Memories of fostering

CIMG0756Anyone who follows me on Facebook and Twitter knows at one time I fostered a Siberian husky puppy for my son’s former girlfriend.  Why did I do this?  Well the obvious reason is I am stupid.  But I like to think of it as an investment in my future.  Or as I constantly told my son, “remember this when its time to pick out the nursing home.”

I thought life would be fairly simple once Achilles came to stay with us.  After all, I’m at home all the time, I have a fenced back yard, I already have a dog, a long hair doxie named Cody.  So what’s the big deal? Well for one thing Achilles is the big deal.  He’s a snow-white Siberian husky who topped out at seventy pounds.  But he thought he was a doxie. So when he arrived, at five months old he was constantly getting stuck under the bed and tried to lay on the back of the couch.  He also shed.  Big time.  White fur on wood floors.  Not a pretty sight. One time my neighbor asked me if a rabbit had died in our yard. I didn’t factor in all the extra work he would make for me.

And did he ever.  My office is upstairs over the garage.  I got plenty of exercise going up and down the stairs because he howled.  I want in.  I want out.  I want food.  I want water.  I want to play.  I want to walk.  I just want to howl because I like too.  Huskies don’t bark.  They talk. And the entire neighborhood heard it.  It’s hard to concentrate when you are constantly being interrupted by a dog.

Then there was the rampant destruction.  Actually I was keeping a journal of what he destroyed at the time but he ate it.  Off the top of my head he ate a leather ottoman, a pottery barn rug that I bought to cover the big stain he made on our bedroom carpet, three pairs of my husbands shoes, the insides of my uggs, the corner off our stairs, my daytimer, books, and an entire pan of brownies.  (yes I know the dangers of dogs and chocolate and that was a sleepless night)  Also my husband’s softball glove, my wallet the day before I had a flight, and the ottoman that matched my living room furniture. We also had to get rid of a room size rug due to stinkiness and we have a big crack in our ceiling in the kitchen from the day he decided to have a romp around the attic.  CIMG0604

He was a full time job.  Just like having a child.  My entire life revolved around this dog.  Trips were a big deal because I couldn’t leave him alone for a long time.  Boarding was expensive.  I have to make sure doors were closed and stuff was out of his reach and he’s got a big reach.  No counter or table was safe.  I’ve had to replace our back door.  My porch furniture was ruined.  Our back yard has no grass.  My house, which was only two years old at the time was a disaster but there was no need to fix anything until he left, after 15 months when my son and Achilles owner broke up.

Needless to say my writing suffered.  Big time.  I was up and down 100 times a day.  I got really frustrated because our house was no longer the way I wanted it. There were times when I screamed and cried. But today, when I look back, I know I did a good thing, because the alternative at the time was for Achilles to live his life on the end of a rope.

It’s been over three years since Achilles left.  And I still miss him.  I miss our walks.  I miss the way he looked at me with his beautiful blue eyes.  Eyes that say I love you.  I appreciate how you take care of me.  I miss how he watched through the window when I would leave and how he watched for me to come home.  I miss dropping my hand down to touch him when he laid next to the couch while I watched TV.  I miss how he would lie on the floor in my office as I wrote and dreamed about his next meal, which was probably the sofa.

Fostering Achilles was an adventure and a learning experience.  One I will never forget because he will always have a place in my heart.  I think about him often, and yes our neighbors still talk about him.  But I know he’s well loved and always will be.  I was a small part of his life.  As he will always be a part of mine.

Wonderful Wednesday with Ellie James

A Dog Named Molly

I remember the day vividly, every single detail. It was two weeks before Christmas. My husband and I had been married a little over a year. A few months before we’d bought our first house. That evening we were going to a Christmas party at a co-workers house, and I wanted to bring a poinsettia as a hostess-gift. I went to the nursery. They were having an Adopt-A-Pet in their parking lot. I remember the familiar tightening of my throat and chest, the gush of emotion at seeing all those furry friends without a home for the holidays.

I was a cat person. I’d always been a cat person. I had two at home. I knew nothing about dogs. That’s why I went to say hello to the canines, because my heart bled for all things feline, and I wanted to say hi, but I didn’t want to fall in love, and I didn’t want to hurt when I walked away.

The dogs were in cages, probably ten to twelve of them. I walked along and greeted them, finally coming to stand before a lanky black lab with huge, chocolate eyes. Melting chocolate eyes. Eyes that melted right into me. I remember standing there stunned, feeling this incredible rush go through me–and confusion. I didn’t like dogs!! They barked and licked, you know? But I stood there with this invisible lightning bolt flaring between me and this beautiful svelte lab who wouldn’t stop staring at me. A volunteer came over and asked if I wanted her to let Molly out of her cage. Molly. She had a name. For some reason I said yes. At least I think I did. I must have. But I don’t remember. All I remember is the door swinging open, and the dog venturing out. Coming for me. Maybe I tensed. I don’t remember that either. All I know is that she–Molly– came right up to me, stood on her back legs, and wrapped her front paws around my waist. She hugged me. This dog, this dog who I’d said hello to because I didn’t want to feel anything, hugged me. I can still see her face against my chest, her eyes staring up at me. And I can still feel the warmth that swelled through me.

I don’t remember much after that. I think I bought the poinsettia, but maybe I didn’t. The next thing I remember was walking inside the house and finding my husband, going up to him and wrapping my arms around his waist, taking a deep breath, then asking him a question we’d never talked about before: Honey, can we get a dog?

That’s how it all started. Molly came home with us, and we became a family. She was part lab, part Border Collie, all love, all smiles.

At the time my husband and I were struggling to have a baby, and as months stacked up into years, I’d find myself looking into Molly’s liquid eyes, at the love and wisdom shining back at me, as if she was telling me it’s okay, everything’s going to be okay. She was there for us during too many dark days, always greeting us with a smile, a hug, venturing out into the yard to play ball or Frisbee, or maybe just snuggling up with us when we needed so desperately to hold onto something.

Then she was gone. It happened way too soon, way too fast, without one shred of warning. One morning she was her happy wiggly loving self. That evening, when my husband got home from work, he found her in the backyard. She’d died suddenly at some point during the day, alone. We didn’t know why or how. We still don’t. All we knew was that she left us as suddenly as she joined us, and that there were these huge, awful holes in our hearts and our lives. We were devastated. Inconsolable. Didn’t have a clue what to do. Friends suggested we adopt another dog, but we didn’t want another dog. We wanted Molly. Our dog. Our angel.

A few months went by. Two, to be exact. It was Christmastime again, and I stumbled across an Adopt-A-Pet again. The memories hit so hard, and they hurt. I told myself to steer clear. Molly wasn’t there. But…I walked over anyway, and started to cry. And as I cried, I went down on my knees to greet the dogs who were there. Who did need a friend. And that’s how it started.

A few weeks later we brought two young pups home, a brother and a sister we named Bonnie and Clyde. Bonnie resembled a shaggy German Shepherd, whereas Clyde looked more lab. And as we loved on these little babies and gave them a home, I sometimes would have sworn Molly was sitting beside me, smiling that smile of hers.

But we didn’t stop with Bonnie and Clyde. They were actually the beginning. That spring a friend asked if we could foster a young dog named Rusty for the rescue group she worked with. We said yes. Rusty was with us for three weeks. And when he left, we said we’d be happy to foster another dog. So we did.

On and on it went, Bonnie and Clyde sharing their yard with a wide variety of hobo dogs, from Marge the over-bred cocker who came one weekend and stayed for over six months before she found her forever family, including several late night visits to the emergency clinic to ward off infections, to the little shaggy dog who came to us along with her seven newborn puppies.

Lola, we called her, and the name still makes us laugh. And holy cow did those seven little puppies poop a lot. And to this day I’d swear they each had a different dad. There was a little Chihuahua looking one, two shit-zhus, a bulldog, a lab, you name it. We called them Linus and Snoopy and Bertha, Princes and Zeus and Fluffball. And Duke. They all found homes, even Lola.

Then our daughter came along, and Bonnie and Clyde grew older. Then came our son, at the same time we said goodbye to Bonnie. Then a year later, Clyde.

Last spring we began fostering again, a little lab pup named Lexie, who ignited the dog-fever in our daughter. A few weeks later we brought another girl home, a little Great Pyrenees (believe it or not, they do start out little, for all of about a week!) Pink became Roxie, and she’s now over 85 pounds, and a very permanent part of our family.

Life goes in crazy ways, but we come to realize goodbye is only a temporary thing, something physical. Spirit lives on. Love lives on. Some of us are here, in the flesh. Others exist in the heart. It’s all real.

I think about them a lot, Bonnie and Clyde and Marge, Lola and her seven pups,
Rusty and Lexie and Roxie, and so many others who called our backyard home for a short time. And then I think of Molly, my sweet little angel, and I know that although her time with us was brief, her legacy is forever. Because of her, a dog named Molly, countless others have found their way to forever homes ☺

I know now she wasn’t a dog. She was an angel. My angel. My Molly.

About Ellie James

Ellie James is the author of the Midnight Dragonfly books, a new series about a teenage psychic, dreams that terrify, and secrets with the power to heal, and destroy. Most people who know Ellie think she’s your nice, ordinary average wife and mom of two kids. They see someone who does all that normal stuff, like grocery shopping, walking the dogs, going to baseball games, and somehow always forgetting to get the house cleaned and laundry done.

What they don’t know is that more often than, Ellie is somewhere far, far away, in an extraordinary world, deeply embroiled in solving a riddle or puzzle or crime, testing the limits of possibility, exploring the unexplained, and holding her breath while two people fall in love.

Regardless of which world Ellie is in, her story worlds or the real world, she loves rain and wind and thunder and lightning, the first warm kiss of spring and the first cool whisper of fall, family, friends and animals, dreams, happy endings, and…chocolate chip cookies.

You can follow Ellie on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Midnight-Dragonfly-Books-by-Ellie-James/154988421236309

Her next book, BROKEN ILLUSIONS, will be available from Griffin Teen May 8, 2012.

Wonderful Wednesday with Michelle Cunnah

A Tale of Two Kittehs by Michelle Cunnah
My children both refer fondly to me as The Borg Mothership. Apparently because I assimilate both people and pets, and also because once I have decided to assimilate Resistance is Futile. ☺ But in a good kind of way, so they assure me. Here is the story of how I assimilated two elderly, lovely kitties.
Years ago when we lived in America I got a telephone call from a good friend. She was very upset about something and wasn’t sure what she could do. A family she was acquainted with was moving out of the area. In their basement lived their elderly cat. Their elderly cat who had health problems. They couldn’t remember how old she was but thought that she was “about twelve.” They weren’t sure what health problems she had, either, but she did have damage to one of her ears in the form of a large, dry blood blister. Probably from being attacked by their dog, they thought. Anyway, they could not take the elderly kitty with them because their new house didn’t have a basement, so it was euthanasia time for the old cat if they couldn’t find her a new home before they left in two days’ time. Also, they had a dog that didn’t get on with cats. Oh, and also because they had a new kitten. Go figure.
My good friend couldn’t take the old cat because she already had a lively cat and three very exuberant dogs of her own. This old basement cat was very skitty and shy, and although my friend is one of the kindest, loveliest people ever to humans and other animals, this cat would not thrive in her home. What was she to do? I wasn’t sure what to do, either, but my heart went out to the poor old cat.
Later that evening I had a scheduled telephone conversation with my husband, Oh Patient One (as I fondly refer to him), who was on a business trip to India at the time. After I told him the tale of the poor old cat, this is what happened.
Oh Patient One (without the slightest hesitation): “Michelle, tomorrow morning you are going to go and collect that kitty and bring her home with you.”
Me (because I worry about everything): “Even though she’s old and will probably need medical attention more-or-less straight away? It could cost us quite a bit.”
Oh Patient One: “Yes. And don’t even think about what might happen in five years’ time when we have to leave America. She’s an old kitty, she might not even be with us by then so don’t borrow trouble and worry about transporting her on a plane back to Europe or horrendous quarantine laws or anything.”
He knows me so well, thought I, breathing a huge sigh of relief.
Oh Patient One: “And by the way, I already have a new name for this poor kitty. Dolores, because it sounds like she’s had a bad time and it’s derived from the Latin for pain or grief.”
A perfect name for her.
The next day it broke my heart when I first saw Dolores on her old sofa in the basement. What a pretty calico cat she was. Although she was shy, she was so pleased to be stroked and petted by my friend and myself, so thrilled to be getting attention that she was soon purring loudly. She wasn’t so thrilled when we put her into the pet carrier. Judging from her piteous cries she must have been terrified. My heart broke all over again for causing her anxiety. But once we’d gotten her home and shown her the kitty litter tray and her food and water, she was soon investigating my house. Mainly, it has to be said, investigating any area that was behind a sofa or a piece of furniture. Anywhere she could hide, really.
A couple days later she was settling in quite nicely. Although she didn’t like to be approached, if we crouched and held out a hand to her she would sometimes come to us to be stroked and told what a lovely kitty she was. She was so shy, though, that she wouldn’t even come through to the kitchen if I opened a can of tuna, or if I was carving a chicken. Although I know that it’s not good for cats to eat human food, a little chicken or tuna now and then was surely something she should expect? It didn’t seem right that she didn’t think she deserved a little treat. But don’t worry, we soon changed all of that.
A short while later she had us all eating out of the palm of her paw. She had her particular sofa where she liked to sit at the front of my dining room. A cheerful, sunny spot. She really became attached to this sofa (possibly because she’d lived on a sofa in a basement previously?) So much so that she didn’t really want to sit anywhere else. She would come and seek me out and yowl at me, transmitting her cat ESP vibes my way, because she wanted me to come and sit with her on her sofa. And if I opened a can of tuna or carved a chicken, it wouldn’t be long before Dolly transmitted cat ESP vibes at me for her share of the treat.
Soon we adjusted her name from Dolores to Empress Dolly of Cunnah, because she certainly wasn’t suffering pain or grief. And she was certainly regal with her six claws on each paw—an Anne Boleyn of cats.
Dolly was with us for four years. At the age of about eighteen her diabetes became really serious despite our best efforts with daily insulin injections and making sure that her diet was correct. I asked the vet for his honest advice about her situation, and he told me that it would be cruel to make her suffer. He put her to sleep I held her in my arms.
Here is Dolly on her sofa.
Fast forward several years. Last year my dear mum died unexpectedly while Oh Patient One and I were at our Rotterdam apartment. By the time I got to my mum’s house in the UK my sister and her best friend were already there, and the one question that they were worried about amidst the grief of losing Mum, the first thing they said to me once we’d hugged was, “What are we going to do with Mum’s kitty, Michelle? We can’t take Pippa because she’s so tiny and shy and elderly and our two cats would have her for breakfast. Can you take her? We’ll pay for everything you need, and if she needs to see a vet we’ll pay for that, too.”
Of course, Oh Patient One and I had already had this discussion on the long journey back to the UK and yes, I fully intended to take Pippa back to our house near London. And no, Oh Patient One and I would pay for anything Pippa needed. We knew what to expect with a twelve-year-old kitty, but it was lovely of my sister and her friend to worry about the money.
The car journey from my mum’s house to our house in the UK took about five hours. Although my sister had managed to get a kitty chill pill into Pippa she still managed to cry piteously for most of the journey. It broke our hearts all over again, reinforcing our grief for Mum. Pippa was our last connection to Mum and would Pippa suffer from separation anxiety and die, too? Mum had rescued Pippa when she was two, she’d had a decade of loving Mum.
But we needn’t have worried. Pippa was wary of her new home at first, but over the course of the last year she has basically taken over the whole household and we are all her kitty slaves. She has become Kitteh Princess Pippa who thinks that she is two years old rather than her actual thirteen years. She taps my face to wake me in the morning as she sends me kitty ESP vibes to feed her. If I am working on my laptop and she wants attention, she will either climb up on the bureau behind me and tap my shoulder, or climb onto my chair behind me and jump up against my shoulders with both paws. She climbs my trellis like a pro. She catches birds, too, so it’s fortunate that she doesn’t have enough teeth to kill them. From the way she stretches up towards the back door handle when she wants to go out, Oh Patient One and I are convinced that she is working on evolving an opposable thumb claw.
As I type this Oh Patient One and I are in our Rotterdam apartment for a few days. My daughter, Borg Sector R, called me yesterday from our UK house. And after we’d had a good chat (even though I saw two days ago), this is what she said to me.
Borg Sector R: “Borg Mother Ship, Kitteh Princess Pippa is missing you. I’m pretty sure she knows I am on the phone to you because she’s doing that funny tapping thing with her paw.”
Me: “Can you put the phone to her ear so that I can talk to her?”
Borg Sector R (without missing a beat): “Absolutely.” And then, a few moments later, “Mum, she’s purring at you—can you hear her?”
Me (with a smile): “Yes, I can.”
Michelle Cunnah writes romanticMichelle
comedies and teen fiction for
HarperCollins. To find out more
about her books, or her trials
and tribulations with Kitteh
Princess Pippa, and Other Things
Designed to Thwart Michelle,
please visit her website at
http://www.michellecunnah.com

AFA WW Confessions of a foster mom

Sorry to not post lately but I’m under deadline. But I wanted to let everyone know about another way you can help shelter pets. By fostering.You can be a bridge between the shelter and a forever home for animals that are just out of time.
So follow this link to Heather’s Blog about her days as a foster mom to many dogs in need.
http://heathermcamp.wordpress.com/2012/02/14/confessions-of-a-canine-foster-parent/

AFA WW How one life saved more with Jordan Dane

Todays Wonderful Wednesday guest is Jordan Dane, author of Romantic Suspense and Young Adult. Here’s the story of how one life saved more.

One Life

Our first rescue dog Feliz passed from this life in 2008 after sixteen years of sharing her love. As we knew it would, her death broke our hearts.

Grief manifests itself in many ways. For a long time, we heard the click of her nails on tile, still saw her shadow at the door, and we lingered at the garage, waiting for her to show and claim a biscuit. All of those moments were products of our wishful thinking and old habits are hard to deny, but it’s amazing how well she trained us. If Stephen King’s story in Pet Sematary were true, we’d gladly welcome her back to this life, even if she were the spawn of Satan.

That’s how much we loved her. 

Her full name was Feliz Navidog. Yes, she was a Christmas present, but not for us. We had given her to my parents with the caveat that if they truly didn’t want a puppy, they could return her to us. (What were we thinking giving a puppy to my elderly parents? HA!) Within two weeks, back she came. In hindsight, she was the best present we ever got. We nearly called her Boomerang, but in Spanish, the word Feliz translates to ‘happy’ and that suited her just fine. She always had a smile on her face.

When she was a pup, she had a dark muzzle, one ear up and one down, a curled tail and an unfaltering bounce to her step. People often asked us what breed she was. In truth, she was a German Shepherd Chow mix, but we lovingly called her a “Somma Dog”—because she was somma dis, somma dat. But one man’s mutt is another man’s idea of perfection.

Feliz had many admirable skills, despite her questionable lineage.

She was a practitioner of puppy telepathy, transmitting her thoughts to us with a meaningful stare. She also spoke the language of human beings with unfailing accuracy, developing an extensive vocabulary. Balancing a biscuit on the end of her nose then tossing it into her mouth had become her signature move. And in later years, she mastered sign language when her hearing was failing. Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?

Every morning of her life—without fail—she awoke for the sole purpose of pleasing us. We saw it in her face and felt it on her warm wet tongue. She never tired of the routine or the mundane, even after her joints got stiff and her eyesight grew dim—because in her mind, she was always that puppy with a bounce in her step.

It took us a long time to get over her death, but after I blogged about my grief, many people responded that it wasn’t about trying to replace her, it was about giving another deserving rescue dog a good home. That’s when we made up our minds to move on and open our home to more rescue animals. We now have four rescue animals, two dogs and two cats.

They are (we are) Feliz’s legacy. One life matters.

Dogs remind us that love should be unconditional. In their world, friendships begin with a well-placed and unerring sniff—completely devoid of an ulterior motive or personal agenda. If you pass the sniff test, you’re in. No cover charge and no membership fee. And with a mere wag of a tail, a dog can make you smile and lift your spirits. We can all learn from them—because their love comes from a higher place.

HarperCollins launched Jordan Dane’s suspense novels back to back in 2008 after the 3-book series sold in auction. Ripped from the headlines, Jordan’s gritty plots weave a tapestry of vivid settings, intrigue, and dark humor. Publishers Weekly compared her intense thrillers to Lisa Jackson, Lisa Gardner, and Tami Hoag. This national best selling, critically acclaimed author’s debut novel NO ONE HEARD HER SCREAM was named Publishers Weekly Best Books of 2008. Dane’s first Young Adult book is IN THE ARMS OF STONE ANGELS (Apr 2011, Harlequin Teen) with ON A DARK WING released January 2012. Her next YA books with Harlequin Teen will be a series – THE HUNTED, release slated for fall 2012 through 2013. Formerly an energy sales manager, she now writes full time. Jordan and her husband share their San Antonio residence with two cats of highborn lineage and two very lucky rescue dogs. For more information, visit http://www.JordanDane.com

 

Puppy Mill Raid

When I arrived at the shelter Tuesday morning I was informed that I might get upset when I went into the cat room. So I mentally prepared myself and went back to have a look. There were eleven male Shih Tzu dogs in the cages. They were filthy, and sad little dogs, who looked at me with sad eyes.  They were from a puppy mill.  There was going to be a raid.

Puppies from the raid

While I was adopting out a wonderful dog to a cute couple the calvary showed up as the US Humane society with volunteers and Veterinarians. The most wondrous sight was two giant RV’s fitted out for dog rescue. It was quite a thing to see them pull up at our little county shelter that sits out in the middle of nowhere.  Altogether around twenty people came to help out with the raid.

For those of you who don’t know what a puppy mill is, its a sad thing. The dogs are repeatedly bred over and over again without regard to the health or welfare of the breeders.  It is done purely to make a profit.  The dogs are kept in cages and never receive any love or attention beyond having food flung at them.  In this case 139 dogs were pulled from the location.  The conditions were deplorable.  So many dogs in a cage that they were stacked on top of each other.  Not the cages, the dogs.  The cages were full of feces and the food was flung in with the waste.  Not put in dishes, flung in with the waste.  There were rats in the cages with the puppies. For more on the raid follow the link.

http://myfox8.com/2012/02/07/more-than-150-dogs-seized-from-alleged-puppy-mill-in-stokes-county/

The most rewarding thing was seeing the Humane Society in action.  They are now trying to get the state to pass a law to make puppy mills illegal.

If you are in the market for a purebred dog, make sure the breeder is reputable. Ask to see the mother and the father and the insides of the kennels. Also check your local rescue organizations. There are plenty of purebreds in need of homes and they even come through the shelters.

Save a life!  Adopt a shelter animal.

AFA Wonderful Wednesday Mari Mancusi

This Wonderful Wednesday features young adult author Mari Mancusi who writes the wildly popular Blood Coven series for teens. Mari tells us about her rescue dog, Molly, who I had the pleasure to meet when I visited Mari in NYC a few years ago.  Molly was such a great dog that I, along with everyone else that ever met her, fell in love with her at first sight. I even got to walk through Central Park with her. It was a privilege meeting Molly and even more to hear the entire story of her life. Here is Molly and Mari’s story.

Molly was my first “grown-up” dog and the two of us spent thirteen wonderful years together. She moved all around the country with me, dealt with all my various boyfriends, wagged her tail when I laughed and licked away my tears when I cried. She was my best friend. The one who was always there, no matter what life would throw at me.

But I wasn’t Molly’s first owner. When she was a puppy, she was adopted by a migrant farm worker family in Florida. They called her “Dog” and left her tied to a tree in the front of the house 24/7–never allowing her relief from the hot Florida sun. They never bothered to fix her either–and she had a litter of puppies when she was only a puppy herself. And they never gave her heartworm prevention–even in mosquito infested Florida–and she soon became afflicted with the deadly parasites, eating away at her heart from within.

Animal control stepped in, taking her away from the negligent owners and throwing her back into the pound. She was scheduled to be euthanized, but the angels of the Cocker Spaniel/Small Dog Rescue of Central Florida stepped in just in time, placing her in a foster home and giving hear heartworm treatment before putting her up for adoption. It seemed everyone would be okay after all.

But then months went by. And no one seemed interested in adopting the one year old skinny black mutt. She languished at the rescue for four months, waiting for a family to call her own.

If it were a kill shelter, she would have been a goner for sure.
I shouldn’t have adopted her. The apartment I was staying at only allowed dogs under 25 pounds. And Molly was closer to 30. The rescue introduced me to another dog who looked more pure bred cocker spaniel, which was what I’d been looking for when I arrived. This dog was 25 pounds and seemed, on paper, the perfect match.
Except that he when he came outside, he ignored me, preferring to check out the nearby squirrels and other neighborhood activity instead. And though he seemed like a very nice dog, he didn’t seem all that excited about me.
Enter Molly. She burst from the door, jumped onto me, paws on my shoulders (I was kneeling down) and started licking my face with wild abandon. It was as if, clear as day, she was saying, “PICK ME PICK ME PICK ME!”

The rescue warned me that she would have to be tested for heartworm again in six months. And if the treatment hadn’t worked, it might be too late to save her. I was worried–what if I fall in love with this dog and then she goes and dies on me?

But it turned out, I was already in love. It was too late. So I took her home–all 30 pounds of her.

It turned out to be the best choice I ever made in my life. And I think Molly was pretty happy with the arrangement, too. She went from neglected mutt to spoiled princess and lived each day in the lap of luxury with constant love and affection. (And that heartworm test? Negative!) Though she never did learn to play ball and liked to sometimes steal food off the coffee table, it was hard to stay mad at those big brown eyes. And everyone who met her agreed, she was “the best dog…ever.” Even those who professed to hate dogs made an exception when it came to Molly.

She died of heart failure two summers ago, at the age of fourteen. It was the saddest day of my life to watch her go and I’m tearing up just thinking about it now. But, at the same time, I’m so grateful I got to have her for thirteen wonderful years. I’m not sure I would have made it through my tumultuous twenties without her by my side.

And the most incredible thing of all–to think that this dog–the best dog in the world!–would have been euthanized–all because she happened to fall into the hands of some bad owners when she was a pup. I can’t thank the people of the Central Florida Cocker Spaniel/Small Dog Rescue enough–for taking a chance on a skinny black mutt…and saving the life of my best friend.