Thursday, August 25, 2011


Perhaps the best anecdotes begin with a dog...or with barbecue...or with just the slight tug of your attention away from the hum of the everyday. This one begins with a giant bag of barbecue takeout that we brought home in the dark in June. Must have been pretty late for it to have been full dark in June, so let's say sometime after 9 pm.

As we were walking in the door, something flashed through the yard, a square-jawed, dark face that looked bigger than in was coming in fast from the slight rise by the neighbor's fence. With the food secured via deft footwork, we found a thin short-haired border collie zipping around, looking for food.

She was friendly but unclaimed. One of the boys down the street said her picture was taped to a lightpost near a convenience store and, after determining she was friendly (and hungry) and not in the least afraid of the car, we drove around the neighborhood to find her family.

There are lots of pages advertising lost and found dogs around us, spaniels and labs and little fluffy Yorkies, etc. We visited the convenience store for the first time and poked around the shreds of a dozen fliers looking for hers. We asked neighbors and the man in the convenience store. We found no matches.

The next day we toured the vets around the neighborhood. She had no chip and none of the vets or patrons recognized her. By now, her method of huddling her back against your legs or your side and flopping back against you, her backwards canine hug, was already nestling her into the family.

When she received a clean bill of health and was accepted by a rescue agency for adoption, we brought her temporary pen out into the den with Merlin & Varda and started our own small pack. We named her Angel, giving her the kind of pet name that we never seem to give our own dogs.

She stayed with us for three months and recalibrated our interaction with our two fuzzy ones. Reminded of our first dog, the nimble American Eskimo we'd lost two years ago, I finally started to give up some of the sorrow that had frozen my interaction with Merlin & Varda. The three of us zoned on the couch in the hot afternoons. Angel is a tennis ball fiend, so we played catch when we could.

Then the dominance games started and the formerly housebroken troika started having to be walked separately. It was frustrating and I lost it. Instead of coming up with good ideas (like shifting their feeding schedule to the cooler morning or evening), I wanted the situation "fixed." To my husband's credit, he let me weather a bout of bad advice relating to the dogs by visiting my parents.

At this point, Angel found her adoptive family. We scheduled a time for them to pick her up and then we waited. The day they picked her up, we tried to have her out and give her all the hugs we possibly could. My husband was sad--he had considered her part of the family and I was worried about Merlin and Varda. You can't explain things to them.

So far, the dogs seem fine. Angel is friendly and was happy to be heading out with her new family. Merlin and Varda are curious and sniffy and have spent a good part of the day curled up with me.

I find myself sad at odd moments--feeding the dogs and only getting food for two of them--and at others trying to make this into a narrative that teaches me something, anything to keep Angel as close to my heart as possible.

Having three dogs was difficult. They needed more attention than I could give them during the day and the drought made trying to get them exercised separately its own special hell. I didn't want to admit that I was overwhelmed and I didn't search for ways to manage the issue, I just wanted it resolved--I wanted Angel to find her own family.

She was a gift and a lesson and a reminder, a bit of forgiveness in the grief of losing Wynn at a time when I didn't realize I needed it. She was not a stray dog. She was on the road
that goes ever on, down from the door where it began.

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