I wandered alone for a long time, but it wasn’t always so. I have vague memories—little scraps of images—from the past: the tumble and tussle of warm fur, the shimmer of sun on my brother’s back, the freckles on my sister’s snout. We were given away, placed in a box in a grocery store parking lot and given to anyone who would take us. We were held up, cooed over, and carried off under people’s arms.
The person who took me changed his mind when I grew larger. He tied me up in the backyard for months—with intermittent water and food—and then took me on a car ride and left me on the side of the road. I fended for myself then. Sometimes I was thirsty, sometimes I was cold, often I was hungry.
This morning, a man saw me, stooped down, and called to me. I watched him warily and then darted away. I have trouble trusting people. He left and then came back, carrying a bowl that smelled good. He sat quietly beside the bowl and I approached carefully, then backed away, then approached again. With one last sideways glance at the man, who looked at me calmly, kindly, I stretched my neck toward the bowl and began to eat. The man reached out and stroked my fur, first tentatively, then steadily. When he slipped a lead around my neck, he bent down to my level and said, “Come with me; we will find you a home,” I go with him, to the first warmth and comfort I’ve known in a long time.
I’ve had two names in my time. Maybe three, if you consider no name a name. At the beginning I was part of a brood of too many puppies in an overpopulated, under-inoculated part of the world: rural Alabama. I was named Delaware by my rescuers, who named the 50 of puppies each a state name. One day when I was four months old, I became Lucy.
People walked through the rescue’s kennels every day. Some were caring for us, some were looking to adopt one of us. I noticed a woman walking through with the shelter director. The woman was talking about wanting an older dog. Oh well, I thought. When the woman walked by our kennel, I sat down and looked up at her, willing her to choose me, choose me, choose me. We locked eyes for a moment, but she walked on. Seconds later the woman backed up, as though drawn backward by an invisible force. I like to think it was my intent. She leaned down and put her fingers through the gate. I looked into her eyes and gave her fingers a gentle slurp. The woman sighed, slid her eyes to the side, looked back at me, then walked on. I watched her as she went through the swinging door and disappeared from sight. I turned back to my kennelmates.
A half-hour later, the shelter director came back, clipped a leash to my collar and led me to an outdoor pen where the woman was saying patting Jenny, the sweet black pitbull who had been in the shelter longer than I had been. She watched the pitbull leave then turned to me and smiled. As I ran up to her, she stooped down to greet me. Mine. …to be continued. Part IPart II