Since adopting Winston two years ago, my husband and I have become those people: the ones who flood Instagram with baby photos. Or in our case, puppy photos. Winston on a walk. Winston in the snow. Winston at the dog park, with the little yellow pig toy he stole from a labradoodle named Oliver. (We made him give it back, of course.)
I’ll admit it: The dog even has his own Instagram. He also stars on video there; I recommend “Chariots of Winston,” in which he runs along the beach to the “Chariots of Fire” theme. In another, he’s trying to get his teeth around a potato chip that Dave, my husband, tied to the string of a helium balloon.
Follow Winston on Instagram at @therealwinstogram
Still, all the videos in the world of Winston trying to eat things don’t stack up to my favorite photo – the first one Dave ever took of our goofy, gangly lab mix. Winston is on my lap, waiting to go home from the animal shelter. He’s wearing a cherry-red bandana that pops against his black fur. His ears, too big for his puppy body, are flopping on either side of his head, and his mouth is open, tongue dangling out, as if he’s smiling. I’m beaming, too, a grin so wide my cheeks look like apples. I’m sure that behind the lens, Dave is smiling, too.
We had woken up that morning without a dog and now – poof! – we had a 5-month-old wriggling lab mix. It felt like magic. After finding ourselves at long last in a house with a yard, and jobs that afforded us the money to cover food, toys, treats and vet bills, we had gone to our neighborhood shelter, just to check it out – and suddenly Winston was bounding at us. He was the first dog we saw that day. He came straight over and licked my foot. I was in love.
If this sounds like a typical dog-meets-adopters story, it is. According to the ASPCA, an estimated 1.6 million dogs are adopted from shelters across the country every year. For every Winston, there’s a Polly the collie and a Schultz the bulldog and a Teddy the husky. But it’s the ordinary nature of our experience that makes it extraordinary – that anyone with the space and budget can easily welcome such love into their home is incredible.
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Shortly after we brought Winston home, I made up a song to sing to him at breakfast and dinner. It’s to the tune of “Comedy Tonight” from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, only the words are about dog food. At mealtime I march through the house, my arms pumping, knees thrusting into the air, belting it out. I look ridiculous. He loves it.
Over the last two years, Dave has given Winston approximately 1,000 nicknames, including: Inspector Winston, Snoozers and Tube Dog. The most appropriate, though, might be Cuddle Pup – when this dog decides to snuggle in, he can’t get his body close enough to you.
All we know of Winston’s story before us is that he was picked up on city streets, abandoned as a puppy. Our friends say that he’s lucky we found him, and of course that’s true. It’s wonderful to know that we can provide him with good food, a warm bed and all the tummy rubs in the world. But I know we get the better end of the deal. Winston has inspired Dave and me to go on long, ambling walks that turn into meaningful talks. We’ve made new friends, including neighbors with dogs, fellow owners at the dog park and even the couple who owns the butcher shop down the street, where we get marrow bones for Winston. Our house feels fuller, and happier, with the click-clack of Winston’s paws and jingle of his collar filling the air.
Winston has a white patch on his chest, as if he’s perpetually wearing a tuxedo. I like to think he’s celebrating every day like it’s a special occasion. With him in our family, I certainly am.
I have a second-favorite photo of Winston. In this one, he’s with Dave, sitting up proudly on a bench outside of a local pizza restaurant, with Dave’s arm wrapped around his shoulder. They’re both smiling. On Instagram I captioned it: “My three loves: Dave, Winston and breakfast pizza.”
This October, for Subaru Loves Pets Month, drop off pet supplies at your local Subaru retailer to help shelter pets stay happy and healthy, increasing their chances of finding a safe and loving home.