Talking Pets: Seeking a playmate for Ella - the rest of the story

January 11, 2013 

My dog, Ella, and I were seeking a playmate for her, but our search had gotten off to a rocky start.

Our trip to Animal Services was a little disappointing because the dogs on our list were too big. One was the right size, but Ella didn't like it when the pup tried to get in my lap. So we went back home to regroup and move on to Plan B.

In early December I had sent word to friends in the animal welfare circles that we were looking for a dog. I was set on a female pit mix about Ella's size and maybe about 2 years old so I wouldn't have to puppy-proof the house (again).

Pretty soon after our trip to AS, I got a call from Mary Lupi, founder of Safe Haven Animal Rescue. She's the one who

brought Ella and me together, and she knew I have a fondness for little block-headed dogs.

Mary had a blue pitmix she wanted me to meet. It was a male, but she convinced me to be more open-minded and besides, she was sure Ella would do better with a boy dog.

So a meeting date was set, but when that Tuesday arrived unforeseen circumstances arose and Ella's blind date had to be postponed.

The next week I called to see if we were still on, and that's when Mary said, "I got something even better for you. A brown pittie about 9 months old and about 35 pounds. His foster mom lives near you; give her a call."

The call was made and the foster mom was excited I wanted to come meet "Puppy." She had avoided giving him a name because, well, you know, once you name something, it's yours.

The next day, I went to meet this "sweet, affectionate" dog. And he was everything I was hoping for: on the small side, friendly, loving and downright gorgeous.

While the foster mom and I talked, Puppy joined me on the couch, laid across my lap and promptly fell asleep.

That was all it took. It was the same thing Ella did the day I met her, so it was almost like it was destined for Puppy to come home with me.

I called Mary and told her, "Well, he fell asleep in my lap. What does that tell you?"

We arranged for Mary to bring Puppy to my house the next day so we could take him and Ella on a walk-about in the neighborhood.

I don't know who was more nervous, Ella or me, because I wanted so badly for her to like him.

The time for the blind date came and the meeting did not quite come off without a hitch. Puppy was full of so much energy that I could almost see Ella thinking: "Oh great, a wild thing."

She was clearly not happy with the situation and was a tad snappy. I reminded Mary that she does much better off the leash, so we headed back to the house to see how they would do in the back yard.

While Puppy was busy exploring the plants, the compost pile, behind the shed and the squirrels in the oak tree, Ella was playing it cool, just watching him. Pretty soon, though, his playfulness got the best of her and they proceeded to have a little game of Chase Me.

Mary said, "I think it's going to be fine," and just like that, Ella had her playmate.

The first order of business was to give him a name. No problem there.

Years ago after my ex and I had decided to name our dogs after singers, in honor of Muddy Waters, our late shepherd-Lab, I had thought a good name for a boy dog would be Arlo.

And while this little guy certainly did not have Arlo Guthrie's hair, I thought the name fit him perfectly.

And so Arlo it is.

He's been with us a little over three weeks now, and it's been like a step back in time for me. He reminds me so much of Ella when she first came to live with Reba and me.

About the same age, same repeating cycles of brash "puppyness" and zonked-out sleep.

Same ill manners that need work. Same piggy eating habits.

Same soulful eyes; same floppy ears.

Same kind of snuggle-bug, too.

Arlo loves Ella, and in the past two weeks, I think she's come to love him, too. They play keep-away with Mr. Racoon and Mr. Fox. They chase each other around the yard. They snuggle on the couch.

But the proof came the other day when they were both behind the shed, and Ella suddenly started barking like something was wrong. If you have dogs, you know that bark. It's more urgent than a squirrel bark or a meter reader bark.

When I went to investigate, I found that Arlo had managed to squeeze through a gap where the fences meet. I didn't have time to be afraid for his safety because the little devil was squeezing his way BACK into the yard.

Ella was looking out for him that morning. I was so proud of her.

I looked at her and she was looking at me like: "Mom ... What are we going to do with him?"

The answer's simple, Ella my dear: We're going to love him.

M.K. Means, Herald copy editor, can be reached at 941-745-7054 or on Twitter @BradentonPets.

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