Connecting the clues to reconstruct a doggy backstory

We adopted our dog Penny two years ago. My husband and I wanted a puppy of our own, but the thought of puddle-stained carpets and Jimmy Chews poisoned all the cuteness of that idea. A 2-year-old pooch suited us much better, we decided.

As it turned out, the adoption process was nothing like Angelina Jolie promised us it would be. There were no quick trips to foreign countries via private jets and no celebrity magazines offering millions for the first shot of our little one. And, at least in our case, there was no backstory on our new family member, either. Luckily, we have healthy imaginations. In the couple of years we’ve had Penny, my husband and I have connected enough hypothetical dots to write her complete biography.

It all started with her nipples.

Our new dog’s teats resembled little deflated balloons when we brought her home. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the kind of problem a little underwire could solve. Apparently, she breast-fed pups before her adoption. If you’re doing the math then you’re probably experiencing a mild version of our shock at the time. In dog years, she was a mere 14 years old. Penny could have very well starred in an Animal Planet “Teen Mom” series.

We couldn’t believe she got knocked up at such a young age. Timid little Penny wouldn’t even look us in the eyes for the first 11 days we had her. How does a dog like that wind up with multiples before high school?

That led us to our second conclusion. A corrupt canine clearly forced himself on our precious little Penny. We’re guessing a Jack Russell terrier type. Ya know, the kind of dog with zero boundaries. It was probably a doggie park date rape situation, but we couldn’t be sure.

The more comfortable she got with us, though, the more we saw a different side to Penny. It got to the point where she’d sit, waiting for us to make eye contact with her. The second our eyes met hers, she’d lay flat on her back, legs spread-eagle. Sometimes panting was involved. She wasted no time getting to the point.

It’s hard to admit your little girl is a teen mom, but it’s even harder to admit she’s a shameless trollop. So we did what all parents in that situation do. We denied it. Until an older dog visited us and we discovered Penny in his bed late one night. Then we went back to her story and made a few edits.

It was still a corrupt Jack Russell terrier who got her in trouble, but it may have been Penny who forced herself on him, not vice versa. That’s all anyone needs to know about that part of her biography. On with the story.

The shelter identified her as a beagle-mix. Her floppy ears and curious nose confirmed as much, but the “mix” part could’ve been anything. Her blond hair had vets guessing her biological mother was a gregarious yellow lab. Some suspected she was a striking cocker spaniel. We watched an episode of “Dogs 101” and knew without a doubt her biological mother was a graceful Olympic runner with a phobia for rain and a penchant for sleep, also known as an Italian greyhound. How a classy lady like that got tangled up with her lazy biological beagle father is a mystery, but it must have been a tumultuous relationship.

That’s the only explanation for Penny’s refusal to speak. We’ve heard our dog bark only a handful of times. Obviously, her dad’s howling did a real number on her. Like many traumatized teens, she rebelled and wound up with a whole rack of buns in the oven. Low self-esteem led her to think sex was the only way to get attention, so she threw herself at male dogs at the park and at least one older gentleman, too.

Makes perfect sense, right?

To be sure, I contacted the shelter recently and asked if they could check her records one more time. Maybe there was a file or a phone call providing some small detail into her background. It took a whole weekend to hear back from them. In that time I wondered how many parallels our well-drawn, almost-scientific conclusions would have with her real biography.

She was rescued, they told me, from another shelter. No records were provided.

Good, I thought. Her proud adopted parents know everything we need to know about Penny, the teen mom who turned her life around and now lives as an independent 28-year-old woman.

Contact columnist Xazmin Garza at or 702-383-0477.
Follow her on Twitter @startswithanx.

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