When I first saw a Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier, I was very depressed and walking home from work in New York City. Struggling with the after effects of a trauma that I just couldn't shake, I lived every day in a fog, disconnected from myself and the world and trying to fake wellness so that everyone would think I was okay. As I came to a street corner, a man was leaning against a brownstone building talking on his cell phone. At his feet sat the most adorable creature I'd ever seen. My dark mood immediately experienced a shock of light.
With honey-blond hair that hung long and fluffy over her eyes, at first all I could see of Maggie's face was her black nose and Pink tongue that seemed to peek out of a smiling mouth. She simultaneously reminded me of the dog in the Orphan Annie cartoon and a stuffed animal I had loved from FAO Schwarz. Exuding a barely contained energy, playful wiggle and a joyful spirit, Maggie seemed excited to see me. I dropped to my knees and she moved in to take a good look at my face. And that's when it happened: The hair covering Maggie's eyes shifted. Suddenly, I could see two big Hershey chocolate brown orbs looking at me with more human emotion than I'd ever seen in a canine (and, actually, in many humans). I was smitten.
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When he got off the phone the man would not agree to give me Maggie right then and there, so I went on a search for a Wheaten of my very own. For months I accosted every Wheaten owner I spotted on the street. Day or night, in parks or on avenues, I dropped to my knees to meet every Wheaten eye to eye. I asked about temperament (sweet, sometimes a little hyper, often stubborn), shedding (they don't), medical conditions (a few) and training (pretty easy since they're incredibly smart). I demanded the names and numbers of breeders no matter how near or far.
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As it turns out, Wheaten Terriers are not easy to obtain. Wait lists can be as long as two years. I contacted breeders in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut to no avail. Finally, I stumbled upon a breeder in Sag Harbor, on the easternmost tip of Long Island. I called, expecting to be put on yet another wait list. But no, the breeder had a litter of puppies just weaned. She asked me a litany of questions about the kind of home I would supply one of her dogs. She wanted to know about my lifestyle, family and reasons for wanting a pet. We had an hourlong conversation. By the end, the breeder and I were fast friends. The puppies, she admitted, were spoken for, but she had such a good feeling about me she was willing for me to come to her house the day before the puppies were being picked up so that I could choose which one was for me.
A few days later my parents and I made the four hour drive to Sag Harbor where I sat on the floor of the breeder's house as she brought out the puppies one at a time. The first and second were females and they leaped around, running after toys, nipping at my hair, and struggling to be free when I held them. Then, from across the room, the breeder set a male puppy on the floor. His tiny brown and black body raced toward me. He ducked under my arm, climbed into my lap and sat down, curling his tiny form against me. "This one's mine!" I announced.