It was more than 14 years ago, and my daughter was in the hospital, gravely ill. She had already been in the hospital for over a month, and I was desperate to motivate her to fight to recover and get better. And so I made her a promise: after she got out of the hospital, I would take her to get a puppy. We already had one dog, but he was clearly my dog, and she had always wanted one of her own.
It took another month, but finally she was able to come home from the hospital. True to my word, off we went to the shelter the next day to find her a puppy. She had had her heart set on a black lab puppy, and they actually had some very young ones there, but I could see by the way she held the puppy and the way the puppy responded to her that it wasn’t the right puppy for her. And so I wandered around the shelter, looking at all the puppies – including the older puppies who were in a different room.
And that’s where I spotted her – a 4-month old German Shepherd/collie mix. There were other puppies of about the same age in other cages, but there was something about this one…
I went and got my daughter and persuaded her to consider an older puppy. And when we took this puppy out of the cage, the puppy went nuts licking and kissing my daughter. The puppy was overjoyed, and my daughter laughed with joy – for the first time in months. So we sat there for quite a while while my daughter experienced the kind of unconditional love only your dog can give you.
“I think I’ve picked my dog,” my daughter said.
“No,” I said, smiling. “Your dog has picked you.”
After we got her home, we discovered that while she was affectionate and loving to us, she was fearful and aggressive with most men and all young children. Something bad must have happened to her in young life before we got her. It took a lot of patience and time, but eventually she lost her fear of men and children. But always, always, she protected “her pack,” and looked out for us – including another dog we adopted when she was 5 years old and depressed after the death of my dog.
For over 14 years, she was part of our family and her tail always wagged happily. It was only a few weeks ago that she first showed signs of illness and we discovered that like my dog before her, she had liver cancer. Even then, her tail wagged happily as we talked to her and comforted her.
As we all gathered around her in her final moments last night, my daughter and I wept openly, remembering the day when this wonderful dog had chosen my daughter. The shelter had thanked us for rescuing her. Little did they know that we didn’t rescue her. She had rescued my daughter.
The house feels too quiet this morning. I console myself thinking of her on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge, reunited at last with my dog, as they run and play together again. And I reach down to console our other dog, and I tell her that one day, we will all be together again.