We went to see about adopting another dog yesterday. I met a woman in a LinkedIn discussion group for Collie owners, and learned about an adoptable collie she was fostering. The dog had been mistreated and was extremely shy and skittish especially around strange people. When we went to meet her, it was obvious she was much more at home with other dogs than people. She and our dog Prince got along well, but around us, her tail was tucked between her legs and she was terrified.
As hard as it was for us, we had to recognize that this particular dog needed much more than we would be able to give. Where she was in foster care much better for her at this point on the journey she had to make.
As we drove home, still thinking it over and talking about it, I remembered my first dog. I was no more than eight or nine. Our family went up to Greenwood Lake in NY State where members of our church had a cottage. I was playing out in the woods where I found a little black and white stray dog. My father said it was a fox terrier mix. Probably more than that, but I never really inquired into her background any deeper than that. What's it really matter between friends?
The dog was terribly shy and skittish but eventually she came to me, and then she wouldn't leave me. Stuck with me like glue. I had been adopted. I brought her back to the cottage and announced to everyone that wanted to keep her. The adults all laughed and made comments about how bad she smelled and fleas, but then they went into their mysterious adult world for their discussions and I noted from my eight year old world that I hadn't heard 'no', and that was good enough for me.
After dinner, my father went out with our friend to find the dog's owner. If the dog had an owner they said, it would be this man. Not a pleasant man I sensed. But we had to ask. Half an hour later, they came back and my father paid the guy $5 and that was that.
This is the threshold that grace first entered in my life. An important bridge was crossed that night. Through this little dog, I began to know myself as one who could care and love, as well as one who was cared for and loved. Maybe that's what pets do for us.
Someday, I have no doubt the right adoptable collie will come along, just like our little fox terrier, I named Spot. Clever right? I was only eight, give me a break.
I remember sitting with Spot, while we waited for my father to return. Spot was curled sleeping in my lap, farting up a storm. I held her afraid to move and disturb her sleep, my eyes watering, feeling like a king in a bountiful new land.