Friday night at Longleaf, deep in the pine woods. I sit on butter yellow sheets in a black T-shirt, laptop on its Dexia Rack, heat lightning flashing. Maggie snores in duet with Andrea Boccelli whose soulful Italian is accompanied by the London Symphony Orchestra straight to my brain stem via tiny earplugs.
Thunder has awakened Maggie. She moves closer to the bed, bumping her nose under my resting left hand. The girl knows how to find comfort.
The dog days of July have brought two stories to our heart: the horrendous allegations of animal cruelty and murder against Atlanta Falcons football player Michael Vick and a happy ending for one young stray pup.
Each time I start to hear a replay or further details about the Vick dog-fighting, torture and murder story, I mute the volume and leave the room.
The parallels are a keen reminder of war zones, despots, parents who maim and kill their children, or ridicule them into emotional paralysis and all the other acts of viciousness we humans inflict upon one another.
Perhaps these larger painful considerations help explain why I suffered so over this one small stray pup who appeared at our door hungry, engaging, and full of life.
I called neighbors to see if anyone had lost a puppy, but in my heart of hearts I knew he had most likely been thrown or dropped near our property, maybe even with litter mates. God only knows.
Buck and I talked about keeping him. I had to finally acknowledge some truth to myself: I didn’t want to commit to caring for another life for 15 years; to being responsible for his safety and well-being. There it was. I felt a blackness come over me at the bald truth of it. And I felt lost.
I wrote emails to friends and family. One was interested, but found out he had to have shoulder surgery and a growing pup with big feet was not the medicine for him at this time.
There’s an organization in town called the Pensacola Dog Owners Association. I put a notice about Deeno on their online message board.
I called the Humane Society. They are the only “no kill” facility in our town. They have been full for a long time. I left phone messages offering to provide stipends for Deeno’s support for life, if necessary. They never called me back and who can blame them? I can only imagine the calls they get.
Dialing the phone with trembling fingers, I spoke to a kind but firm woman at the animal shelter. She explained they are required by law to quarantine an animal for five days to be sure they are not sick. Then they are “evaluated” and a decision is made as to their suitability to be offered for adoption. Stray animals can be brought to the shelter between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. After hours, there is a dog box, but she cautioned me that it is best to come during their regular hours, since the box “gets full.” I wanted to hang up the phone and put plugs in my ears to stop her voice.
She asked if I wanted to schedule a pick-up and explained that for citizens reporting a stray animal there was no pick-up charge but for owners who wanted their own animal taken away, a fee applied.
I said, “No, thank you. I am going to continue trying to find a home for this little fellow. He really has a lot to offer someone.” She bade me good luck in my quest and hung up.
The weekend was approaching, and I decided to try a bolder approach:
Black Lab-Mix Puppy. Healthy, friendly, partially trained six months old puppy needs good home. Great family dog! (photos online) $50.00. (I had no intention of collecting the $50.00, but thought if we put a monetary value on Deeno, we might be more likely to get a taker.)
The ad appeared in last Sunday’s newspaper. Buck and I hadn’t been to communion at our Episcopal parish lately, but decided to go that morning.
I believe in a Creator, but am unsure of whether the Creator is a personal God who still gets involved in the creation. Prayers for things like good weather, improved health, the redemption of wayward relatives, and so forth, has always seemed like God shrinkage and unseemly as well as ineffectual.
Nonetheless, I was on my knees Sunday morning in church, praying to God about Deeno. “Thank you for sending Deeno to me. I don’t have all the answers yet. I don’t even know all the questions. But I know that this is moving me in a big way, so maybe it’s important to you, too. Anyway, message delivered. I’ll read the whole book. Meanwhile, I sure would appreciate it if you would take a moment, look kindly upon this little dog, and send some good folks our way who will make a space in their lives and hearts for Deeno.” I figure prayer is kind of like chicken soup. It may not help, but it sure won’t hurt.
The phone was ringing when we walked in the door at home.
Deeno went home with Lynn, Deb, and their five year old dog who looks a whole lot like Deeno, even down to the white chin whiskers on her otherwise black face. They live on almost ten acres of land, which backs up to 900 acres of woods. They have a pond. And they are very good folks.
I’ve had a phone message and a couple of email reports on Deeno’s adjustment to The Good Life. He loves the pond and will come upstairs to the bedroom at night, but is still puppy-afraid to go down the stairs. They carry him. He’s been to the vet and was pronounced “healthy as a horse” at 45 pounds. The vet thinks he is about 8 months old. Deeno and the Queen Bee older dog have become pals.
Buck came in Tuesday morning just after I had gotten the first report from Lynn, a voice mail message returning my inquiring call. She let me know all was well and that Deeno was now ensconced as a new member of the family. Buck saw me hang up the phone and sit there with a big, silly grin. “What’s up, darlin/?” he asked.
I reached for a tissue, “There definitely is a God, and world peace may come in our time.”