I believe in the power of unconditional love. They say a dog is man’s best friend; I say a dog teaches you about love and friendship.
Until October 2003, I thought I had a pretty good life. In fact, I didn’t think I wanted to take on the extra responsibility of owning a dog; as a middle-aged single working woman, my life consisted mainly of putting in enough overtime at work to keep the wolves from my door, while spending time with my human friends and hoping to meet someone special.
Then I met that someone in Duke. I wasn’t the first person to have given him a home, because he knew a few commands and had rabies tags, albeit outdated, hanging from his collar. But he’d been dumped by his last owner and was desparately in need of saving. . He was wandering around an apartment complex, scrawny, unloved, scavenging for garbage and cowering from people for fear they’d heap even more abuse upon him. Even worse, his back end looked as if someone had burnt it, perhaps with cigarette butts or acid. To say the least, his future looked grim.
Both our futures brightened thanks to two friends of mine who throw newspapers. Frank and Julie saw Duke moping around and wanted to help. Duke was too wary to approach them, but an unlikely source gave them a tip; a postal worker said he’d been able to get Duke to come to him by offering him treats. With a little persistence, Duke hopped into their car. He couldn’t stay with Frank and Julie because they already had several other animals, so they approached me. I agreed to take him home on a trial basis.
Maybe it was an omen that the first thing Duke and I did together was attending a Blessing of the Animals at my church. I wound up being the one that was blessed.
Almost four years later, Duke still carries a few emotional scars from his wandering time; it’s taken him several months to get over separation anxiety whenever I leave for work, and he’s still a little suspicious of strangers. But he is a beautiful dog, inside and out. I nursed him through pancreatitis and kennel cough and he helped me after I was first diagnosed with breast cancer a year and a half ago. I look forward to waking up each morning to find him snuggled up to me, and at times I don’t mind him barking up a storm when I first come home.
About a month after successful surgery to remove the tumor, Duke got a little sister — another dog Frank and Julie found, a terrier mix I named Dee. She’s energetic and outgoing and they complement each other perfectly. I’ve even nicknamed Dee my “pretty smiley girl” because she’s often grinning ear-to-ear. She doesn’t seem to have suffered the abuse Big Brother has. No animal should.
I’ve seen those TV programs where animals that have been neglected or abused are saved. That’s a small part of the story. I believe that having a dog – or any pet – can save the owner, too. I feel redeemed every time I open my door every day and see Duke and Dee.
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