First-Time Adopter Falls For One-Eyed Pup

Tiggy the Pomeranian dog rescue story for PetSmart Charities

She arrived at our house a sorry sight: malnourished, missing all but four teeth, shaved from the neck down and with an empty socket where her left eye used to be. Chief among the other mysteries of Darla, the rescue dog my family and I were considering adopting that February afternoon four years ago: her age. For all we knew, this thoroughbred Teacup Pomeranian—who weighed no more than five pounds dripping wet, and whose lustrous black and white fur had matted into filthy dreadlocks that had to be cut off because of flea infestation—might have been seven or nine or 11 years old. 


She had no papers. And the dog’s previous owners hadn’t stuck around to explain; they dumped her at the veterinarian when another dog somehow clawed out Darla’s eye. The veterinarian’s girlfriend—my children’s babysitter Kat—begged us to take the poor creature.


The sight of this tiny thing, so needy and vulnerable and hard-put-upon by life, was enough to melt even the hardest resolve. My then 7-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son had been after me for months to get a dog. But none of us had ever adopted a pet before. And I always balked at the additional responsibilities—cleaning up “accidents,” being awakened by midnight howling, long walks after long days at work, etc.—as well as the kind of dog doctor bills others grumble about at dinner parties. 



Tiggy the one-eyed Pomeranian Dog adoption story for PetSmart Charities.jpg



Although everyone wanted a puppy, we nonetheless took in Darla under the proviso that we’d return her after a few days if she was a bad fit. Of course, we never did. Thanks to her toy size and Fifth Avenue-worthy fur coat (which grew back to pouf-ball proportions with startling speed), she looked like a puppy—but with none of the housebreaking, potty training or teething issues that can make young dogs tricky business for little kids.


Upon closer inspection, we realized she was different from other Poms. The breed is known for its boisterous, sometimes yappy demeanor. But she emanated a kind of stillness that bordered on Zen. Pomeranians are, by reputation, curious and alert; Darla remained regal and aloof: a slumming princess fallen on hard times languidly blinking her single eye.


Moreover, she wasn’t really a Darla. In the days before we adopted the dog, Kat—whose primary job is providing voiceover for animated characters—had taken to calling her “Tiggy.” Or to be more precise: Tiggy Tanda Lion Pirate. 


Here’s the kinda-almost bonkers internal logic for Tiggy Tanda Lion Pirate. The “Pirate” part honors her single eye. “Lion” was an allusion to her shaven fur and the remaining mane of leonine hair around the head. “Tanda" because her coloration reminded our babysitter of a panda. (And it rhymes.) Tiggy because, well, the dog ate a lot. Kat initially called her “Piggy.” But that was too harsh. So Tiggy she became.  Yeah, I know.  


The dog accepted her new name with the transformational grace of Stefani Germanotta becoming Lady Gaga. Now, Tiggy is easily the most popular presence in our house. Her signature gestures—a habit of chewing food out of the side of her mouth in the absence of molars, an odd ability to run diagonally rather than forward—triggers peals of laughter. She’s the subject of funny little made-up songs and cartoon portraits, even her own Instagram account (@tiggythedog). And thanks to a certain attachment parenting practiced by my wife, Tiggy sleeps on the bed between us, snoring loudly into the night. 

In her waking hours, she’s not as quiet as she used to be. Perhaps because everything Tiggy does is writ so small, her every movement reverberates through the household in inverse proportion to the amount of space she takes up. Exhibit A: When Tiggy scratches, her back paw hits our hardwood floors with the percussive thunder of a jackhammer. Exhibit B: she eats her dog food with the feral gusto of a Serengeti hyena. These things make us stop and grin but also appreciate how both Tiggy’s personality--and our developing appreciation of her quirks--have blossomed.

The dog has, in fact, evolved into the great unifier of our family. Simply put, our most frequent shared activity is lavishing Tiggy with affection. Plus, she has the unique power to stifle the kids’ incessant bickering just by trotting into the room and looking cute.

Meanwhile, I went from being the most reluctant of dog walkers to treasuring my evening constitutional with Tiggy. It goes like this: I take mental inventory of my life while she does her thing all over my neighbors’ lawns: a timeless ritual between man and beast.


So, who rescued who? Need you ask? After these last years, it would be difficult—nigh impossible—to imagine “us” without her.

Or put another way, Tiggy Tanda was the Lion Pirate who walked the plank into our hearts. 


More on special needs adoptions:


Deaf dogs hear with their hearts

Senior pug proves love never grows old


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