Scratch a dog and you'll find a permanent job.
~Franklin P. Jones
On a gray afternoon in September, he came limping up to me on a street near my house -- completely trusting me, with his kind face, and sad brown eyes ... no tags, no name, and a story he couldn't tell.
I was in my car at the time, and had stopped to reach my hand out the window and pat him on the head. He liked that, so I got out to get a better look at him, leaving the door wide open. The next thing I knew he was in the car. The big mook had known me for ten seconds and just jumped in, with no invitation, climbed over into the passenger seat, sat down and looked at me. Apparently he expected me to take him to his home, but since I didn't know where that was, I really didn't know what to do.
First we sat on the lawn in front of my house for awhile. Surely someone would come rushing up, so glad to find him and take him home .... No one came. Then we walked around the neighborhood. Then we drove around in the car, in wider and wider circles.
"Anybody lose a dog? Do you recognize this pooch? Anybody? Anybody?" Nobody. Next I tried putting "Found" ads in the newspapers, on craigslist.com ... no response. What about the shelters? No, they didn't know about him. I checked the "Lost" ads everywhere, put up color pictures of him all over the neighborhood, posted information at the nearby dog park, rec center, vet clinic. Nothing.
The dog would stay with me until someone claimed him. Days went by, and I kept looking into those sad eyes, learning more and more what an extraordinary creature he was. So gentle, so very patient, and so lonely. Can you imagine finding yourself living in a different house, different neighborhood, with a different person, never hearing your name spoken, your people nowhere to be found, and having no idea how any of it happened? I want so much to know his story, to know his name ....
What is your name, gentle one? What is your name?
The middle of October came, and still I had questions. How did you get separated from your family? How did you get from there all the way to here? And why -- why didn't anyone call to claim you, come over and get you, take you home? Imagine the depths of his confusion. Imagine him answering -- "I don't know ... I don't know."
It's painfully sad to see how far a dog will go to adapt, adjust, and accept. Maybe it's an example for us, though, how an animal moves on, lets go of his past, his habits, his will. He's out there on my back porch, wishing he were inside ... he looks up at me through the window, turns away, and puts his chin on his paws. A surgery has come and gone, to remove some benign lumps -- he put up with days of soreness, stitches, and difficulty eating, and when I pushed the awful lampshade (the plastic collar that keeps dogs from picking out the stitches) over his head every night, he hated it vigorously, yet in time he would actually stretch his neck forward a little, to help me put it on. When we're out walking, I go right, or left, or straight, and he goes with me, whether that's the way he wants to go or not.
Ironically this species of person we call The Dog, who so gracefully accepts one disappointment after another, still manages to hope, still looks out longingly at all horizons. Although the dog endures all things, he also believes in all things, hopes for all things. By now we're going on walks around the neighborhood in the afternoons. With a front-left leg problem, and something wrong with his back (was he hit by a car in his former life?), he still lives for his walks, because that's when he gets to meet everybody. Believing, as he does, that all people are friends he hasn't met yet, he looks longingly at every passing car, every front porch, every house -- no stone unturned, in his endless search for his friend and soul mate, the human. He sees a mom and dad up ahead, pushing baby in the stroller. Away we go, me in tow. He greets them with wild affection, and they are immediately won over. He is everybody's buddy ... ninety-two pounds of unconditional love -- pretty hard to turn away from that. Pretty hard to ... how could anybody just ... well, I guess we'll never know.
Eventually it was time for him to have a name. I guess I liked how people often greet an animal they don't know by saying, "Hi, Buddy." So "Buddy" it is. Now this lost dog whose name nobody knew has a name everybody seems to know: "Hey, Buddy? How ya doin', Buddy?" the strangers say, trying to get out of their cars while he charges up and smothers them.
Weeks went by and I gave up finding his former home for him. I tried to find him a new one. It was getting harder and harder to think of giving him away, but my house and yard were not right for him, and with me being the only one here ... I just couldn't. But his new family would have to be just right ... they would really have to love him, and have the perfect house and yard for a dog. A difficult search began. We met with many people, made lots of phone calls, sent lots of e-mails. I sent his picture all over the place. No takers.
Then one late-October evening we walked over to a pet adoption event held by the nice folks at Planet Pethood a couple blocks from my house. They put a bright orange vest on him that said "Adopt Me," in big black letters. Dozens of people came by to see all the dogs, and Buddy had the time of his life. He wagged and nuzzled and looked everyone in the eye. Everybody loved him. Nobody took him.
Let us all learn from the unshaken faith, the quiet perseverance of the dog, for on this day Buddy would find a place he could call "Home." He had trusted me from the moment I opened that car door when we first met. Now, standing in a crowd of nice people who didn't want him, this sad, sweet animal, this long-suffering friend of humanity, pressed his soft muzzle into my hand and looked up. I couldn't take it any more. Good night, everyone. The adoption event was over for us.
I hooked the leash to Buddy's collar, and he shuffled down the sidewalk and around the corner, leading me gently. He knew the way, and the look on the face of this accepting, trusting animal told me he was happy -- happy to be going home.
by Marty McGovern
From Chicken Soup for the Soul