Juna grew up on the mean streets, enrolling in a prestigious art school but always hoping to pursue her dream of becoming a street dancer. She found it difficult to adapt, joining forces with the hottest dancer in the school and finally blending her old life with her new, leading them to the title of best underground dance crew.
Actually, that’s the plot line of ‘Step Up 2: The Streets’. And I can’t take credit for that summary – I found it online. Juna’s story is much more interesting. So, where did Juna come from? And how did she end up with us? And why does she have extra toes on her back feet?
Houston is well known for a lot of things, one of which is our rampant stray dog problem. These dogs did nothing to deserve it, often being ‘adopted’ and later kicked out of their homes because they were a) too rambunctious (have you met puppies?), b) too big (you bought a mastiff – duh), or c) the owner* decided that they just didn’t want them anymore. Take one part dog kicked out of house, mix two parts people not spaying or neutering their pets, and – bam – you have a recipe for thousands of stray dogs who need homes.
When Zach and I decided to get a dog, we also decided we wanted to adopt. You can find any and all breed of dog, from mutt to purebred, available at shelters and we were ready to take the leap. That is, until I saw the pictures from the shelter. Rows and rows of dogs for you to walk by and look at and talk to and choose from and take home.
Except, you only bring one home. And you leave the rest of them behind. And it kills you inside every day.
I couldn’t do it.
Thankfully, because of our stray dog issue, Houston is also home to a number of amazing rescue groups. These groups pull dogs from shelters or set up foster families for the pups while they wait for their forever home. There are also amazing individuals finding dogs and bringing them into their homes, and that’s where Juna’s story begins.
Juna was found as a puppy at a park in Houston. The park was close to the shelter and a friend of a friend was there feeding the dogs who called the park home. A person that has officially secured their place in hell pulled up and started pushing Juna out of their car into the park, planning to dump her and drive away, no questions asked. Instead, this friend of a friend took Juna in (after saying some choice words to the previous owner*) and started the process to find her a home. Juna made her way from this savior to our friend, Kait, who fixed her up and loved her for months while puppies were just a twinkle in Zach and my eyes.
In June of 2013, Zach opened his gym, RawHide CrossFit, while we were living in our apartment. We had been talking about a dog for a while, and we both knew that a gym dog was something that would really cap off the box. I called Kait, told her what we were looking for, and she brought two prospects to meet us – Tucker, an amazing black pit mix, and our future love bug, Juna. Tucker was smart – he loved to play but could relax to. He rarely wore a leash but would come when called and wouldn’t run off even in the huge open space in front of the gym.
Juna, on the other hand, was a total weirdo. She was complete puppy when we met her, floppy and sweet and not too bright. There was something about her from the moment we met her that just said ‘ours’, though, and when we took her home that night to trial her out for the weekend, Zach looked at me and said ‘this dog isn’t going back, is she”? Nope. She sure wasn’t.
The first two weeks were rough. Juna was afraid of everything – she barked at the dishwasher every 30 seconds like clockwork and wouldn’t walk down stairs she couldn’t see the bottom of because she thought she was going to fall off. She only ate one pair of shoes – just one, but of course it was the one pair of shoes I had bought while studying abroad in Europe. She ate a puzzle once, too – well, less of ate and more of threw around the house while we were at dinner by grabbing the box and doing her best head shake.
I was finding puzzle pieces for months.
But, after those two weeks, it was like something clicked. She had always been sweet but she became even sweeter to us. She gave in to my forced snuggles and even started snuggling back. She loved going to the gym, sitting inches away from hundreds of pounds of weights and often having to be reminded not to lick someone’s deadlift bar. Slowly but surely, she grew more confident in her surroundings and we were even able to let her off the leash without fear of her running off.
These days, Juna loves laying around the house and sleeping in the middle of our king sized bed. She is loving and caring and has started protecting Jackson like her own. I always knew she would grow to be good with Jackson, but I have to admit that I was surprised to see how amazing she was with him off the bat – gentle, calm, and loving.
And as for her toes, we have no idea. She has double duclaws on her back feet, also known as her bat wings, and they are just one of the many things that makes Juna our Junebugs.
*Also known as an asshole.