Debbie Johnson is a public relations professional and writer. She and Henry Aaron can often be found walking in their south St. Louis neighborhood.
I had been living in my new house for only a few days when I decided to adopt a puppy. After years of living in apartments, I finally had a home with a yard that was perfect for a dog. I found him on the Stray Rescue website. He was four months old and named Roberto. I knew Roberto was "my" dog the moment I saw his face. He was golden, with big brown eyes and ears that stuck out just a tiny bit. I decided to submit the adoption application.
I was nervous when I walked up to the tiny group gathered in front of the pet store at the adoption event. A volunteer took me around to the side of the building where Donna, Roberto's foster mom, was standing with three golden puppies.
I noticed two things about Roberto: his paws were huge, and his photo on the website was obviously old. He was much bigger in person. The volunteer introduced me to Donna. This was the beginning of some of the most intense three hours of my life.
Donna grilled me as if I were adopting a child. I answered every question she threw at me while trying to get this shy dog to like me. I must have passed her test because she agreed to bring Roberto over to my house the next day for a home visit.
My first night with Roberto was a blur, but I remember the next morning well. I put Roberto into the crate Donna loaned me, and he whined and cried. I knew nothing about crate training and felt sorry for him, so I decided to let him out. I left him and drove to work and hoped my neighbors didn't hear him barking.
I had been at the office for a few minutes when I got a bad feeling and decided to return home. The first thing I noticed when I pulled in front of my house was two of my blinds were missing. When I opened the door, I discovered a scared puppy, chewed up blinds and vomit. I soothed Roberto, put him back in the crate, cleaned up the mess, went back to work and researched crate training. I also bought new blinds.
Three days went by before Donna finally called to check on us. By then, I knew Roberto was staying. So did she. He also had a new name. I love baseball, and Henry Aaron was in the news that year because Barry Bonds was closing in on his home run record. I always admired Henry Aaron, and I thought my new puppy looked like a Henry. So, Roberto became Henry Aaron.
It's been three years since I adopted Henry Aaron. His ears still stick out just a bit, but the shyness is gone, replaced by an infectious grin and a protective nature if he thinks someone is going to hurt me or try to enter our house. He has brought countless hours of joy and unconditional love into my life. I cannot imagine life without him.