Our sweet dog, Catfish, came to us under some challenging circumstances. Today, we’re looking back on how she became a permanent part of our family exactly one year ago.
In early 2020, under the shadow of a looming global pandemic, we lost our first family dog, Jackson McDogg. He was a strong-willed boy with a serious heart condition that threatened to end his life by the time he was two. But Jack wasn’t a good listener, so he ignored the diagnosis and gave us the better part of 12 years of truly unconditional love. Then one day, his heart grew tired of loving so hard for so long and it finally gave out on him last January.
His slightly younger sister, Chocolate Chunk, was Jack’s constant companion. She was never not by his side. Shortly after Jack passed, the pandemic moved us into full lockdown mode and CC simply lost the will to live without her big brother Jack. Her health turned, then declined rapidly and we said goodbye to that sweet mama in June of 2020.
We. Were. Crushed. Lucy was without a dog for the first time in her life and our hearts and home felt empty in a way they hadn’t for more than a decade. Simply put, if you can avoid losing two family dogs in the span of 5 months during one of the most challenging years in a lifetime, we would strongly recommend you do so.
About a month after we lost CC, we were finally feeling ready to open our home to a dog again. We weren’t prepared to commit to adopting a dog, so it felt like the perfect opportunity for us to foster a pup for the first time. We reached out to our favorite rescue organization, One Tail at a Time, and quickly handled the paperwork to become foster parents.
Later that same week, we got an email from OTAT that a van full of foster dogs was on its way to Chicago from Texas. Among the 35 or so dogs in the van was a pocket pittie named Sweetie Pie that looked like the perfect fit for our little family. We agreed and were ready to welcome her into our home a few days later! This was where things got interesting… Sweetie Pie got adopted the day before the van left Texas, and a One Tail volunteer was tasked with picking a dog to fill her spot based on nothing more than a thumbnail photo! Apparently, Catfish was already stealing hearts back then, because she made the cut and I scooped her up from the quarantine location later that week.
When I picked up Catfish from the One Tail location in our neighborhood, she seemed to trust me instantly. I could see the uncertainty in her eyes and I did my best to reassure her that she was on her way to a safe and loving home. Her tail was tucked and her ears were pinned firmly against her head, but we connected right away. I think we both realized that we needed each other more than we knew.
As the days went on, Catfish opened up to our family. After a few days of silence, we heard her bark for the first time. She became more playful and began to follow Lucy around the house a bit, although she was never far from my side. She and Kim also started to bond, and they quickly found their respective ‘spots’ together on the couch. We nicknamed her Kitty (which I admittedly resisted at first) and she continued to work her way into our little power trio of a family.
As the weeks went on, it was time for us to write Catfish’s adoption bio for potential adopters. Each time we sat down to write the paragraphs, we kept coming up with something along the lines of ‘Whoever adopts this dog has won the dog lottery. She’s literally the best!’ We let the folks at One Tail know that we were on the fence about keeping her and they graciously gave us a bit more time with Kitty to decide if she’d stay with us permanently – but they also let us know that there was a whole line of people who had submitted to adopt her already!
As the pandemic rolled on and quarantine continued to extend again and again, we found ourselves searching for bright spots. Hope. Joy. It took awhile to sink in, but we finally accepted the fact that Kitty brought all of those things to our family and that she was one of us. A Vargo. This sweet, sometimes shy, sometimes silly, incredibly fast (seriously, she’s a blur when she really wants to run), mildly smelly, just the right amount of protective, half herding dog, half bully breed mutt was exactly what our family needed. So (almost) exactly a year ago, we announced that we’d be keeping her!
Catfish compliments our family so well that we couldn’t imagine our lives without her. It was a trying road to get to where we are now, but the decision to keep her was among the best we’ve ever made. After all, we put in the work, welcomed her to her new hometown of Chicago and realized she was exactly what we needed, so why wouldn’t we have allowed ourselves to win the dog lottery?
We know without a doubt that Jack and CC had a hand (paw?) in choosing Kitty for our family. We see them in her every day.
P.S. If you’re considering a new furry family member, it would mean the world to us if you decided to adopt. There are millions of homeless pets in the US that could use a loving place to call home. If you’re in Chicagoland, we believe in the mission of One Tail at a Time and had a wonderful experience fostering (and adopting!) through their organization.
P.P.S. Did you know that we designed the One Tail Adoption Center a few years ago? We also helped to design the lobby of their Behavior Center. We also rescued and refinished that iconic blue couch! To say we’re fans of their work is an understatement!