The Sun Rises on a New Dog by Sharon Wood
When my Basset Hound, Emily, passed away, I felt devastated. She had been my constant companion for 14 years, during a time in my life in which I experienced
the worst challenges I’d ever encountered. She had been my comforter, counselor, and playmate, always there, always loving, always my best friend. Without her, I felt very alone and sad.
I knew that healing my heart from this loss would take time; almost daily I would forget and call out to her, or expect to see her leaping upon my bed, or check outside to see if she was there. Time healed slowly, but I gradually stopped my habit of looking for her or expecting her. I began to accept the fact that she was gone.
My boyfriend, who does event photography, invited me to a dog-rescue event during which I would take pictures of people and their pets. It was fun, we were outside on a nice day, and the event was successful in raising money to enable the sponsor, a veterinary group, to offer free services to dogs in need. I was having a great time until a lady with two Basset Hounds approached me. I took their picture, telling the woman how much I love Basset Hounds. She ran a Basset Hound rescue service and asked me if I would like to participate or adopt. Upon seeing those big brown eyes, and the wagging, curved tail, the adorable stumpy legs, I almost cried right there in front of her. At that time, we were living in a rental house, waiting to buy our own home. The rental agreement limited me from adopting or fostering a dog. It broke my heart to see the lady walk away with her two Basset Hounds. It seemed I would never be able to have another one.
Once we purchased our permanent home, and moved in, my recovery from losing Emily healed a bit more—there were no reminders in my new place to jog my memory of Emily. I began to think about other things as my life became busier and my days were focused primarily on work and growing a business. Emily still lived in my heart, as she does to this day, but I was able to focus or other aspects of my life than my loss of her. My acceptance of life’s ups and downs was complete.
It was not long after we moved in to our new house that I received an invitation to a small birthday party at my boyfriend’s parents’ house. While he spoke with me on the phone, he just happened to mention that there was a “cool dog” in the next-door neighbor’s yard. It seemed they had moved out, so he was wondering what to do about the dog. I did not give it much thought—I knew my mother, who lived with me, would not accept a pet at that time. What could I do?
The party was fun, we had cake and ice-cream, and spent time laughing and talking the evening away. My mother was with me, and enjoyed herself, but at 88 years’ old, she needed to get to bed before 9 pm. We said our goodbyes, and went outside, and got in the car. We were just pulling away from the curb when I noticed the dog that my friend had mentioned. I put the brake on and looked to see what it was doing. It had long, thin legs, and looked hungry—it held a small bucket in its mouth, looking at me as if to say, “Please feed me, I’m starving!” Indeed, the dog’s ribs were visible, even at 30 feet away. Even my mother became interested in this dog, and its predicament. It seemed that the family had simply abandoned the dog when they moved out; there was no food or water for the dog, and it was very, very alone and scared. And starving.
The pup had a playful look, even as it begged me to feed it. All I had with me were chocolate-chip cookies, which I know aren’t good for dogs, but this was an emergency! As I opened the bag, my mother caught my eye, “we can’t leave the dog all by itself!”, she said. I needed no more encouragement! With my mother’s approval, I took the cookies in my hand, got out of the car and offered a cookie to the dog. Its eyes were big and round as it looked longingly at the cookie, but clearly was afraid of me. It was quite a quandary for the dog to decide between approaching a stranger and eating a cookie. I ventured closer to the dog; she did not retreat—a good sign! I held out the cookie, and softly spoke to the dog, “Come on, you want the cookie, I’m a nice girl!” and “Good doggie, you can do it!” It came a few steps closer, very interested in the food in my hand. I threw the cookie to it, saying “Good dog!” It ate the cookie immediately, then wanted more. I held out my hand again but did not throw the cookie; I simply held it in my hand, encouraging the dog with my voice. After a few seconds, the dog decided that the cookies took precedence over safety and took a few steps toward me. Getting only as close to me as required, it snatched the cookie from my hand. Glorious success! At that point, I took out another cookie as I opened the back door to my car. This time, I backed up, with the dog focused on the cookie, and thought, “I sure hope you don’t bite!” as I put my arms around it. I picked it up (it wasn’t very heavy) and began to put it in our backseat. The dog’s legs were like long sticks, unbending and brittle. It took a few tries to finally get all the legs into the back seat, including the dog. I was glad that the dog didn’t bite, but it sure was scared. It was trembling all over, fearing the worst. I put the car in gear, drove off, and realized that I had been given a wonderful gift—another canine best-friend!