Guest Post by Ruth Dewey
It was in the middle of a heat wave when the phone rang. It was my neighbor.
“Hey, I think that we may have your dog here!” she said in an urgent tone.
Which one, I wondered to myself. We had two and they were both in sight.
“Didn’t you lose a tri-colored beagle awhile ago?” she pressed on.
“Yes, we lost Beau in a storm last spring,” wondering where this was going.
“Well, we have a sweet little dog here. We thought it might be yours.”
“Is it a male or a female,” I ventured.
“It’s a female, I think,” she replied.
She THINKS that it’s a female, I noted. I heaved a sigh of relief and to my amazement, I found myself uttering the following:
“I’ll come down and look at her.
Put that in the Hall-of-Fame of Dumb Words Spoken. The words were out so I hurriedly slipped on my thongs, jumped into our “animal” car and sped off. It was probably about 105 degrees out there so was going to be a mighty quick look. At first look, I gathered that it was not Beau, our beloved male, but what appeared to be beagle/coonhound mix. Judging from her appearance she had probably been dropped off at the farm and left to fend for herself. One look into those doleful eyes and I was hooked. She was covered with fleas and ticks and heaven knows how long it had been since she had eaten. I scooped her up and said that I would take it from there. I had no idea what I meant by that but I knew that leaving here there meant a trip to the local animal shelter and possible liquidation so there was no option. To leave her out in the scorching heat was certain death. So I took her home.
The first task was to bathe her. Not only did it cool here down but it soothed her nerves as well. Then I proceeded to removed the ticks — one by one. Next I introduced her to Ebony, our black lab, and Sweet Pea, our saddleback beagle. They nodded their approval. She sat there in the middle of the great-room, looking as if she had lost here best friend although she had just gained three. What could she want? Food!
I went into the kitchen and put some puppy chow into a bowl and some milk and egg.. She wolfed it down as if she hadn’t eaten in days. After a long drink of cool water, she seemed restored although her eyelids began to droop. I placed her on the couch beneath a fan and she sighed and slipped off to dreamland. I looked at the other two dogs and they returned my gaze. We were all thinking the same thing: What is Bob, Mr. One-Dog-Is-Enough-Even-Though-I-Have-Two, going to say? Bob is my husband, due home any minute now. The prospect of another dog here was not going to sit well with him.
He walked in the door and started at the newcomer.
“It can’t stay here,!” he intoned. I looked at the other two dogs. Their eyes gave me the answer.
“Just until I can find her another home,” I pleaded.
“Two days,” he answered.
Two days were an eternity. Twenty-four hours went by more quickly than I thought. The neighbors across the street, who had just lost their dog, did not want her. I called the animal shelter and they had had no one come in for her. I had struck out twice so far. Sensing that my options were running out, I pulled out Plan B.
“Well, she needs a name,” I told Bob.
“A name? Why?” he asked.
“It’s a proven fact that if a dog has a name it is easier to find her a home,” I replied, knowing full well that I was reaching but I was desperate — a life was at stake.
“A name, huh?” he mused, thoughtfully.
I had employed the secret weapon. Any dog that Bob had named never left the premises.
“How about Patches,” he suggested.
“Perfect!” I responded
I still had time left and already the little mutt had a name, a food bowl, a water bowl, a bed, a collar, two canine friends and a chance at life.
“But you have to get her fixed,” he warned., knowing he was beaten.
That was going to be an expensive proposition. I called the animal shelter again. As luck would have it they could help with the surgery. That and a rabies shot would cost me only $25. It was do-able. The surgery was scheduled for three weeks down the road. In the meantime, I took her for two daily walks around the farm to teach her the boundaries. True to her beagle blood, she went slightly insane at the sight of myriad little bunnies who frequented the garden area and strained at her leash. Since she hadn’t been spayed yet, I didn’t unleash her. This created a dilemma since I didn’t relish the thought of being pulled up into the woods when she unearthed one into the blackberry patch. For about a fortnight we struggled until I finally unleashed her and let come what may. Off into the cedars she tore, baying at the top of her lungs. Nightfall came and she didn’t come home. I worried and prayed. Finally she appeared on the front porch. I let her in and she jumped on the bed. She looked at me as if to say.
“Why so surprised — I am your dog.”
Never having been much of a dog person, except for Beau who was beyond dog — cats and horses are my favorites — I was touched by her friendship. I was amazed that an animal that had experienced complete abandonment at the hands of a callous human being could be so forgiving. As the weeks wore on, I learned more about Patches, who quickly became friends with all of the other animals on the farm, including “Firefly,” my three-year old quarter horse. “Firefly” threw her usual tantrum as we passed her on our walks. A new dog always brought on a fit of jealousy but soon she accepted the newcomer and all was well.
Soon the day of the surgery came and I dropped her off at the shelter. I was surprised at my level of apprehension at leaving her in the hands of strangers. I felt relieved hours later when they called me to come pick her up. When I entered the door, I was greeted with some laughter as they handed over Patches. I was to learn the source of their amusement quickly. It seems that the little dog was born neither male nor female but both — she was an inter-sex. Not only did they remove her “male package” but her ovaries as well. She had probably been dropped off for that reason as she couldn’t be bred and produce hunter puppies, the main reason for a rabbit dog in Tennessee. She had just been thrown out like a piece of garbage.
For her ordeal, she was doing as well as could be expected. She lay on her bed for the remainder of the evening as she healed. As I lie there looking at her I realized what had happened. Our beloved Beau had come back to us as well as Winchester, Bob’s coonhound, who had met an untimely end while chasing a truck as Bob was under-going open-heart surgery. With the arrival of Patches — perhaps an angel unaware — three hearts were mended : Bob’s, mine and that of Patches.
Ruth D. Dewey is a former English teacher turned gentleman farmer’s wife. Her first book is SPRINGBORN, (Dorrance Publishing Co. 2009) a poetic chronicle of a calico kitten’s life employing the Old English kenning. She is also a contributor to ANGELS magazine. Her current work-in-progress concerns her recent experience with Dorrance Publishing Company.