This weekend, my friend made the comment that out of the four of us growing up (Me, her, my sister and her sister were pretty inseparable between my ages of 9 and 16 and are still wonderfully great friends.) she never would have expected that I would turn out to be the crazy dog lady of the bunch. I’ve always liked animals, but I think if you would have asked us 10 years ago which of us would own two dogs and be begging for a third, I would not have been the obvious choice.
And yet here I am, completely, hopelessly addicted to furry, adorable animals–particularly those without a home. I rescued both Jack and Ellie from shelters in Arkansas and instead of having favors at my reception that would just get left behind or lost or tossed after the wedding, we made a donation to the Louisiana SPCA. When we were in New York in August, a woman was set up on the sidewalk with homeless kittens and it was all I could do to resist stuffing one in my purse as a souvenir. Instead I just emptied out my wallet and kept my fingers crossed that someone would come along and take them all home.
But what always breaks my heart more than anything in the world, is when I see an animal on the side of the road–either running along the highway, or already hit by a car, and being unable to stop and help. I usually end up with tears in my eyes as I drive away, just hoping against hope that my own little dogs won’t ever run away from home and find themselves in that situation. It’s such an awful feeling to not be able to do anything for that helpless creature, confused by the speeding cars and bright lights, and yet I’ve never stopped to do anything. Until last night.
It was around 6:30, pitch black outside, the narrow back road very dimly lit by tall glowing lamp posts. I turned onto the street that leads into our neighborhood, and saw something moving on the side of the road. Suddenly, a big yellow dog came loping out of the bushes, tail wagging and tongue hanging out as he headed directly for my car. I slowed down to a snail’s pace seeing that there were cars coming up behind me who probably hadn’t seen the dog who was now wandering aimlessly down the middle of the road. I came to a full stop, causing the cars behind me to slow down and hopefully see the dog, and then I pulled over to the side of the road to slowly open my front door, praying that the dog was as friendly as he looked.
The other cars drove around us, giving a wide berth as the big yellow dog came toward me, 70 pounds of wagging tail and smiling eyes as he nuzzled my hand in greeting. I saw that he had a name tag on, so I stepped down from the car and, taking him by the collar, hoisted him into the back seat.
He had big, beautiful eyes that looked at me gratefully as he curled up on my back seat, tail thumping against the car door. He was completely quiet, aside from the swish of his tail, and he tentatively licked my arm as I fumbled with his collar, in search of a phone number. I saw that his name was Oliver and introduced myself to him, scratching the top of his head and the back of his ears as I dialed the number that would hopefully connect me to his owner.
After a bit of difficulty understanding the man who eventually answered the phone, I determined that he did indeed have a dog named Oliver, and that he would have his wife meet me by the gate at the foot of their driveway. Oliver seemed perfectly content, stretched out on the backseat, probably thrilled to be inside where it was warm after his big adventure outdoors in the below freezing temperatures.
I found his house, and together we sat in the car, waiting for his people to arrive. Eventually a woman came down the drive with another dog by her side, and I got out of the car to help Oliver down. When I opened the door, he stood staring at me, hesitant, unsure of what was going on, afraid to go back outside. I coaxed him down from the backseat and walked him toward the gate. I was a little concerned that he didn’t seem more excited to be home, but then it suddenly seemed to occur to him where he was, and when he saw the woman waiting for him, his tail began beating rapidly again and he tried to lunge toward her with all of his adolescent puppy strength.
He dragged me toward the gate, and I made sure that he was safely behind the iron bars before leaving as the woman thanked me. I can’t tell you how happy it made me to do that little thing. To reunite a family with their dog. I’m sure the scenario could have gone a number of different ways–Oliver could have been unfriendly, his tag could have been illegible, his owners may not have been home–but the way that it did turn out was perfect. Oliver got to go back home, and when I got home I hugged my own puppies extra tightly for as long as they would let me.