Today is my little Monkey’s birthday. Okay, fine. To be honest, I have no idea when her birthday is. But February 10 is the day we celebrate her special day because this is the day we picked her up from the Fulton County Animal Services shelter in Atlanta and never looked back.
Well, maybe a couple times, but only on days when she’s really annoying. Kidding! Sort of.
After dog sitting as a side-business for a couple years in Chicago and Atlanta, my husband and I finally felt ready (as ready as we’d ever be) to adopt a pup of our own. We started volunteering at Fulton County Animal Services to get to know the dogs and staff there, because frankly, it seemed like the facility in town that was most in need of help.
I’ll be honest here, and it’s a little sad but true…Monkey wasn’t our first choice when we started narrowing down candidates at the shelter. In fact, she was probably about choice #3. One day when we went to the shelter to volunteer, we decided to try their “dog for a day” program, which involved taking a dog out for the day – to your home, the park, pretty much anywhere to give it a shelter break and experience life outside of bars for a little while. We planned to take out a brown and white pup named Brandy for the day but were a little disappointed (and simultaneously relieved) to find that she had already been adopted by the time we arrived. Another small black dog named Otis was also on our potential shortlist, but he had gotten adopted already too.
There was a larger black dog named Sasha that was in the back of our minds too, and Sasha was still there. She was in a cage all by herself, rather than the group cages that most of the dogs were in. She was labeled as a “lab mix,” although she was pretty obviously some kind of pit bull, just like almost every dog in the Atlanta shelter was. We had met Sasha once before and thought she was a little too high energy, a little too nippy, and a little too big for our small apartment with no yard.
But with our top picks already out the door, Sasha became our “dog for a day” companion and we headed for the door together. Sasha had been picked up as a stray in the College Park neighborhood a few weeks earlier after giving puppies. Her nipples still hung to the ground, but her puppies were nowhere to be found.
She was so weak that she couldn’t even jump up into my jeep. I had to lift her. She was so exhausted from the chaos of the shelter that she slept the entire day sleeping on our living room floor. On walks, Sasha was sweet, she never pulled on the leash, and she walked in a fairly straight line. In the house, she never had an accident, never barked, and never got into anything she wasn’t supposed to.
Sounds like a pretty perfect dog after all, right? Maybe it was meant to be!
That’s what we thought, and perhaps Sasha’s first impression wasn’t the best one…or the truest one. So, after weighing all the pros and cons before the shelter’s closing time, we decided that Sasha would join our little family to make three.
On the drive to the shelter to fill out paperwork and make it official, we debated over names to call her. She sure didn’t look like a Sasha…there had to be something better. Aubergine? Obsidian? Olive? Monkey?
We had always toyed around with the idea of having a dog named Monkey. “She kinda looks like a monkey, but she doesn’t ACT like a monkey,” my husband said. He had a point. This pup seemed pretty calm and sleepy, but we liked the name better than anything else so we just stuck with it anyway. Little did we know that she would soon live up to her name and pure nut-baggery would emerge within a matter of weeks!
Monkey’s adoption fee was $14 because the shelter was running a Valentine’s Day adoption special. What a deal, right? Well, that is until you make your first trip to Petco as a new pet parent and drop a couple hundred dollars on all the essentials (and non-essentials): bed, food, treats, leash, collar, tags, toys, shampoo, brush, toothbrush, toothpaste, and later a festive wardrobe too.
Monkey, formerly known as Sasha, settled in quickly and found her groove with two stay-at-home parents who worked full-time remote jobs. She also got a crash course in our traveling lifestyle the very next weekend after being adopted because we had previously planned a weekend camping getaway to St. Augustine, Florida. A few months earlier, we had bought a pop-up camper and wanted to see how well she adjusted to camper life.
If you know how this story ends up, you’d be right in guessing that Monkey adapted to camper life quite well!
In the pop-up camper, she had her very own “big girl bed,” but she was still too weak to jump up onto it. Slowly but surely, we helped Monkey build up her strength by hiking, running, and playing together. Before long, she was strong to the point of beefy, agile to the point of fearless, and her body totally recovered from giving birth and nursing.
***FLASH FORWARD TWO YEARS***
Monkey has been our third partner-in-crime for two years now, and a year and seven months of that time has been spent on the road, living the nomadic life in a camper. A few months ago, we actually sent in a cheek swab for one of those dog DNA tests to learn about her genetic makeup: 50% American Staffordshire Terrier, 12.5% Boxer, 12.5% German Shepherd, 12.5% Chow Chow, and 12.5% “unknown.” As one asshole stranger once put it to us, “Wow, that’s like wrapping all of the undesirable breeds into one dog!” If the DNA test isn’t bogus, there’s no Labrador in her at all!
Life on the road with a pit pull mix, hasn’t always been easy. Campgrounds in certain states (California, Arizona, Colorado) are riddled with discriminatory and unfounded anti-pit bull language in their polices. Meanwhile, other campgrounds’ polices more generally state, “no aggressive breeds,” to which my response about her “breed” is that she’s a rescue mix who’s not aggressive at all. Totally true, and most places don’t press it for more details.
But there are two issues that have come up with dog ownership that I had never anticipated before adopting Monkey that have nothing to do with her breed.
The first issue is the intrusive nature of strangers who refuse to acknowledge dog owners but proceed to bombard their space with open arms to fawn over a dog. Just because a person has a dog doesn’t mean they social at all times. In fact, remote working and nomadic living has taken me beyond the point of introversion and to the verge of reclusive. This is especially problematic when you live your entire life in public places and have a really cute dog that looks like she’s a puppy even though she’s four. Having to fend off unwelcome advances from strangers wanting to meet Monkey is a huge source of anxiety for me. It also defies the stereotypes about pit bulls being big, bad, and scary. I never set out to become a pit bull advocate, but here I am rooting my girl on even when I’d rather hide and be left alone. And Monkey is proof that these dogs are amazing companions, even when they are too social and friendly for their own damn good.
The second big dog drama for me if off-leash dogs in on-leash places. Want to let your dog off-leash? Great! Take it to a dog park, off-leash trail, or your own backyard. Leash laws are in place for a reason: for the safety and comfort of other people and other dogs. She loves every stranger and would love nothing more for each one of them to come up and pet her while she rolls over for a belly rub and licking session. But with other dogs, she is very high energy, and that energy is often off-putting to other dogs, who respond by snipping at her and causing a big ruckus. It’s incredibly unfair to put another dog owner in a position to solely break up a kerfuffle with a strange dog while you lolly-lag half a mile behind calling out, “He’s friendly!”
We do occasionally go to dog parks, but I’ll admit that they stress me out and that I’ve put that activity in my husband’s domain for now. She loves them though.
But I digress. This was supposed to be Monkey’s biography, not a rant about pet owner pet peeves. My bad.
So anyway, Monkey is a healthy and happy four-year-old (or so) and living a dog’s dream…we hope she thinks so anyway. I’ll close with a quick list of the things that I love about Monkey to celebrate her special day and help myself always remember her unique personality that is nutty, sweet, and hilarious.
Things I Love About Monkey
- She does 360-degree twirls on walks (initially super annoying, now a defining characteristic).
- She is very adaptable and can live in a new place every two weeks (I don’t think every dog could do that).
- She is incredibly food motivated (loves meat and I don’t, but that’s okay, I’ll give her a pass).
- She loves to cuddle and put her head on your lap (my favorite bonding time).
- She is an epic hiker and climber (better than me…ugh).
- She has no health problems (yay for affordable vet bills!)
- She isn’t picky about anything (a girl after my own true heart).
- She looks amazing in brightly-colored coats and costumes (fashionista to the max).
- She is so excited to see me every time I come home (no one else will ever be that excited to see me).
- She doesn’t judge me when I’m inebriated (can’t say that for everyone).
- She hangs out every day while I work (best coworker ever).
- I can’t imagine nomadic life without her (it would be so boring).