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The Story of Austin & Zoe

Let me just get it out in the open that I am shamelessly in love with my dogs. I’m certain there are people out there with a higher “crazy dog lady” status than me, but I still hold a pretty good candle. I mean, just look at all that dog hair on my pants in this picture. That’s dog mom status 100%.

Today, I thought I’d tell you the story of how we ended up with Austin and Zoe, a very unlikely pair. I always joke that they are the epitome of “mutt and jeff.” You couldn’t find two more opposite dogs and yet they’ve both ended up living under one roof. They are so different that we joke when people come to visit that everyone “has a favorite.” And, it’s true. People either LOVE Austin or LOVE Zoe. I think it says some underlying thing about the person, depending which they like, but I’m not ready to get that psychological with you on Monday morning.

So, here’s the story of Austin and Zoe.

Austin

Michael and I moved into our first place together in 2006 about a month after I graduated from high school. I’d grown up with dogs and was beside myself that we weren’t able to find an apartment in our price range with a dog policy. Michael assured me it’d only be for one year, and I obliged. About two months later I was dog deprived. I quickly came to the realization that couldn’t live another 10 months without a dog there to greet me when I got home. I’d probably die. No, I’d certainly die.

And that’s how I found myself, about a month later, sneaking Austin up and down the apartment elevator in a small purse.

Rewind to how we decided on Austin. We knew we needed a small dog when we went to get Austin. We were bound to be in apartments for a few years considering I was in college and Michael was the only one making income in his first out-of-college job. We happened upon Austin by accident when inquiring about Maltese puppy from a breeder. After he talked with us he candidly replied, “I don’t think a Maltese is the right breed for you.” He went on to explain that a friend of his had a Papillon who had just had a litter of two puppies. His friend wasn’t a breeder and had asked him to help setup the sale of the puppies. I had never heard about Papillons but one look at a picture of Austin and it was hook, line, sinker. He was so fluffy I actually could have died – I know a lot of close death encounters in today’s story. Plus, what more does an 18-year-old girl want than the fluffiest puppy in the world?

A little research later we learned that Papillons were highly intelligent, very active, and extremely affectionate to both family and strangers. As a young couple always on the go, it sounded like the right match for us. It took us about 24 hours to agree that Austin had to be ours and a few days later the breeder was setting up transport.

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Austin arrived about a week later and has spent the last 11 years wrapping us around his finger.

He’s everything that the breed said he’d be. Austin is obnoxiously intelligent. So much so that you can see him calculating his options in every aspect of life. When you put down a treat for him and Zoe he makes sure to check both and choose the largest. When you ask him to “come,” he stops and looks at you first, deciding if giving up whatever he is doing is worth getting in trouble for not coming. He’s also very active. He’s taken his little 8lb body on regular 5-mile walks, hiked up mountains, swam in lakes, and carried sticks twice his size.

He’s strong-willed and determined. I joke that if you met just Austin you’d assume I was the worst dog parent in the entire world because he’s constantly getting into trouble or causing a scene. But, luckily, we have Zoe to prove to people I am, in fact, not the worst dog owner in the world…

Zoe

In 2008 Michael and I moved out of the apartment life and into a rental house. The larger space and real backyard had us thinking maybe it was time to grow the family a little bigger with a new addition. Austin was very social and loved playing with other dogs, so we figured a new companion for him would be right.

We found ourselves at the local Humane Society one Saturday afternoon when we saw Zoe. She was about 11 weeks old and the last puppy of her litter left at the shelter. She was quiet compared to most of the dogs there but was wagging her tail every time someone walked past her kennel. After a mandatory meet-n-greet with Austin, the shelter let us sign the papers and take her home.

From the minute we took Zoe home, we saw the stark difference between her and Austin. The first time Zoe did something naughty I scolded her how I would Austin – with a soft tap on the nose and a very stern “no! bad dog!” An hour later I realized I didn’t know where Zoe was. I found her sulking behind a big easy chair. When I scolded Austin he got over it in about 5 seconds, but Zoe was so much more sensitive.

She has been that way ever since. She hates loud noises, doesn’t like playing with overly-energetic dogs, and could cuddle for hours. I never had to teach Zoe a single thing in all the time I have had her. Anything you ask Zoe to do, she’ll do it. “Come!” is her favorite command. Her only goal in life is to make sure that I’m happy and I love her. When I walk in the door she acts as if I’ve been gone for years. When I wake up in the morning she’s there, head gently laid on the bed looking at me. You can almost hear her saying, “good morning, I love you, life is the best!” When she wags her tail in wags in big, huge circles, knocking out anything in its path. Give her a walk and a squeaky toy and she’s content for life. She’s endlessly optimistic and the most loyal dog I’ve ever met.

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People always ask me, “do they get along?” To which I have to respond, “yes,” however, it’s not always a one-way street. Zoe loves Austin more than he loves her, but that’s just because Zoe is a lover. But, even though Austin doesn’t want anyone to know, he likes Zoe too. When you least expect and aren’t looking, you’ll find him cuddled up to her.

And though I’m sure he doesn’t know it or remember it, but Austin actually owes his life to Zoe. When we lived in Maine I had them off leash at a local beach one day. The beaches around there were always off leash and we were there every few days. We saw two Golden Retrievers coming towards us and I didn’t think anything of it. We’d never encountered any mean dogs on this beach, and they were Golden Retrievers after all!

My dogs ran up to say hello when one of the Golden Retrievers plopped down and grabbed Austin’s leg in his mouth. The second dog then grabbed at Austin’s neck. Once I understood what was happening and started running forward but they were at least 500 feet away. I wouldn’t be able to make it there in time. That is when Zoe jumped in knocking the first dog off Austin and scaring the second one off. I think it’s the only time I’ve ever seen her show her teeth like that. Austin suffered a cut up his back leg, but besides that walked away OK.

Two days later those same two dogs were impounded for attacking and killing a small dog in their neighborhood. Had Zoe not been there, I’m quite certain that would have been Austin.

And that’s the story of Austin and Zoe. It’s how I ended up with the two most unlikely pals. I love how different my dogs are because of the different things they bring me. Austin has taught me patience (my future children will thank him) and makes me laugh almost every day. Zoe has taught me to slow down in life and make time for long walks and to appreciate the little things.

Austin and Zoe were nice enough to help me out in this week’s YouTube video if you want to see these two in action. I found a list of “life hacks that dog owners should know” and tried them out. There were some winners in there I’ve actually implemented since, but also a few losers.