We all have our own journey to finding that special someone. Mine was a little odd:
I had heard the name "Al Pacino" in passing but hadn't met him (the dog, not the actor, guys). I volunteered with puppies in the parvo clinic so I was a little distracted/preoccupied with the cuteness that is puppy, so for a while, that's all there was to it.
When I was brought on board to manage APA!'s marketing, one of the first things I started doing was looking through our most visited pages, checking out where our traffic came from, monitoring our social referral trends... and I noticed one weird trend: those "pittie" smiles were gold. People loved to share, click and comment on them... and there was one pittie smile in particular that caught my eye. It was wide and bright, his tongue flipped out and upward, big ole snout tucked perfectly beneath a broad half-white forehead and striking green eyes.
"Who is this dog?" I thought as I flipped through photo after photo of that handsome smile.
It was Al Pacino.
Over time, I started including that face in several communications. I coordinated photo shoots for student journalists to specifically include him. I watched all the videos we had of him and dug into his history. Little by little, I started falling in love.
Around noon every day, I would go visit his kennel. I would hold my fingers through the gate and look deep into those gorgeous, green eyes.
I remember one day particularly well. It was hot and his tongue was basically falling out of his month in that goofy way it sometimes did.
"I'm gonna find you a home, big guy," I said.
The way he looked at me, I could have sworn he understood what I said. I ran the tips of my fingers down his shoulder and walked back to my desk.
Things kind of changed after that. I couldn't get that look out of my head. I would see his smile when I went to bed and remember my promise. This was a time in my life full of giant changes I wasn't actually prepared for and I wasn't exactly the happiest girl in town... but every time I saw that smile, my spirit lifted and my heart warmed.
So (naturally) I desperately tried to get every single one of my friends to adopt him. We would click through his photos online and I would reassure them that he was absolutely the most perfect dog on the planet and they must adopt him. No takers.
That's when I decided to foster him. The first few weeks were kind of tough. This was a huge transition for him, so I knew I needed to be patient... but he was restless and a little noisy for most of the night, broke out of his crate and ate my comforter one day, pulled on the leash quite a bit and wasn't totally potty trained. The APA! behavior team was 100% there for me when we worked through this stuff... but man... his snuggles made it worth it either way. I took a few phone calls every now and then from interested adopters, sending them his most handsome photos as a follow-up.
But deep down, I'm pretty sure I always knew... the day I made that promise, I wasn't promising him some home, I was promising him mine. He had captured me. I loved that smile, those bald spots on his tail, that big bulky head. I had fallen in love with him ...trying to get others to fall in love with him.
All the "tough" stuff ...was easy. Buying new blankets because he had destroyed his, working on his anxiety, replacing his Kongs because he had chewed through them somehow... none of it made him less perfect in my eyes. In all his eccentricities, all the things some may run from... I ran toward.
His imperfections were endearing, his smile irresistible, his unconditional affection and passion for life had restored mine somehow.
So after 720 days at Austin Pets Alive!, Al found his home... in my heart. I am so thankful for whatever compelled me to sift through those first photos of him...
And I am eternally grateful that through everything, this place never gave up on him. In 720 days of patient training, loving volunteers, sleep-overs and field trips, careful medical attention, playgroup and just plain ole life... no one ever once said, "I just don't think this is worth it."
Because the people here knew that it was worth it. Lives like Al's are worth saving.
Because 720 days after APA! saved Al's life... he helped save mine.