Our sweet dog, Catfish, came to us under some challenging circumstances. Today, we’re looking back on how she became a permanent part of our family exactly one year ago.
In early 2020, under the shadow of a looming global pandemic, we lost our first family dog, Jackson McDogg. He was a strong-willed boy with a serious heart condition that threatened to end his life by the time he was two. But Jack wasn’t a good listener, so he ignored the diagnosis and gave us the better part of 12 years of truly unconditional love. Then one day, his heart grew tired of loving so hard for so long and it finally gave out on him last January.
His slightly younger sister, Chocolate Chunk, was Jack’s constant companion. She was never not by his side. Shortly after Jack passed, the pandemic moved us into full lockdown mode and CC simply lost the will to live without her big brother Jack. Her health turned, then declined rapidly and we said goodbye to that sweet mama in June of 2020.
We. Were. Crushed. Lucy was without a dog for the first time in her life and our hearts and home felt empty in a way they hadn’t for more than a decade. Simply put, if you can avoid losing two family dogs in the span of 5 months during one of the most challenging years in a lifetime, we would strongly recommend you do so.
About a month after we lost CC, we were finally feeling ready to open our home to a dog again. We weren’t prepared to commit to adopting a dog, so it felt like the perfect opportunity for us to foster a pup for the first time. We reached out to our favorite rescue organization, One Tail at a Time, and quickly handled the paperwork to become foster parents.
Later that same week, we got an email from OTAT that a van full of foster dogs was on its way to Chicago from Texas. Among the 35 or so dogs in the van was a pocket pittie named Sweetie Pie that looked like the perfect fit for our little family. We agreed and were ready to welcome her into our home a few days later! This was where things got interesting… Sweetie Pie got adopted the day before the van left Texas, and a One Tail volunteer was tasked with picking a dog to fill her spot based on nothing more than a thumbnail photo! Apparently, Catfish was already stealing hearts back then, because she made the cut and I scooped her up from the quarantine location later that week.
When I picked up Catfish from the One Tail location in our neighborhood, she seemed to trust me instantly. I could see the uncertainty in her eyes and I did my best to reassure her that she was on her way to a safe and loving home. Her tail was tucked and her ears were pinned firmly against her head, but we connected right away. I think we both realized that we needed each other more than we knew.
As the days went on, Catfish opened up to our family. After a few days of silence, we heard her bark for the first time. She became more playful and began to follow Lucy around the house a bit, although she was never far from my side. She and Kim also started to bond, and they quickly found their respective ‘spots’ together on the couch. We nicknamed her Kitty (which I admittedly resisted at first) and she continued to work her way into our little power trio of a family.
As the weeks went on, it was time for us to write Catfish’s adoption bio for potential adopters. Each time we sat down to write the paragraphs, we kept coming up with something along the lines of ‘Whoever adopts this dog has won the dog lottery. She’s literally the best!’ We let the folks at One Tail know that we were on the fence about keeping her and they graciously gave us a bit more time with Kitty to decide if she’d stay with us permanently – but they also let us know that there was a whole line of people who had submitted to adopt her already!
As the pandemic rolled on and quarantine continued to extend again and again, we found ourselves searching for bright spots. Hope. Joy. It took awhile to sink in, but we finally accepted the fact that Kitty brought all of those things to our family and that she was one of us. A Vargo. This sweet, sometimes shy, sometimes silly, incredibly fast (seriously, she’s a blur when she really wants to run), mildly smelly, just the right amount of protective, half herding dog, half bully breed mutt was exactly what our family needed. So (almost) exactly a year ago, we announced that we’d be keeping her!
Catfish compliments our family so well that we couldn’t imagine our lives without her. It was a trying road to get to where we are now, but the decision to keep her was among the best we’ve ever made. After all, we put in the work, welcomed her to her new hometown of Chicago and realized she was exactly what we needed, so why wouldn’t we have allowed ourselves to win the dog lottery?
We know without a doubt that Jack and CC had a hand (paw?) in choosing Kitty for our family. We see them in her every day.
P.S. If you’re considering a new furry family member, it would mean the world to us if you decided to adopt. There are millions of homeless pets in the US that could use a loving place to call home. If you’re in Chicagoland, we believe in the mission of One Tail at a Time and had a wonderful experience fostering (and adopting!) through their organization.
P.P.S. Did you know that we designed the One Tail Adoption Center a few years ago? We also helped to design the lobby of their Behavior Center. We also rescued and refinished that iconic blue couch! To say we’re fans of their work is an understatement!
Catfish is such a sweet girl and adopting is the BEST. Our Birdie is now nearly 14 and we purchased her from a responsible breeder and she’s so loveable and fun. We rescued our Bogey nearly 5 years ago, though, and they have been such different experiences! Our Bogey had a troubled start so has been more work in some ways, but when you get him to know you, trust you, and you’ve worked that hard for it, it’s a fierce fierce love and it’s awesome.
I am so happy for you, and for Kitty.
We welcomed our furry friend almost 1 year ago also!! A friend of mine is a vet anesthetist and called us and said she had a giant orange 12 year old tabby whose 40 year old owner suddenly passed away. She had just performed his anesthesia for his dental cleaning and he needed a home. Hilariously I had told her 3 weeks prior that if she came across a giant orange cat then we would take it! Well the stars aligned and he was absolutely the best thing for our family and every day we hope we are loving him as much as his first owner did! I’m so glad Kitty came into your lives!
Meant to be! Love this.
Beautiful story. ❤️ What a lucky dog!!!
Love, love, love! When you know it’s the right match, you just KNOW. :) I lost my best buddy in March after nine years together. He was a foster fail, too. I’ve fostered two dogs since he passed and will continue to do so until I feel that tug. Rescue work is so needed and shelters have been hit especially hard this year.
Oh, Kelly. Thank you for the wonderful rescue work that you’re doing!
She’s beautiful and this is such a sweet story! I appreciate you being so open about your adoptions – I spoke to Kim on IG recently about adopting my first pup (Olaf!) a couple of months ago and how much I was struggling with the change. We’re both doing much better now, and it’s in huge part due to Kim’s kind words and how openly you’ve spoken about adoption in the past. It’s posts like these that helped me get through what was a much more difficult transition than I was anticipating, so thank you! ❤️
Stacy! Thank you. I’m so happy to hear this, and Olaf is so lucky to have you as a mom.
Kitty and Scott win the “Cutest Couple” award! (sorry Kim!)
It’s okay, I agree with you!????
Just here to say this story makes my heart swell with joy and seeing how perfect kitty fits in your family makes me smile every time. We lost our beloved pet bunny in April 2020 and my best friend/senior dog with a heart condition in June 2020. It was like having phantom limb syndrome when he passed. we were so lost. So your story feels so deeply personal to me. We now have two rescue dogs and our house once again feels whole and filled with love, dog snuggles and laughter. Everyone deserves to find their Catfish when they need it most. ❤️❤️❤️
Thanks for sharing all the daily catfish posts.
I’m so sorry to hear about your loss, Brittany! Describing it as a phantom limb couldn’t be more true. Sometimes I can still feel Jack lean into my legs. I’m so happy you found your own Catfish (plural!)!
We rescued Samson, our Japanese Korean Village dog from the DMT from a shelter in South Korea. He was 2 at the time and had only known fear and trauma. We knew it would be a lot of work, but it has been the most challenging yet rewarding experience. Seeing him experience simple dog joys for the first time has been such a privilege to witness. He has bonded so strongly with our other rescue Eevee. They immediately clicked which was also a huge relief as Eevee is very particular. It’s like she knew what he needed. He is her little shadow and they love each other so much. Although he isn’t your typical, tail wagging cuddly dog, my purpose is to be present for him and to love him as he is and not make him be what he is not. We can’t imagine not having him in our little family ????
Love this, Hannah! Thank you for rescuing and sharing your story!
Catfish, our sweet gal!!!! I loved hearing this backstory. We’ve adopted two Texan pups up to Denver, CO now, and they have made our lives more complete. We have Vivian, a staffordshire pretty pitty baby, who is 10 now (*sob*) and last year we also adopted Korva, a 1 year old plott hound mama dog (*double sob*), unknowingly 2 weeks before the pandemic lockdown. Love you Vargos!
PS can we do another roundup on Instagram stories? Reading all these comments, I want to see your readers’ rescues too!!!
That would be so fun!!
Thank you so much for sharing the story of how Kitty joined your family! I remember the first photos of her on Instagram and she just got so well! Seriously so happy she’s yours and doing all the best, good dog things with her sidekicks!
Jack, and the images you capture of him, always bring a smile to my face. He really does look at the camera! Thanks for the beautiful adoption story. <3
Ugh I’m tearing up reading this, and my heart is so happy hearing more of her story! I remember her popping up in your Instagram last year, with the daily catfish, and then seeing the announcement that she was joining your family. I think it’s so great she found her forever home in you, and you in her!
I love this story❤️❤️❤️❤️
I’m not crying, you’re crying at how happy Kitty looks in the One Tail Family Photo (okay, I’m crying)