This post is sponsored by Everywhere Agency on behalf of Autotrader; however, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.
I never had a dog growing up so when I married my husband, I knew it was only a matter of time until we adopted one of our own. Oliver wasn’t the first dog we tried to adopt but meeting him was love at first sight. He’s been part of our family for almost eight years and we can’t imagine life without him.
My husband’s family had a long history of adopting Labradors so it seemed natural to go through Lab Rescue when we started looking for a dog of our own. We filled out an application, stalked the website, and attended to local adoption events, dreaming of the dog we’d welcome into our family. The only problem was that our kids were 7 and 5 and despite having spent lots of time with my in-laws two Labradors and their flock of sheep on their farm, Lab Rescue had very few dogs available for families with kids under 10. It was simply a supply and demand issue that did not work in our favor.
After a couple months we realized it wasn’t likely we’d ever be able to adopt through Lab Rescue. We expanded our search for Labradors, widening our radius well outside Washington, D.C. Being willing to travel two hours in any direction meant there were more potential dogs available.
One chilly weekend in mid-January we planned to drive to Richmond, Virginia to meet a dog we found earlier in the week. When my husband found a potential Labrador named Achilles available through a local rescue group holding an adoption event in Northern Virginia, we decided to add a stop to our road trip. We filled out the rescue group’s adoption paperwork like we had done for previous organizations so many times before and remained cautiously optimistic.
What was the chance that one of these dogs, out of the so many we had met in the previous 4 months, could be our dog? Our plan was to stop in Northern Virginia, meet Achilles, and then drive to Richmond to meet the other dog.
I remember driving up to the little independently owned pet store in Northern Virginia on a gray winter day. As a few snowflakes fell from the sky as we pulled into the parking lot, I noticed it wasn’t like the big box pet store adoption events we had attended previously. There weren’t people outside walking dogs or swarms of anxious dog-owners-to-be waiting to talk to rescue group volunteers, adoption paperwork in hand. It didn’t seem likely that this would be the place where we would meet our dog.
We tentatively opened the door and found the little pet store full of volunteers attending to dogs who had been transported from kill shelters in North Carolina. We looked around but didn’t see three year old Yellow Labrador whose picture was on the website. Upon asking, we learned Achilles was in the parking lot behind the store.
We walked outside and down the back steps of the pet store where we found a man walking a gorgeous Yellow Labrador who was just excited to meet us as we were to meet him. The dog’s ears went back and he lunged towards us, body wiggling with excitement. The kids were thrilled by this enthusiastic 90 pound beast who was moving so quickly they could barely get their little hands on him to pet him. My husband took the leash from the volunteer first asking why the dog was outside. As the volunteer told us he couldn’t be outside because he barks at other dogs, my husband handed the dog over to me.
As the dog started to lead me around the parking lot, the volunteer called from behind me, “Ma’am, are you sure you can handle this dog?”
Using all my strength and my most confident voice, I tried to make it appear that I was in control of this dog when I really wasn’t. Somehow I knew that the three year old dog who at the end of the leash was perfect for us.
We went back inside and sitting on bags of dog food in one of the narrow aisles, we talked to the founder of the rescue organization. We learned that she had seen the dog running on the side of the highway on Christmas Eve. He didn’t have a collar but was more than willing to get into her van that smelled like other dogs and was filled with dog food. She told us how she contacted local shelters about this gorgeous dog she had found but no one had reported him missing. She let us know she also put up signs that went unanswered.
Two weeks after she first found the dog she said the owners finally contacted her. She returned the dog to them and learned they were thinking about giving him up. She left a card and told them to call her if he needed a new home. Just a couple days later, they did exactly that and she returned to pick the dog up from their house.
“They just didn’t really seem to want him after all,” the woman from the rescue organization told us. “So I renamed the dog Oliver. It seems much more fitting, don’t you think?”
She told us Oliver didn’t like being in a crate and had rubbed off the fur and top layer of his skin off trying to put his snout through the bars. He was a bit skinny and because of a skin condition, he was on a special avocado-based dog food. We were also told that he was microchipped and had a tag from the rescue group on his collar so it would be easier to reunite him with his owners in case he ran away again.
Just as we wanted to know everything we could about Oliver, aka the dog formerly known as Achilles, the rescue group organizer wanted to know about us. She got down low and talked to Thomas and Emily who were more than eager to share a photo album filled with pictures of them with their grandparents’ Labradors and sheep that no one else had cared to look at other dog adoption events. She flipped through the photos and listened to them talk about how they help take care of their grandparents’ animals, and the things about our house that would make it a great home for Oliver.
“So if it’s ok, I can bring Oliver by tomorrow,” the woman told us. It wasn’t the rescue group’s policy to let dogs go home with new owners but that was fine with us. We finally had a dog and were thrilled!
Thinking back to being in that parking lot on that chilly day in January eight years ago, I had no idea that I would fall so completely in love with Oliver when I first met him. Emily and Thomas have a hard time remembering their childhoods before we owned our dog and honestly, I do too.
Oliver has been my constant companion in my at-home office, lying right next to my desk, ready for a tummy scratch, a treat, walks, or a car ride during a mid-day errand run. He’s incredibly protective of me when my husband is traveling for work, anxiously awaits his kids coming home from each day, and even takes special care of our backyard chickens by scaring away hawks and other predators that put them in danger. He’s loyal, loveable, and ours!
At age 10, he’s far more mellow than the 3 year old puppy we first met and now that he’s considered a senior dog. Sometimes I see signs of him aging that make me sad. These days it can take him awhile to come down the stairs and he sometimes struggles to jump in the back of our station wagon which make me wonder how much time we have left with him. Life without Oliver is a reality I don’t like to think about because we love him so much. Like so many dogs, he’s part of our family and we can’t imagine our house without him in it.
Thomas and Emily like to say that were lucky to find Oliver because he’s the perfect dog for us. Indeed Oliver is perfect for our family but I know when the time comes and we’re ready for another dog, we’ll start the adoption process again to give another great dog a forever home.
Thinking about getting a dog? Use Dogtrader.com to give a dog a forever home!
If you’re thinking about getting a dog, National Dog Day is August 26th and AutoTrader is teaming up with Adopt-a-Pet to help dog lovers find their new best friend through Dogtrader.com. Along with finding local, adoptable pets, Autotrader offers information on the best new and used pet-friendly rides in case your dog loves riding in the car as much as Oliver does.
You can also find helpful information like must-have accessories to keep your canine comfortable and tips to keep your pup safe on-the-go.
To follow Oliver and his adventures with us, click below to follow him on Instagram at @InstantlyOliver.
This post was sponsored by AutoTrader but all opinions are my own.