Once I moved out of my parents’ home, I wanted a dog of my own.
I went to the pound. The dog pound. Run by the county government.
It wasn’t a shelter. Those didn’t exist - at least not in my town - in the late 1970s. (Yes, I am that old)
The pound was a sad place. There was a large
room with a low concrete wall that enclosed a space filled with puppies you
could take home today for a small fee and minimal paperwork. The county workers
had painted the concrete surfaces a light green and did their best to keep it
The puppies were from different litters. Their looks varied depending on what type of dog was wandering through the neighborhood when their mothers came into heat. Some of the pups were probably too young to be away from their mamas. All their owners had to do was drop off the pups, say they were six weeks old and walk away.
It never occurred to me to ask where the adult dogs were. Or maybe a part of me knew and couldn’t face it.
I picked out a beautiful tan and brown probably-hound mix. He was sweet and calm with soulful dark eyes. His face was tan, edged in a dark brown that extended to his floppy ears. The rest of body was tan with the same brown flecks throughout.
I named him Eli
He curled up in my lap and slept on the ride home.
We would go to the vet the next day. But for now, he was content with the food and toys I provided.
I made a bed for him on the floor next to my own. He whimpered throughout the night. Missing his litter mates and his mama, no doubt.
I spoke softly to him, and rested my hand on his back stroking him to offer reassurance and a little comfort. I fell asleep despite his continued protests.
When I woke in the morning, my hand rested on a pup that had died in the night.
Forget the good old days: these are better days. Today we have dog shelters where abandoned animals get veterinary care and a lot of effort goes into adopting them out.
In Eli’s day all the puppies were put together in one area, spreading disease. There was no point in having a vet examine the dogs at the pound, since most would be euthanized. Only a lucky few found homes.
Note: Yes I am aware that this is 2020. But even with all the trauma of this year, I stand my statement: These are better days.
Imagine 2020 without internet. Really. Let that sink: No internet. No information. No N95 masks delivered by Amazon. No you-tube videos titled 'build-your-own-ventilator.' Just you in your isolated corner of the world.
Without Netflix or eBooks.
Not all meaningful relationships are long term. You don’t need to be a part of someone’s life for decades to make an impact.
Eli was my dog for less than 24 hours over 40 years ago. But I remember him vividly.
Probably because I was traumatized waking up to a dead dog instead of a happy puppy. Maybe because I felt guilty, wondering if he could have been saved if I had taken him to the vet that day. But also because he taught me one more thing:
Offer comfort when you can. Be compassionate. I am so happy I didn’t lock him up alone in another room. If you have an opportunity to be kind, do it.
Last chances rarely come with a warning label.
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