Not all gifts come wrapped in pretty paper and tied with an enormous bow. I found that out years ago when I came home one evening to find a stray dog hiding in the bushes next to the porch, soaking wet and cowering from the thunder and lightning.
Oh, great! How they ended up at my house, I never knew. I needed another dog like Noah needed another stray pair of – whatever. At the time, I already had two dogs and five cats.
I decided then and there to take her to the shelter where a sobbing owner would eventually turn up desperate to find their missing friend.
But no, deep down, I just knew that would not happen. I could read the signs: the dog was old; she had that old dog look about her. And she had no collar.
Unfortunately, I have encountered this scenario before: someone turned their dog out simply because she had the misfortune of growing old. She was no longer the bouncing, playful puppy she once was, so they got rid of her.
Sadly, many people don’t want to be bothered with feeding and caring for an elderly dog, not to mention incurring costly vet bills that usually come with senior pet care. How do you think I ended up with so many pets of my own? I always get the ones that no one else wants, the throw-aways, whether blind, cripple, abandoned, or feral. My record so far: twenty-five and counting, including the seven now living with me.
I’ve got “sucker” written across my forehead, and everyone knows it, especially all my babies. My wife and I never had children, so we adopted needy animals instead, but I digress.
I couldn’t just leave her there, shivering, and scared, so of course I brought her into the house, dried her off, and attempted to feed the pitiful thing. She was black, brown, and white, with long, floppy ears and a thick tail that attempted a few grateful wags when I set a bowl of food on the floor next to her.
She looked like a hunting hound from all appearances, like the ones you see in paintings of fox hunts or rousting quail in the tall grass. She had markings like a Beagle, but she was not an attractive looking dog by any means. Certainly not like my Samoyed, a fluffy arctic sled dog with almond eyes and that famous “Sammy smile.” The old dog didn’t compare well with my little terrier either, with her curly coat and alert, intelligent eyes.
Nope, she was just a plain old hound dog. And them’s the facts.
Seeing a stranger in their home, all five cats scattered to the four corners of the house. They don’t do well with visitors or changes in their world. However, my two dogs went crazy, barking and jumping on the baby gate, trying to get out of the family room to check out this newcomer. There would be a whole lot of butt-sniffing going on as soon as I got all three of them together. I suppose it was some sort of ancient ritual related to dog-etiquette.
What did I know? I’m just the caregiver, stock clerk, and sanitation engineer around here. Except when it came to dispensing treats. Suddenly, I was the most popular guy on the block, at least for a few minutes, anyway. But that’s okay; I loved all my guys, and they loved me back. Unconditionally. You can’t ask for more than that!
What was I going to do about the lost hound?
I decided to advertise on the local neighborhood bulletin board to see if anyone came forward. There was a remote possibility someone actually missed their old dog and wanted her back. The bulletin board would likely produce the best results, so I figured I’d start there in the morning.
The old girl racked out on the carpet; sound asleep next to my two. She obviously had a dreadful day and needed a little shuteye. I decided to call her Tawny for the time being. I couldn’t very well go on calling her “hound” now, could I? Besides, it was only a temporary arrangement.
I spent over a week contacting local shelters, inquiring whether someone was looking for a lost dog. And I faithfully posted notices on our local online bulletin board repeatedly asking folks to contact me if they had recently lost their dog, or knew of someone who had, but I got no replies.
Let’s be honest, we all know how this story ends. After a week of being together, there was no way I’d let Tawny go to a shelter, or anywhere else. We’d become too fond of each other, and by now she fit in with the entire gang. Even the cats had accepted her as just one more dog they had to put up with. And by the way she acted, I think Tawny knew she’d found her forever home, which was fine by me.
Coming home from work each day to find my menagerie waiting to greet me was worth any inconvenience I had to endure. They showed their love by the way they bounced around at my feet, tails wagging ninety miles an hour, squealing, and jumping around excitedly like we hadn’t seen each other in a month.
Tawny was the biggest of the three and always wedged herself between me and the others. She would stand on her hind legs with her paws on my chest and lick my face. I’d give her a good rub behind the ears and tell her, “Hello, beautiful. I love you, too.”
Terry Adcock © 2022
Author Notes: This story was submitted as part of a writing exercise with my writing group. All feedback, comments, or observations are welcome.