On Saturday, I begin combing the southeast for rat terrier puppies, using the awkward but functional search feature on PetFinder.com.
The search turns up two candidates within driving distance. One, Molly, is in Memphis — a two year-old mix noted as especially gentle and sedate. The other, a puppy, lives in Mobile.
I lean around my computer to address Clyde. “You don’t have to work tonight, do you?”
He’s cautious. “No…”
“How would you feel about a drive to Memphis?”
He considers this. “Have you thought about going to Petsmart Adoption Day today? They have them on Saturday.”
“Are you just trying to save yourself the drive to Memphis?”
Clyde grins. “Nope. I’m trying to save you a drive to Memphis all by yourself.”
So I go to Petsmart. Just as I arrive, Irene, a volunteer with the Community Animal Rescue League, is setting up a playpen filled with tumbling puppies. The pups are a terrier/dachshund mix, with stubby, muscular legs and terrier heads. Each is the color of toasted cinnamon.
I lift up one of the puppies. Compared to the cats at home, she’s tiny. She wriggles and squirms and nips playfully at my hands. I watch her carefully as members of the Saturday adoption crowd move in to pet her, and note that, even as a puppy, she’s especially careful with children.
So: minutes later, I’m filling out adoption forms and handing over a modest adoption fee. I seem to have chosen well — everyone who comes by the adoption fair spies the litter and immediately expresses interest in the pup I’ve chosen.
On the ride home, the pup sits soberly in my lap, watching I-55 traffic stream past.
At the house, Clyde is not surprised to see me arrive with a pup in my arms. I think the choice of breed surprises him a bit — this pup, full grown, will never weigh more than 15 pounds (Dixie, on the other hand, weighed at least twenty-eight.) Still, minutes later we’re all in the living room floor, playing and exploring and getting to know one another.
Naming her takes some time. I’ve locked onto Cinnamon, which Clyde dislikes. Clyde likes Barney, which I object to on the basis of the dog being female. We go through a long list of possibilities: Paris, Betsy, Lucky, Brownie.
As a joke, Clyde suggests we consider “Hillary Clinton.” Almost immediately, though, he suggests Chelsea instead.
Chelsea … two syllables, fun to say in falsetto, feminine without being overly so. I like it … so Chelsea it is.
I look into her big brown eyes. “Welcome home, Chelsea.”
Chelsea doesn’t speak English yet, so she just kicks and wiggles and rolls and scampers around the house, eager to make her place in this strange, new world.