I was gardening in Chatham for a client with a grand seaside summer property. It was a Saturday, mid-morning, and I was engrossed in my work. Reaching a set of steps, I looked up into the eyes of their newest rescue dog who had been silently peering at me through the screen door.
I was beguiled. And I felt an otherworldly nudge that I dared not ignore.
Without hesitation, I collected the weeds, gathered my tools and raced across Cape in my pickup to the Brewster animal rescue league. About 20 minutes later, I drove into the driveway and up the hill and saw, for the first of countless times, the beautiful face of one large black dog. He watched me, tail wagging, as if he’d been waiting for me.
Why on earth, I’d asked myself, am I here to find a dog, unprepared and unplanned?
I braced myself when I called my husband but once the two met, all our fates were sealed. We agreed to adopt ‘Shep’, so named by his previous family, ready or not.
Four long days later, I returned to the shelter to pick him up. I was delighted all over again by his size, his beauty, his calm disposition and that he was finally mine. He sniffed my leg as I took hold of the leash then turned to sign a paper. At that moment my Shep, with a full bladder of warm pee, declared me his.
Part Border Collie and part Mystery, Shep was athletic, intelligent…and patient. In his youth, Shep delighted in swimming and running faster than any dog that challenged him. He picked the girl next door as his partner, a goofy yellow lab mix named Lisa, who eventually came to live out her short life with us. And children, he might have said, were the best things since cheese and cat food. He spent a good deal of time with his grandparents, walking Indian Lands, riding shotgun as they ran errands and many overnights…at his request.
There is some sensibility that accompanies an animal that has been rescued. I’ve seen it again and again. Maybe they try harder to thwart the risk of a second abandonment. Maybe they are grateful, or even resigned to whatever will be. They carry a certain undeniable wisdom. Perhaps having known pain makes joy all the sweeter.
On a spectacular fall day one September, sometime in Shep’s fourteenth year, he left forever.
Pets reach into our psyches and extract the aggravations that accumulate from the rigors of daily living. They remind us that the troubles of the world can be buffered by scents to sniff, seagulls to chase, balls to catch, people to greet and naps in the sun.
And love. Always love.