Emerson has always been affectionate with me. That first night one year ago today, May 12, 2012, when he came home, Emerson sat near me constantly, ready to be pet, ready to be taken into our life, his soul-searching eyes asking me, “What’s in store for me lady? Got treats?”

Ready for bed that night in our bedroom, we all stared at each other, Carlos and I from the bed, Emerson from his crate. All three of us apprehensive, tired, wondering how this would go. By the next morning though, Emerson woke up, registered where he was, shook himself, and seemed to have decided the living arrangement could work just fine.

But with strangers he was pitifully nervous. I paraded him over to the neighbor’s house to show him off and he cowered at my feet, tail between his legs, terrified. Other friend-neighbors came over to meet the new dog and he cringed and growled. I got the pity-face from everyone.

I walked him up to Your Dog’s Best Friends doggie daycare several days later and he flattened himself under a chair in the “orientation” room and could not be lured out with treats. I almost started to cry thinking that if he could not go to daycare, I could not keep him. The owner, Paul Haire, came in the room, looked at Emerson shivering, immediately got on his hands and knees, dropped his head beneath Emerson’s, and stayed still. Emerson relaxed. The test dogs were brought in, Emerson perked up, greeted them appropriately, and was accepted into daycare. By the end of the day when I came to pick him up he bounded out to me grinning and perky. He quickly became a staff favorite. They remarked on how loving he is.

Our relationship proceeded.

After a very short while Emerson proved himself reliable in his household habits and the crate door was left permanently open. He began to seek the floor next to my side of the bed. We moved a dog bed there so I could reach down at night and feel him. He started to lay next to me on the couch as I read, head on my leg, silent and clearly content.

One night Carlos was tired from a tough day at work and was the first to break the “no dogs on the bed” rule. He said, “Maybe we can have Emerson on the bed tonight?” And up Emerson came, tucking himself between us, exposing his belly to be rubbed, and sighing as he closed his eyes. Over time we decided Emerson would sleep in his own bed, but he was invited up to cuddle in the morning.

And so routines established themselves. He was still nervous around strangers, but after five or six meetings with new people he started to relax around our friends. Carlos’s brother came to live next door. He was the only new person that Emerson treated as family from the first moment. We think Alvaro must smell just like Carlos.

One night I reached down from the bed to touch Emerson and he rolled over to let me rub his belly. His particular musky smell wafted up, and I was overwhelmed with feelings of both longing and protectiveness. I was in love.

I visited family for Thanksgiving, leaving Carlos and Emerson at home. In my absence, Emerson climbed under the covers on my side of the bed. The entire time I was gone I ached for him. The sensation made me laugh at myself, at what I was feeling for a dog. When I returned and climbed out of the cab in our driveway, Emerson was waiting with Carlos. Carlos was happy to see me, but Emerson’s whole body vibrated with happiness.

In November, around the six-month mark, Emerson seemed to grok he was staying forever. He began to ask for things, giving a little moan/growl when I spent too much time on the computer and placing a paw on my leg, trying to lure me to touch him. He stopped gulping down his food and took this time. He followed me around the house, flopping down noisily in whatever room I was folding clothes, checking email, cooking dinner.

I started to wonder if he was bored. We played with him, walked him, pet him, but I started to do PetFinder searches for a companion dog. I thought a female would make him happy. In January we brought home a spit-fire named Remy, half-Basenji, half-???, who immediately jumped on Emerson, chewed his ear, and stole his toys. It took a while for Emerson to adjust to sharing the couch and affection, but she has become the companion I hoped she would be for my beloved boy.

Emerson and Remy

There were many people involved in bringing Emerson to us. I highlighted the story in my last post. But on this first anniversary I’d like to thank all those people again. In Nash County, North Carolina, Zach Wilford recognized that the stray dog in his neighborhood was very sweet and very scared. Zach pushed everyone to save this unpromising foundling. Without Zach vouching for Emerson, he may have been put down after three days in the very small county shelter. Others from Nash County who never even met Emerson pledged money for his eye surgery and to attract a dog rescue to take him. Carol Vierela from Nash County Animal Friends drove Emerson to Virginia.

Mutt Love Rescue (particularly Cathy Komenda and Cathy Haffner) got Emerson his eye operation, shared their homes with him, and helped him find us.

Cathy Komenda wrote last year on May 12: “His adopters were so excited. They could not take their hands off him. He is going to be spoiled rotten.”

He is spoiled rotten. And we haven’t taken our hands off him yet.

Video: Emerson and Remy show off their training.

The Story in Facebook Links

December 30, 2011 Emerson is picked up as a stray in Nash County, NC

December 31, 2011, Emerson is in the shelter and Nash County Animal Friends solicits contributions to help Emerson get rescued and to have his cherry eye fixed. In essence, they created a dowry for him.

January 4, 2012, update on Emerson

January 6, 2013, Emerson is scheduled to be transported to Virginia, rescued by Mutt Love Rescue.

March 18, 2012, Emerson’s cherry eye is fixed and he is offered for adoption by Mutt Love Rescue

May 12, 2012, we meet Emerson and take him home that night