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Unaware, at first, that my glance was focused upon her, she laid resting, her chin whiskers white with age. Her once mischievously sparkling eyes turned slowly up to meet mine, their expression of ever-ready enthusiasm for a lively romp together now replaced by one of the weariness that comes with age. It was as if I could read her thoughts, for her eyes conveyed an unquestionable sense of peace and contentment.
Her life, having been a very full and happy one, seemed to leave her with nothing more to be desired. It seemed that her only wish now was to be with those of us who have always loved and cared for her, and that she be permitted her well-deserved periods of quiet solitude and understanding – understanding of her gradually increasing ‘grouchy moods’ when Old Father Time has so unfairly nagged at her once ‘patient to a fault’ good nature.
My sentimental thoughts were only momentarily interrupted when she arose slowly and a bit shakily to curl up in the chair, beside me. It occurred to me that she oftentimes repeats that same gesture of affection now, seeming to prefer our quiet companionship and restfulness to her previous younger days of never-ending, boundless energy.
I gently petted her soft fur, and as she slowly drifted to sleep, my thoughts wandered back to those days long ago . . . . .
We had decided that our three-year-old son might enjoy a pet of his own to love and help care for. So we had traveled to a kennel where we found numerous dogs of all sizes, shapes and colors her brothers and sisters. They all began jumping up anxiously against the fence that held them inside their orphanage-like home. It was as if they were each competing with the others for our attention. They seemed to know why we’d come and each appeared to be desperately hoping that we would choose him or her. We petted many little wet noses and soft paws as they groped out to touch us.
Suddenly, our attention was caught by a brindle dog who was huddled alone in a corner at the far end of the kennel. She wasn’t sharing in the other’s enthusiastic attempts at performing for us. Moving closer we could see that her coat lacked the bright sheen of those of the other dogs, but, instead, appeared to be dull and snarled.
Noticing our concern, the kennel owner explained that she’d been a sort of misfit ever since her birth and that even at six months of age the other dogs had refused to accept her. It was evident to us that she’d given up hope of ever gaining the acceptence of the other dogs. With the hope that we might win her trust, we decided to adopt the lonely little outcast huddled there in silent solitude.
Realizing that she’d never before had any real contact with humans, we expected that it would take time to win her trust and love. To our delight we were to discover just one of the many wonders of the nature of “man’s best friend.” She seemed almost immediately to sense our desire to give her a whole new kind of homelife – one filled with love and trust.
In return, she assumed her role as an affectionate pet, court jester and trustworthy watchdog. We marveled again and again at her amazing transformation from daytime loving, energetic playmate into our nocturnal sharp-eared watchdog whose ferocious sounding bark would have frightened away even the most brave of nightly intruders.
As time passed we watched her puppyhood with all of it’s playful antics, evolve into a more mature personality. However, she never really outgrew many of her puppy characteristics: her knack for becoming stranded in snowdrifts (because of her size); her shaking like a leaf with fear during thunderstorms and her refusal to eat or drink when it became necessary to board her if we vacationed without her. Like many dogs, she’s never outgrown her dislike of baths. She never failed to saturate all of us by briskly shaking off the excess moisture afterward before making her ritualistic ‘mad dash’ down the stairs and out the back door to seek refuge inside our fenced-in yard.
I won’t ever forget the time she disappeared from our yard. We were beside ourselves with worry and sadness. Three days later as I watched out the front window, I saw a medium-sized black dog who looked exactly like ours! I found out who the people were that lived in that house and I made a phone call to them. The dad explained to me that they’d had the dog for a few days now and his children had fallen in love with her. The man at the other end of the line was not anxious to consider parting with the dog. So, in desperation, I asked him to put the phone to the dog’s ear. There was a silence at the other end of the line. Needless to say, I could only imagine how crazy the man must have thought me to be. So, I said, “If the dog doesn’t respond to my voice, she’s yours. But! If she does respond, you’ll have to admit that she belongs to me! “Okay . . . ” I heard the man say at the other end of the line. I shouted loudly, “Skipper! Hey Skipper! Come here Skipper!” The dog responded by barking up a storm at the other end of the line. The man returned the handset to his ear and in a defeated sounding voice tone, said, “Well, I guess I can’t deny that she sure knows you!” Within minutes I was across the street rescuing our precious dog.
Looking down at her, so many years later, I found myself wondering whether there is any being who is so loyal, loving and trusting. I realized that she had, indeed, become one of the family right from that first day seven years before. It wasn’t difficult just then to fully understand why her kind has, for centuries, been labeled “Man’s Best Friend.” For whatever trials or tribulations are set before them, they repeatedly give their master their love without question . . . without expecting anything in return.
Once again, my reminiscing was interrupted as I felt her nuzzle closer. As I reached down to pet her gently, she raised her head with chin whiskers white as snow and her eyes looked up at me as if to say, “You’ve always understood.”
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