We were eating lunch when I spotted her outside my window. I went outside, hoping to get a closer look at the pup wandering in my yard. (My neighbors have dubbed me the “neighborhood dog catcher” for good reason.) This has always ended one of two ways: finding a collar and calling the dog’s owner, or delivering the dog back to one of my neighbors.
I stepped onto the porch and got a better look as she sniffed the grass in my yard. No collar. Even from my distance I could tell she’d been on the loose for a while–she was extremely skinny, and her fur was covered with dirt. I called out to her softly. Her head popped up. And the moment those wide eyes landed on me, I saw it.
Her tail wagged as she trotted over to me, a stranger who held no food or water. I knelt down and offered my hand for her to inspect. She looked me in the eyes and nudged my hand, begging to be rubbed. So I scratched her ears (where I immediately found a tick). I rubbed her fur (which was covered in fleas). She licked my nose. I didn’t stop her.
My phone was in my pocket, so I called my husband, who was inside the house, and asked him to bring a bowl of water and a treat. He did and became the dog’s new best friend (seriously, she tried to follow him into the house). As he headed back inside, I asked him to bring my car keys and shoes. I knew where she needed to go. I didn’t want to take her there, but I also knew we couldn’t keep her. We have a 6-year-old pup who’s very much a one-dog dog.
She held my gaze the entire time I petted her. When I told her she’d be okay, she licked me again. And again, I didn’t stop her. (I know this might sound disgusting to some people. But my own dog is super affectionate and does the same thing all day, every day. I’m used to it.)
I threw a blanket over the backseat of my car and helped her inside. She immediately tensed. I couldn’t blame her. But as we began the 20-minute drive across town to the SPCA, she relaxed. And my heart broke a little more with each of those twenty minutes. By the time we reached the shelter, I was in tears.
Throughout the entire ride, I repeated, “You’re going to be okay, sweet girl.” I’m not sure why I kept saying that to a dog who probably didn’t understand me. Maybe because it’s something that we all need to hear sometimes. That even when we’re dirty, and a little smelly, and we’ve been lost for God only knows how long, things will be okay.
I had a talk with my girl before taking her inside the shelter. I told her she’d have food, and water, and a roof over her head. I told her that these were good people, people who wanted the best for her.
The shelter worker took her from me, and I’m fairly certain I’ll never see that sweet girl again. I cried the entire drive home because she trusted me, and I somehow felt that I’d let her down. That I’d abandoned her. But now that it’s been a few hours, I can see that it was the best choice. She’ll have better care at that shelter than she would’ve had on the road.
She was so tired. Now she has a place to rest her head.
I was reminded of something today. That sweet, trusting, hopeful girl reminded me that many of us have felt like her. We’ve felt lost. Eager for someone to find us. To love us. To tell us we’ll be okay.
And I have a secret: you will be okay.
*I have to give a shout-out to the SPCA of Northeastern NC. There are phenomenal people there, workers and volunteers alike who have a passion for animals and go out of their way to take care of our furry friends. Thank you for being there. Thank you for caring.