Jessie was picked up by an NYC police officer in Brooklyn, NY as a stray in the first few days of 2005. According to protocol, he should have taken her to NYC's Animal Care & Control, which holds the city's animal control contract. Why he didn't I will never know, but taking her to the tiny no kill BARC shelter almost certainly saved her life. In 2005 NYC's AC&C kill rates ran about 50%, and as a fear biter Jessie almost certainly would not have made it out alive.
I turned up a few days later, brought in by my then-girlfriend, who had been doing nearly all of the legwork up to that point. She was very excited by the dog she had found at BARC and had already visited several times before convincing me to come see her - I, at the time, wasn't even positive I would be able to devote enough time to a new family member.
We'd been talking about adopting a dog - the first time for both of us - and we were particularly keen on spaniels, having done a lot of dogsitting for a spaniel that we both adored. Walking into BARC we were overwhelmed by the noise of all the dogs who wanted our attention - leaping, pacing, barking - and then came to the pen with one dog sitting at her gate quietly, watching attentively, trembling slightly from fear. Jessie. When we came back in from walking her, we both knew that she was the dog that would be joining the household.
It wasn't easy, especially in the beginning. Jessie used to bite when afraid, and in the beginning she was very, very afraid. It took her a while to settle into our home and to be confident that we weren't going to hurt her, and then it took us time (and a few wrong turns!) learning about fear biters and how to help them - learning that I'm still doing!
That was four years ago, and Jessie, my first dog ever, kicked off my fascination with dogs and desire to help rescued dogs. She has traveled the country with me on tour with The Producers, peed in parks from Seattle to New Jersey, lived with me in tiny hotel rooms and my first house in Las Vegas, and now she's here with me in Kanab, supporting me while I work with dogs in a sanctuary and guarding the apartment while I'm gone - and every night, sleeping next to me and getting belly rubs, just like she should.
Thanks, Jessie. Happy Birthday.