Since Jane Dog died, the house has felt pretty empty. Our other dog, despite his size, doesn't have the same presence Jane had. He's an affable goof with a bad back. If dogs smoked weed, and he had opposable thumbs, and I could trust him not to set the couch on fire (which I could not), he'd probably sit around all day getting stoned and watching nature videos on youtube.
So we agreed to foster a dog for the local rescue. We've done this in the past, although when we already had two dogs weighing a collective 170 pounds, adding another German Shepherd to the household strained our resources a bit. I don't know if this is true for non-"working" breeds, but two German Shepherds are about four times as much work as one, and taking care of three or more feels like running a small zoo.
So we drove south to pick up "Huckleberry," a half-Shepherd, half-lab (maybe... it's anybody's guess, but morphologically he looks the part), who we'll be caring for, training, and socializing until we find him a new home.
Huck might look like a shepherd, but his temperment doesn't fit the profile. He greeted me by sitting on my feet, leaning back against my legs, and lifting his head, staring balefully into my eyes and practically begging to have his ears rubbed. If you're sitting, he'll squeeze between your knees as if attempting to maximize his body contact, and put his head in your lap. He's one of the sweetest, most trusting dogs I've ever seen.
Everyone who has since met him has predicted that we'll experience "foster failure" and decide to keep him. But within a few hours of picking him up, my wife and I both knew he wasn't ours. He'll make an awesome dog for someone... else.
It's not just that he's so different from Jane. After all, Jane learned, over years, to express affection and transcend her Shepherd reserve. But there was always in her an edge, a sense that she chose to do what she did, and reserved the option to do something else that you wouldn't find nearly as charming. She was complicated. And, although we can't quite explain why, we like our companions complicated. We like a little darkness, difficulty, complexity, chaos. Even our good-natured would-be dope-smoker dog has a quiet presence that reminds us that although we're important fixtures in his world, his world isn't entirely contained in us.
It's kind of a relief. I miss Jane, and this reminds me I'm not ready to dedicate myself to a new dog just yet.