You’ve been waiting patiently since Part 1, and I finally have great news about the adoption of my Companion Paws personal therapy dog!
Back in the fall, Companion Paws, the organization that runs this program, decided to work 100% in partnership with a rescue center in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. They’re organized and consistent, rehabilitating street dogs who are found turned out on the streets after they’ve grown out of the cute puppy phase their owners got them for.
Companion Paws did an incredible job on the ground with the rescue team back before Christmas. They identified any dogs at the shelter who had the right temperament and also fit the preferences of people on the waiting list. After the program director returned to Canada, the shelter found a sweet pup who was for me!
Introducing my Companion Paws match: Pepito!
That’s right – this is my future therapy dog. ❤️ Originally named Volvo by the volunteers, I couldn’t help but give him a cute Spanish name since he was born in Mexico. Doesn’t he look like a Pepito?
(You can’t say otherwise. I already ordered and received his tag).
Pepito’s backstory will make you tear up. This sweet boi (dog talk) was found wandering the streets of a very poor community. He was underweight with severe skin problems and a tooth infection.
He was distrustful of humans at first, but the rescuers tell us “His hunger was stronger than his fear.” That’s a strong indicator that he had owners at some point since he didn’t know how to properly scavenge enough food on his own.
Over a couple of weeks of tender loving care, Pepito’s health improved, his comfort with humans grew to match his love of other dogs, and he calmed down enough to start enjoying belly rubs. Evidence from the rescuers here:
What a sweetheart, right?
Here are a few reasons, on paper, about why he’s a great match for me:
- He’s a small dog who’ll be comfortable with apartment living in future, and can also enjoy flying with me in the cabin of a plane.
- He’s low shedding, which is the closest thing there is to a truly hypoallergenic dog. This is great in case we want to do therapy dog work outside the home someday, and also because both my dad and my brother have allergies.
- Pepito’s a little older, between 6-8 years old, which makes me extra excited to give him a home at last.
- He’s wonderful with kids, dogs, and cats.
- He loves snuggling and being close to people, which is a great sign for my personal therapy dog needs.
- He’s motivated to learn and likes to play!
But beyond those reasons, I just had a wonderful feeling wash over me when I saw Pepito’s picture for the first time. It was love at first sight!
Then, the obstacles came.
Obstacle #1 – Fewer direct flights from Mexico to Toronto during Covid-19
Many of the Companion Paws program participants are based in British Columbia, where the organization’s located. Flying from the west coast of Mexico to the west coast of Canada would probably be easier to arrange even in non-pandemic times. However, during Covid, there were even fewer direct flights from Cabo to Toronto than before.
All of us Ontarians waited until January to hear that Companion Paws had found a series of flights (and volunteers who would be flying that route) to transport the dogs across the continent. I was thrilled!
With about two weeks notice, I rearranged my schedule in February — the busiest month in my business yet – so I’d work late nights at the beginning and end of the month, but I’d have a couple solid weeks to spend bonding with Pepito and beginning his training.
I eagerly awaited his flight date and couldn’t wait to pick him up at Pearson on February 8th.
Obstacle #2 – Cancelled plans
Then, the Canadian government issued a ban on all travel to and from “sun destinations” — places where well-to-do (and irresponsible) Canadians might go for a vacation before bringing back cases of Covid-19.
I have many critiques of this blanket ban, not the least the classism involved (some Canadians have connections with Mexico and the Caribbean that go deeper than vacation dreams) and let me point out, you can still fly in and out of the United States — the worst-hit country in the world when it comes to Covid cases. Suffice it to say that because it was a blanket ban, many rescue organizations were faced with immediate flight cancellations and logistics issues.
Companion Paws was no different, and they had to let me know just 1 week before Pepito’s planned arrival that his flight had been canceled and they were trying to research their options.
I prayed that he’d get here some other way soon, especially at this time when Covid fatigue, working overtime, and some hormonal issues meant my anxiety had increased to a point that it hadn’t been in years. Now, more than ever, I could benefit from a relationship with my therapy dog.
But I let myself be disappointed and sad for a while, put away many of the items I’d ordered for Pepito like his new bed and name tag, and tried to be patient.
I was most afraid that they’d say it was going to be such a long wait — with this “sun destination” ban in place until at least April 30th — that they’d find a dog elsewhere. I was afraid it wouldn’t be Pepito coming home.
Obstacle #3 – Surprise announcement from Companion Paws
After almost a whole month of waiting patiently for an update and trying to stay optimistic, I got a surprise email in my inbox. It was from Liane, the director of Companion Paws, who had great news: Pepito had just arrived in Houston on an in-cabin flight with one of their rescue “angels.” I couldn’t believe it!
I suspect that Liane waited to give me the news until he’d completed the first leg of his journey so they could avoid having to deliver any more disappointing news to the people on their adoption list.
Pepito’s flight was the first one to Houston, and he’s being taken care of by wonderful people in a “big beautiful house” until the other Ontario-bound dogs meet him there. Then, on March 9th, they’ll begin their 2-day drive across the country, all the way to the US-Canada border in Fort Erie, Ontario.
If lockdown rules allow, that means on March 11th, we’ll be able to drive from Toronto to the border and pick up Pepito at last!
Given the times we live in, it’s easy to lose hope in the things we hoped we could look forward to. And it’s also easy for plans and restrictions to change at a moment’s notice. But what I can tell you is that most people are so resilient and kind-hearted, always trying to find a way to help others in need, whether human or animal.
So, when Pepito makes it home with me on March 11th, we’ll finally begin our journey through personal therapy dog training. I can’t wait to make him feel so loved, just like I know he’ll love me back. I look forward to bringing you along for the ride!