This will be the first post in a series called Journey with Julius, all about life with our adopted mutt.

It’s hard to say what inspired us to get a dog in the first place. It’s a feeling I have felt before, as a young second grader answering every question with “A dog.” This was my answer to “Do you want anything from the grocery store?” “Can I get you anything?” “What do you want for Christmas?” and every question in between. Finally my dreams were realized as my family got a Golden Retriever puppy on my tenth birthday.

That was a milestone in my life in many ways, but perhaps most importantly it taught me two fundamental things:

1- No matter how many promises you make beforehand, Mom always winds up taking care of the dog

2-Dogs are awesome!

Naturally as James and I started our search for our first dog, the second of those fundamentals was the resounding theme, with #1 coming in more as a whispering, nagging side note.

We started looking online for adoptable dogs in the area. Let me just say that, though a wonderful site, should also come with a message of DANGER DANGER DANGER! If you didn’t want a pup before, you will want one after perusing page after page after page of adorable, adoptable, available dogs! Many of them already trained, spayed/neutered, and inexpensive. I’m telling you, it will totally fuel even the tiniest flame.

We knew we wanted something between the ages of 1-3 (no puppy duty for us) and leaned towards a German Shepherd. This is because neither of us had ever come in contact with an adult German Shepherd. Also because there is a cute one in the movie I Am Legend.

(To be fair, we did our homework and the real reason we wanted a German Shepherd is because of their loyalty and guarding instincts, and we wanted a larger dog.)

So we picked out our first shelter, out in Lebanon County, about an hour’s drive from our fair city. It was a fun road trip. Our main intent was to check out a gorgeous purebred German Shepherd up for adoption there.

This shelter wasn’t really what I had expected. Among other things, this shelter is less than professional. It is out in the boondocks and let’s say friendliness and customer service are not high up on the priority list. We were led back to the cages by an underwhelmed fellow missing a few front teeth. No, I am not making this up.

Anyway, we head back to a deafening corridor of cages filled with everything from pit bulls to dalmatians to pomeranians. There was this one pit bull there who could jump about 5 feet in the air, literally! There was also a psycho mutt that looked like it would devour your legs if given the chance. Of course there are also the Depressing Ones, also known as the age 7+ crowd. These grey-faced elders merely raised their droopy eyes to meet your gaze, and that’s about the height of their excitement.

So we reach the very end of the corridor and there it is. The Giant Monster Dog. Barking her head off and almost breaking the cage down. Her name was Shasta. She was the purebred German Shepherd.

And she was CRAZY.

Hoping for the best, we took her out of the cage and leashed her up. Um, ok. Remember the part where I said “never came in contact with an adult German Shepherd???” Good. Because that part is important.

Shasta writhed around and whined and pulled and was altogether uncontrollable. Seriously, aside from a friend’s Great Dane and a Newfoundland at our honeymoon campsite, this was the biggest dog I had ever met. My wedding gifts and sundry other items were smashed to smithereens in my mind’s eye as I just imagined this beast sharing our small-but-not-tiny living space.

So, not for us.

Then walking back through the corridor, a smaller fellow caught our eye. He was a unique looking German Shepherd mix. Unlike the other high-energy dogs participating in the kennel-wide Persistent Bark Contest, this guy just sat down calmly as we stood in front of his cage. His tail swished the floor in a gentle wag as he let out one straightforward bark. It was just like saying hello. His name, at the time, was Patch.

We decided to squeeze some more purpose out of our hour-long drive and took him out for a walk. We walked along a wooded path to this great fenced-in field on the property. He did ok on the leash; not pulling but not really heeling either. He seemed to respond well to correction.

The first few things we noticed about Patch were as follows:

-Not affectionate (didn’t even sniff us until 20 mins later)

-A talker (moans and grumbles and grunts when petted)

-Perfect size for our home

-Pretty dang cute

As for the things we didn’t notice, well, you’ll just have to stick around for that part of the journey.

to be continued….