clearly present to a high degree. But, Hank saw that and wasn’t turned off by it, which was certainly a positive sign. So Ellen came out a few days later to meet Holden separately, as planned. That match also went well and he seemed to take to her, although of course he was still showing a lot of anxiety and very “needy” behavior. Nonetheless, Ellen spent a lot of time with Holden and she too was undeterred, feeling that she and Hank could work with him and give him a chance at a good life.

We did the adoption paperwork and got ready to send Holden off. Now, you have to understand he was one of my favorites and I felt very protective towards him because of all he’d been through and how much understanding and patience he needed. I waited with him at Ellen’s car while she made a last minute trip to the restroom inside Gateway before getting on the road. He was standing outside the car on leash and showing super high stress and anxiety. I began seriously second-guessing my decision to approve the adoption and was sure I was making a mistake….I felt I was letting him down and didn’t know what to do.

Then Ellen came walking back across the parking lot. Holden saw her and the transformation in his whole body and demeanor was, yep, “magical.” He visibly relaxed and was clearly so relieved and happy to see her. It was if he were saying, “Oh, thank goodness, you ARE still here!” He looked at me as if to say, “You found this wonderful lady to take care of me and then I thought she went away as quickly as she came….I was so worried!”

If you have a DVGRR calendar, you've been looking at Jack's handsome face all this month. It took a long time for him to find his forever family, but when he did, it was magic!

If you have a DVGRR calendar, you’ve been looking at Jack’s handsome face all this month. It took a long time for him to find his forever family, but when he did, it was magic!

Needless to say, all my doubts and second-guessing went out the window and instead I was never so sure of a match being right as I was at that moment! Jack was very challenging for Ellen and Hank at first but they persevered and they were exactly what he needed. He has settled in wonderfully to their home and now, as Ellen described for the calendar write-up, “He’s a cuddle-bug, a comedian, and our constant, loyal companion.”

6 comments on “When Magic Happens…

  1. Annamarie says:

    This is a wonderful post! Thank you, Donna. My magical moment with Dawson was not the first time I saw him … I was certain he was a kangaroo and, oh, boy, I didn’t want that in my life at the time. But he looked at me with those BIG eyes … He is a wonderful boy and just starting to see his potential.

  2. Shirley Zenyuch says:

    Donna, I was just wondering if Jack (Holden) was the same Holden who was a something month old puppy when we came to meet him? Sue Weller told us he had developed a problem and were we still interested. We opted to meet Ruby (#2 or #4, I never can remember), now named Maggie, and came home with her. If it is, I am so happy he found a great home.

    • Donna Baker says:

      Hi Shirley! I hope Maggie is doing well….she was Ruby #4 by the way, according to our records. I do remember that you had met several other dogs before adopting Maggie and I’m pretty sure if you met a Holden it would have been the same one from my post. The problem Sue was referring to was an orthopedic one – he had started limping and ended up needing surgery to remove a plate in his leg. The plate had been put in before he came to DVGRR to repair a broken leg, thought to be from Holden being hit by a car. He wasn’t a young puppy – he was about two at the time, but had already been through so much. ;-(

      Looking at our database, you adopted Maggie on June 22, 2009 and Holden’s surgery was done on July 13, so it sure sounds like you did meet him. Also, his tag number is 09-091 and Maggie’s is 09-089 so they were definitely with us at the same time. Funny how things work out, isn’t it? Both dogs got great homes! Smooches sent to Maggie from all of us here….

  3. Karen Baker says:

    These are wonderful stories – very heartwarming…and the picture of Alli with the caption is priceless 🙂

  4. Joyce says:

    Donna: I’m having a senior moment. You may have helped us adopt our first DVGRR dog, Token (96-066). Anyway, this was before Gateway. Our then mentor told us she had fostered many dogs, none of whom looked back at her when they were leaving and going to their new home. Token didn’t; his attention was fixed on us.
    In 2011, we adopted Tara #2 (10-279) and we had, perhaps the same magical moment. We’d come to adopt another dog-a 2 YO male. But I was also interested in Tara because she was good with cats (we have 2). When we were introduced to Tara, she came over to my husband, who was seated, put her head on his lap and crooned at him. That was it. Tara came home (and is still) with us.
    Anyway, thank you for this post. Tara says ‘hey’.

    • Donna Baker says:

      Hi Joyce — thanks so much for sharing those two stories! I didn’t know Token but of course I remember sweet Tara. How funny that she knew exactly what to do to let you know she was “the one”. These dogs are so very intuitive and smart, aren’t they?? Hugs to Tara sent from here…

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