The day was finally here. After many years of renting, I owned my own home with a fenced yard and could bring a dog into my life again. It had been a long wait—three decades since my precious terrier-mix Dusty had to be put to sleep. I still kept Dusty’s little homemade ceramic grave marker, with the words “He truly was man’s best friend,” painted in gold. The new adoptee would have big paws to fill.
As I entered the animal shelter, excited barking ensued as dogs of all sizes pressed their noses against their wire kennel doors. I was on a specific mission – looking for a small smooth-coated, sweet-natured female dog I had seen two days before. I remembered she had been sharing a kennel with a whitish scruffy dog. I found her (or so I thought) still sharing space with the same muttly creature. “I’ll take a look at that one,” I said, pointing to the brown dog.
The animal shelter worker brought the dog into a private room so I could get to know her. Immediately I noticed something was different. For one, she was a he! And he wanted nothing to do with me, as exploring the room and piddling on the floor were his top priorities. I realized this was not the same dog I had seen before. I poked my head out the door and say “Um, this one’s not for me.”
With no other small dogs to choose from, I motioned to the bedraggled cell mate of the piddler. “I guess I’ll give that one a try,” I said. The door closed behind us and I sat down on the cement floor with my legs crossed. The pathetic little fellow surveyed me for a moment, then to my surprise, walked over and gingerly climbed into my lap. I reached down and tentatively petted him. He was anything but appealing. Besides the odor rising from his body, he had a matted scraggly coat, a grease streak blazoned across his head, bare patches of skin on his legs and his face, and a strangely protruding lower lip. In short, he was downright homely. But as he sat there in my lap, I noticed his tense muscles began to relax. He looked up at me with hopeful brown eyes and gave me a quick kiss on the chin. I realized this little guy, who didn’t even come close to the mental image of what I thought I was looking for, had chosen me.
I carried him out into the lobby area and held him on my lap. “He’s the one,” I said to the woman who had been assisting me. While we were waiting, an animal control officer entered the room. He told me how one of the City’s police officers had found my new friend foraging for food in a remote area of the county, where he most likely had been dumped. “How old do you think he is?” I asked. The officer gently reached down to check the dog’s teeth to help determine his age, and was met with a growl and a lightning-fast nip.
Something inside me said this was not a good sign, but I chose to shove the warning aside. In a couple of days, the dog, who by then I had named “Bailey,” was officially cleared for adoption. I brought Bailey home and introduced him to what I thought would be his “forever home.” Over the next few weeks I would begin to wish I had heeded the warning.
Continued in The Feartbiter (Bailey, Part 2).