It’s quiet in my house, it’s getting dark outside and I can see the last remnant of orange sky from where I sit. It’s too quiet. I look around me and there’s a sleeping dog in every chair, and two more lying here with me. It is seldom silent around this place.
Splayed across my chest is Lady Bug, the latest from the shelter, baby-faced with curly black fur, her breed and age unknown. In her shelter picture, she looks defeated, eyes dull, little belly swelled twice its normal size and her skin so infected with allergies that it was hot to the touch. The first people who came to adopt her changed their mind when they saw her in the flesh. My husband sees this picture and says, “Go get her.” Months of antibiotics later and gallons of yogurt and pumpkin for her belly and you wouldn’t recognize her, with her shiny coat and eyes.
Wedged between me and the chair is Shasta, a short-legged opinionated dachshund, a survivor of Hurricane Katrina. It takes most rescues a little while to accept and trust that they are really home, but Shasta made it known early on that we would do, as long as she slept with us the rest of her life and so she will. You survive a hurricane like Katrina; you get to make a few demands.
To my right is sweet Bella, the only rescue we’ve raised from a pup and I found her in a shopping cart. I know better than to look at puppies being given away, I know I need to look the other way, but the cart was full of beautiful lab pups of every color, fat and healthy, except one that caught my eye. She was having trouble, she couldn’t get out of the way of the others, half their size and not fluffy and round, in fact, she looked more like a German shepherd. My fatal mistake was picking her up because when I did I saw that she had only three paws. Her right front leg was crooked and bent, shorter than the others and where a paw should have been there was only a pocket of skin, no bones. I brought her home with me knowing we certainly did not need another dog, but my husband just took her from me and called her pretty Bella, who now weighs 70 pounds, but still sits in my lap. We are especially vulnerable to the broken ones.
One seat over is Peaches, the oldest of the bunch, but we’ve only had her since the summer. Another castaway of the county pound. Her card said she was found as a stray, but she’s an old girl, not cute and cuddly, she has rat-like feet, but she’s loving and something tells me that she was once loved, maybe a lap dog for an older person. She had a horrible case of yeast infection on most of her body and her little paws were so raw that they bled, but we gave her medicine and rubbed soothing lotions on her skin and she healed, inside and out, and now her faithful heart belongs to us. For whatever time she has left she will have us and a soft bed and good food, and when the time comes that she leaves our life, we’ll let her go, holding her in our arms telling her what a good and pretty girl she is and how glad we are to have found her.
Ellie the black lab is lying on her back, taking up half of the couch, but none of the dogs will challenge her, that’s why Gary has nicknamed her the Black Mamba, she can be a little bitchy. I had watched Ellie for a while, hanging out in a field near my house and I asked God to please send someone to take her in and love her. Apparently I should have been a little more specific because a day later I went down the road and loaded her in my car and brought her home.
I found Maggie on the side of an old highway near the river. She was sitting there in the gravel, watching every car that passed, waiting for the human that had dropped her off to come back and get her and all would be forgiven. She was skin and fur stretched over bone, I don’t know how long she had been waiting, but long enough that her puppies had died because she couldn’t feed them and she was almost dead herself. My daughter-in-law and I put out food for her and before she went to eat it, she first came over to us, the need for love and comfort outweighing her hunger. I rubbed her head and her emaciated body and asked her if she wanted to go with us. That was a couple of years ago and when I first brought her home I had every intention of finding her another home because Maggie is a pit bull and I was fearful. Two years later she is asleep on our couch, making soft sounds as she dreams, but if I called her name, she would instantly awake to rush over here to lick my chin.
Dutch somehow manages to fold 160 pounds of Great Dane into a recliner, his own recliner, and it smells. He is the only one of our dogs that’s not a rescue, but Danes are big dogs so we needed to make sure he came from a line of mild-mannered dogs. He is unbelievably beautiful, his mom and dad are both dog show champions and we thought about showing him, but we wanted a dog, not a hobby, so now he has worn places on his “elbows” from laying outside on mild days and various scars and scratches from playing and being a dog. With Danes you get a dog who can re-paint your walls in dog spit when they shake their heads and you can imagine what a 70 pound puppy can do to a leather couch, but you also get a dog that shows their love by leaning on you and asking you to scratch their backside. Just make sure you push the cheesecake far back on the counter or it will disappear. He’s getting old now, Danes don’t have a long lifespan, and he sleeps a lot and when he’s not on his big bed inside, he wants to be outside lying in the sun. I don’t blame him, I feel like that some days, too.
Seven dogs are hard work and really expensive and our ark is full so we do what we can to help other people and rescue groups find homes for dogs. This afternoon my husband will be flying to Baton Rouge to pick up a boxer, rescued from a shelter, who has a new home here in Texas and her new family will be waiting at our small airport, watching for a yellow Cessna, their hearts wide open with a new collar and leash in hand, to take her home forever. Safe at last.
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