Saturday, December 29th, 2001
When I think of love I naturally think of romantic love, first. Allowing myself to follow far enough the fond recollections of this train of thought, I might even be able to conjure up the first pangs of puppy love. On the other hand, there's the real thing--much more satisfactory. That I can vouch for. Unlike the unrequited or poignant kind, the four-legged variety very rarely disappoints.
When I was a little girl I wanted a dog in the worst way for what seemed like the longest time. Only a few months, a few years, maybe, but a lifetime, an eternity, when one is geared up for immediate gratification. In hindsight, itís not easy to understand why this wish would have been the case, given my initial exposure to canine acquaintanceship.
Jesse, property of a onetime landlord, was a whiskered, wiry, mean-tempered, some-kind-of-Terrier. She ought to have programmed me in living proof of Pavlovís stimulus/response theory; appropriately forever afraid, convinced of the beastsí kinship to the Big Bad Wolf, notorious, of Brothers Grimm. She growled at me at every opportunity. For some reason beyond my childish comprehension, she couldnít stand the sight of me and became quite agitated whenever I approached. Once or twice she snapped at me in rude reaction to my friendly advance.
Cautious but not diverted from adoration I wondered why she wouldn't like me, when I was crazy about her. Oh, how I wanted to cuddle her. She was so white and woolly and cute. A walking, breathing, barking, furry-faced stuffed animal. She may actually have bitten me but my stubborn mind refused to accept that likely possibility; instead, I dreamed of a Jesse of my own....
I was rewarded in my steadfast childish hopes eventually. Some time thereafter, accompanied by a fortuitous change of domestic circumstance, my begging, pleading, whining, cajoling, whateverĖit-took, no longer fell on deaf ears. Mommy and Daddy capitulated in a weak moment and let me have my pet. They took me to the Humane Society and informed me I had but one chance; I could take what I could get. There wasnít much to choose from at the time, but back then I didnít know that was a good thing.
Among the three or four inmates Ė poor darlings - my eyes latched onto a small sweet-natured black Spaniel. I couldnít believe my good fortune and that someone had abandoned such an adorable dog. I named her Topsy. I loved her and she, grateful for the attention and rescue from that depressing place, felt the same about me. All I could think of was that we had saved her life and that after so long longing, I had a puppy of my own. I played with her and spent lots of together-time, often gazing at her lovingly the way some fan of fine art might admire Mona Lisa.
Topsy walked me to the school bus every morning Ė a fair hike Ė and was always waiting on the spot in the afternoon to pick me up. She was smart. Nobody taught her, but she could tell time and knew the way. Albeit the dogcatcher made his patrol in the event of complaints, in those days domestic pets could still romp and run free; my pup came and went accordingly. Faithfully, at so many minutes-to-the-hour daily she took off from home to meet me. That early experience and our Ďbest-friendshipí is among the most satisfactory and rewarding memories from my early childhood. Would that every child who wished for the same, had one....
Years and years later, having adopted a fabulous feline from the local SPCA, I recommended and accompanied a friend, facing a suddenly empty nest, to do the same thing. En route to the cats and kittens we had to pass the section where the canines were kept. Iíd never been able to summon the courage to look in on the dogs before when I went there, not since my youth. This time I did. Iím not sure why, donít know what possessed me. I was in no position to take one home, practically speaking. In hindsight, perhaps to share the experience with you here, now.
I was very, very trepiditious, being an animal lover and quite emotional about it, but I steeled myself and went in to see.
Oh, my, oh, my! There were too many of the beautiful beasts, every cell was filled! Following initial reluctance, perhaps too numerous dashed hopes, most of those large, dark, expressive eyes fixed on me hopefully. Most wagged their tails and some barked. Others looked sad, but expectant. As I approached they moved forward, thrust their noses to me. Many were purebreds, larger dogs, mostly German Shepherds; also Hounds, Shorthairs, Black Labs, and various mixes. Even a couple of Golden Retrievers, the most sociable and family-oriented of dogs! There were several small breeds too. I could hardly believe it.
Their names and histories were posted, as much as was known or provided by former owners, who for whatever reasons could no longer keep them. Naturally I wanted to take them all. However I found myself quickly bonding with one particular female whose disposition and vulnerability called out to me. Not the breed I might have chosen before seeing her. A tall dog in height, but fine and gaunt, long-limbed, reminiscent of an Afghan or racing breed. She was very thin; too stressed and unsettled, insecure, to relax and get enough to eat. But she was lovely and sensitive and very affectionate.
What could I do? All I could do at the time was get out of there. Awful--I felt guilty upon fleeing.
I left, yes, but the impression remains.
If Iím ever in the right situation, I'll go back. I'll redeem the moment, though, unfortunately, not that particular dog.
In the meantime, maybe I reach you, some of you in a position to save a soul and find a forever friend? Maybe you'll make some child happy and/or yourself?
Fall in puppy love again.
It doesnít hurt.
Itís never too late -- for you.
~ Helga Marion Ross ~