The Unexpected Companion I Never Knew I Needed

I know. It was in a moment of weakness. I'd been looking at his picture for a month, but still...

We have two large dogs that live outside -- they get overheated quickly and feel trapped when they're inside. They've been with us for years and are part of our family. Several cats live here too, also outside due to my allergies and because they, too, feel hemmed in. Our children are grown and gone, we're in our 50s and moving a bit more slowly, and the house is quiet.

Maybe too quiet.

I love quiet. I really, really love quiet. And cleanliness, and order ... all the things I didn't have much when we had kids at home. We loved raising our children and being involved in their activities, but now we're in a different chapter and the quiet is pretty nice. And so, of course, I looked at the local shelter's Adoptable Dogs page.

I determined I would just look. Nothing would happen and no particular dog would catch my eye. Just ... looking. That's all. But that little face...

Darn it.

He was a mess -- his coat was horrendously overgrown, he was dirty, his cage was small, and he had some of the saddest eyes I've ever seen on a dog. He wasn't large -- a terrier mix of some kind, as close as I could tell, and scruffy head to toe. Oh, and he was missing a leg.

I lurked for a few weeks, hoping no one would take him home while, at the same time, hoping I could stop looking at his picture. Someone at the shelter had typed up a little biography about him, but it was pathetically short on information. No one knew his name, why his leg had been amputated, or any of his previous history. He had clearly had a rough life, but nobody knew the extent of the damage physically or psychologically.

I couldn't stand it. One day I picked up my car keys and just drove -- drove to the shelter and to what I hoped wouldn't be a new chapter in our lives. I chose two dogs to meet, both with major obstacles in their lives, so I could tell myself I was being fair. Somehow that worked out in my mind.

First up was a gorgeous white dog people came to the shelter simply to view -- he was that beautiful. Totally blind, but absolutely stunning. I marveled at his coat and overall look, and appreciated how he was managing as a completely blind dog. And I felt ... nothing. I spent a few minutes with him and knew for certain he wasn't the one.

Is there a One? Do we talk ourselves into that notion so we can justify our actions? Or are some things destined in some way? I'm totally nonspiritual, so I'm still working these types of things out. But, on that day, as much as I admired that lovely dog, I knew he belonged with someone else. The blindness meant nothing -- I am home all the time and am well prepared to care for an animal with challenges. But, he wasn't mine.

They led him out and brought ... well, kind of dragged ... a terrified ball of fur into the tiny meeting room. He crawled into the corners of the room and made almost no contact with me. I spent time quietly talking with him while I also conversed with the shelter worker. I watched him and my heart broke -- his leg had been removed so recently he was still recovering, and his stitches had only just dissolved after the surgery. It was cold outside, but the staff member suggested we might do better in one of the larger runs out back. I quickly agreed and shrugged on my coat.

As we headed that direction we passed a row of cages with dogs in each one, all barking madly, desperate for attention. This little bag of scruff hopped along, paying no mind to the much larger and more intimidating animals. He was wearing a little dog sweater fashioned like a rabbit, complete with pink ears. He looked at the same time brave, but slightly pathetic. We spent time in that outside run, in the cold, and, as the staff worker turned away from him so he had to come to me for comfort, we began to understand each other. He could tell he would be safe, finally, and I could tell ... well, darn it.

After he met my husband (and turned his back to us, pushing his face into the wall in order to hide) and our granddaughter, to gauge his behavior around children, we brought him home. The sweater was quickly shed and he was soon groomed properly. He didn't eat for days and hid in the back hall, but, over time, he began to trust us. He ate. He filled out. He got his shots, his own blankets, his own toys and bones...

I know.

The house isn't quiet all the time any more now. He's funny and incredibly loving, and he's loyal to a fault. He had no idea how to play, so we have had to teach him what toys are for and that playing with things doesn't mean he's in trouble. He has also learned that no one will hurt him ever again. He's a little guy, but thinks he's huge. He even has his own Facebook page.

Sometimes he's on my last nerve. He hates it when I work in my home office because he can't see what's going on in the rest of the house, so he's learned to fake needing a potty break, barks when no one is at the door, and sometimes pretends to have an asthma attack so I worry about his possible demise. He's bossy when wanting attention and sheds all over everything. Sometimes we laugh, all the time we give him loves and kisses, and occasionally we shake our heads and wonder what in the world we were thinking.

And we wouldn't have it any other way.

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