Three years ago this month, my second child was born in a North Georgia ditch. She was sightless and stinky, homeless and heartbreaking. She was, by all accounts, the smallest in her family, which in one day had gone from just swollen-bellied Mom (Dad had long since moved on) to a yelping little Brady Bunch bumping softly into each other. The details are vague, but at some point in the days or weeks that followed, she was plucked from her birth mother, scrubbed clean, and nursed. On a cloudy day in January, she was driven to a PetSmart on Ponce. Through the wire grids of her crate, she watched the shoppers come and go. A few picked her up, but they all put her back down. My wife did not.
My wife named our second child Piglet. The name was inspired by Piglet’s tail, which curled like a helix. Her tail would eventually straighten, but Piglet’s insistence on living up to her name never wavered. On a walk through Grant Park one Sunday in the spring, when she was barely five months old, she was so bloated she waddled. That night just climbing the stairs left her panting. The Internet told us the condition could indicate intestinal twisting, which can be fatal in just a few hours. We raced to an all-night veterinary ER. On the way she vomited in the car. They X-rayed her stomach, put the film up on the light box, and explained what we were seeing: pounds and pounds of dog food. Piglet had discovered where we’d stashed her kibble. The bill was $285. She didn’t need to eat again for three days.
When we brought our third child—our first human—home from the hospital last winter, Piglet had never seen a baby person before. She took a sniff, jumped onto the couch, howled bloody murder, and urinated all over the cushions.
Piglet’s older sister is Sadie. I picked her out from the Atlanta Humane Society. She was so shy she wouldn’t even walk out the door with us; we had to carry her. That was eight years ago. After we adopted Piglet, my wife and I decided that animals in our house should not outnumber people. Now that we have a son, I’ve been making an argument that now is the time for another dog. She says we don’t have the room, and that our attentions are pretty well monopolized right now. She’s right, of course. But still. Reading over this month’s pets feature, I was reminded yet again of the schizophrenic approach we take to pets in the South. The lucky few are spoiled rotten, some others are thoughtlessly overbred, and the vast majority just want to be lucky enough to end up outside a PetSmart, where they have a fighting chance. Our senior editor, Amanda Heckert, compiled a trove of information that begins on page 56, but to me the most important data is found on page 92, where she lists some of the most prominent pet rescue groups in the metro area.
One of those, in fact, was the source of the winner of our cover contest. Dexter Ewok was adopted last spring by Kim Eisenbrandt and her boyfriend, Chris Jacobs, both of Atlanta. As Kim explained it to me, they were scrolling through Atlanta Pet Rescue’s website when Dexter’s furry mug flashed in front of them. That was all it took. Of course, there’s a lot more to it than that, as Piglet can tell you. If only she would talk.
Contact Steve Fennessy at firstname.lastname@example.org