I was nervous about the home interview.
I’ve never been much at housekeeping. My ex kept our place as nice as it was. Without him my clutter mounted steadily although the incremental accruals remained invisible—at least invisible to me. My apartment began to remind me of that book The World Without Us which details what would happen to our planet if humans weren’t around.
On a daily basis I was seeing what my world was becoming without Stuart.
What’s more: just as I started the adoption process I arranged to have my apartment painted. It was long overdue. It felt like the right move. A clean slate. All new colors. A fresh palette. The start of a new lease on life. Something a grown-up would do.
I’d engaged an excellent firm—Precision Painting—but their team was so speedily efficient they were managing to paint the entire apartment, an Upper West Side classic six, all at once. Furniture and my every possession had been pushed to the center of each room, then hermetically sealed in protective plastic wrap. There was nowhere to sit. Nowhere to sleep. The first night I tore a hole in the wrap around my bed, cleared a narrow, crescent-shaped space for myself, and curled into it.
I felt like a pupa inside a chrysalis. Maybe I’d metamorphose through the night and emerge a new me. A more capable me. A more practical me. A more desirable me. But in the morning it was just same old me I woke up to, same old me who held my gaze in my bathroom mirror, full of unspoken recriminations. No need to repeat them to me.
My apartment was not going to impress any representative of Second Chance Rescue. I tried to put the interview off. But Holly, Second Chance’s adoptions team leader, assured me there would be no painting demerits. She encouraged me to keep the process moving. There was always the chance that Lulu-Belle—still Arabella—could be adopted by someone else.
I realized then that the painting could be my cover. Whose place wouldn’t look like a cluttered mess in the middle of having every vertical surface painted? I would be presumed innocent, not guilty. Given the benefit of the doubt. This wasn’t the worst time for a home interview; it was absolutely ideal.
I gleaned something else from Holly. Although billed as a “home” interview, even more than getting a look at my apartment, this evaluation was about getting a look at me.
The interview was scheduled for a Sunday morning. Em, my interviewer, turned out to be an attractive Swede with a long history of heart-stopping dog rescues. She hadn’t gotten her current rescue from Second Chance; she’d found him chained to a pole in Upper Manhattan and had cut him loose herself.
We settled in a corner of my kitchen, knee-to-knee in chairs I’d liberated from plastic. Sean, Precision Painting’s supervisor, surprised me mid-interview by turning up. I’d confided my concerns in him and—as he later explained—he’d dropped by to back my story up, as if all the plastic, bare walls, and smell of fresh paint could have been a ruse. From the hall in an overly loud voice he ticked off key points of Precision’s painting schedule, emphasizing that my place would soon be back to normal.
His “normal” sounded better than my apartment actually ever had been.
Hazel, my Frenchie, sat placidly at my feet. Like Sean, she seemed intent on doing everything in her power to help this interview go well.
By any measure I could think of, it did. Em seemed to like me. She smiled a lot and was fully engaged in our conversation. She drank the coffee I poured for her and nodded encouragingly at my answers to her questions.
Em said that I would hear from Second Chance in about a week. As she headed out the door she turned to me and flashed her dazzling smile. “You wait and see,” she told me, “There’s nothing like a rescue. This dog will change your life.”
A thrill of adrenaline surged through me as I realized how appealing a life-changer sounded. And it was only days away.
Em’s timeframe didn’t deter me from checking my email every few hours. Several days after the interview I had to go to my native Philadelphia where I have a sweet little weekend house that I’d purchased to be closer to my ageing parents. I had some business to attend to regarding it that had to be handled in person.
My Philly house was chapters ahead of my New York apartment as far as The World Without Us goes. Going there only every weekend or so didn’t give me much time to attend to housekeeping—and yard work—even if I was so inclined. Unlike the clutter in my apartment, the weeds in my yard accrued very appreciably from week to week. It was no mystery.
As soon as I parked in front of my beloved home away from home—around 11:00 on a Tuesday night—I checked my email. There it was: the long-awaited message from Second Chance Rescue. Finally! I smiled, took a deep breath—the better to savor the moment—and clicked the email open.
It was a form rejection.
Thank you for your interest in adopting a dog through Second Chance Rescue NYC.
Unfortunately, at this time we are unable to approve your application. We have strict guidelines that must be met to ensure the dogs we place in new homes are given every possible chance of a successful future. . . .
I couldn’t maintain a relationship. I couldn’t maintain an apartment or house. And apparently—as far as Second Chance Rescue was concerned—I wasn’t fit to adopt a blind, homeless mutt.