Posted by: fringe62 | November 18, 2013

Who Chooses Who

I’ve always been a firm believer that a dog chooses you just as much as you choose a dog, and as I meandered from room to room, up one aisle and down another at the Williamsport Humane Society, I peered into kennel after kennel and wondered if this would be the day I’d meet the dog that would be going home with me.

After my divorce I’d moved back in with my parents.  They would have been okay with me getting a dog while living at their place.  After all, we always had dogs when I was growing up.  The problem was that most trucking companies would not let you keep a dog in their trucks.  Now that I’d bought not only my own house but also my own truck, it was time to fill in the missing piece of the puzzle – a dog.

This was my fourth trip up here in as many months and as I ran into some of the staff members I was greeted with “maybe today?” and “check out the guy in kennel #22”.  They all knew what I did for a living and had no problem with me adopting a dog unlike some shelters I had visited where I had been told in no uncertain terms that they didn’t adopt out to truckers.  These people were glad to see me because other than wanting a medium to large sized dog that was about a year old I had no other criteria.  I had taken a few dogs out for runs in the backyard on some of my visits but it just hadn’t clicked with any of them.  Don’t get me wrong.  If I had the space and the money I would’ve taken them all.  It broke my heart to notice that some of the dogs I’d previously looked at we’re no longer there – and probably not because they’d been adopted.

I hesitated in front of a kennel that held a scrawny, short-haired pointer mix.  Her head was black with long floppy ears and a long, pointy snout.  The gray fur on her body was covered with black spots and splotches.  She was laying in the back of her kennel watching me with big, black eyes and just the tip of her tail twitching.  I read the card on the door; Sammi, approximately nine months old, 35 pounds, found as a stray.  As I knelt down in front of her kennel she sat up and her skinny gray tail started furiously sweeping the floor.  I placed the back of my hand against the kennel wire and clicked my tongue to call her.  Her long tail started thrashing the air as she bounded over to me and sniffed my hand and then gave my fingers a tentative lick as I scratched her head through the wire.

“Oh. You found Sammi” one of the staff said as she came up behind me. “Here” she said, handing me a leash.  “She’d probably love a walk out back.”

I slowly opened the kennel door and slipped inside.  Sammi’s whole body was now wagging along with her tail.  “Can you SIT” I said, emphasizing the word “sit”.  She plopped her butt onto the floor.  “Good girl” I said as I snapped the leash to her collar.

After a short run around the yard with stops for her to sniff and pee, I sat down on the grass.  She danced around me a bit but when I asked her to sit again she did and just stared at me with those big, round, dark eyes.  Then, with a soft, contented sigh she laid down beside me and put her head in my lap.  I slowly stroked the side of her face and body and talked quietly to her.  “What do ya think little girl?  Wanna go for a ride in a big truck?  Little girl, I think you may be going home today.”

No sooner had I said that when a couple of motorcycles drove down the street on the other side of the fence.  Sammi yelped as she jumped up and started howling with her eyes rolling wildly in her head as she ran and jumped and struggled to pull free of the leash.  No amount of petting or talking would get her to calm down.  I got up and started for the back door with her hopping, pulling and whining the whole way.  Once inside she strained against the leash and her nails scraped against the concrete floor in her rush to get back to her kennel.  I opened the door and once inside she ran to the back and curled up into a tiny, quivering ball of fur on the dingy towel that served as her bed.

I followed her inside, closed the door and slowly sank down to the floor with my back against the wire.  As I watched her whimper my eyes filled with tears.  I swallowed a sob, gently pulled on the leash and called her.  Finally, with her tail tucked firmly up into her belly, she crawled over to me and still shaking, curled up in my lap.  I wrapped my arms and legs and curved my whole body around her and let the tears fall as I stroked the top of her head.

There was no way she would make it in my truck.  The noise of the engine, air-brakes hissing, my reefer unit running on the trailer – she would be terrified.  How long would it take her to get used to all of the loud sounds.  What would happen the first time I had to leave her alone in the truck and some loud noise sent her into a tailspin?  Would I come back to find my truck torn apart?

“So have we finally found…” and her voice trailed off as the staff member that had given me the leash came around the corner.  I looked up and with a glance she took in my tear-stained face and the still shaking dog and ran over to me.  “Oh no!  What happened?” she asked as she knelt down outside of the kennel.

Between sobs I told her and she tried to cheer me up.  “Sammi’s a great dog!  Don’t worry.  I won’t let anything happen to her.  We’ll find someone that can take the time to work through her fears.”

I unhooked the leash from Sammi’s collar, gave her one last pat on the head and slid out of her kennel.  I could hear her tail swishing on the floor as I walked away without looking back.  “I need to get out of here” I said under my breath as I headed to the front of the building.  “I can’t handle any more of this today”.

I pushed open the front door and almost ran head-on into the shelter trainer.  I almost didn’t notice the dog she had with her.  “Don’t leave until you take this one for a walk.  He’s about a year old, streetwise but trainable and I think he’d work well in your truck” she said as she shoved the leash into my hand and went inside.

I looked down at him.  A beautiful salt and pepper German Shepherd mix.  Mixed with what I couldn’t be certain but he had short legs that made him look like a puppy.  A bit scrawny but weren’t they all?  He would probably fill out to about 65 pounds or so.  He sat calmly watching the people and traffic go by – alert and attentive – his black, slightly over-sized, pointy ears turning this way and that at different noises.  I watched him for a moment and then clicked my tongue a couple times.  He looked up at me with brown, almond shaped eyes and cocked his head at an inquisitive angle.  And then the hustle and bustle of the busy street faded and my heart jumped into my throat as his gaze locked on mine.  Just for a moment, there it was, as unmistakeable as if he’d spoken to me.

I.                  Choose.                  You.

??????????????  I have started and stopped this story many times over the last several years.  It has been very difficult to write about him.  Even though he passed away several years ago and I have a new dog that I wouldn’t trade for the world, I still miss him very much.  He was a constant companion while I drove truck and I miss not only his friendship but also for him being a part of a life that I loved and still miss sometimes.  Oh the stories he could’ve told!  But this is my version of events and the start of a series of stories about ____.  Oh, no!  You’ll have to wait for the next one to find out his name!

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Responses

  1. Worth waiting the many starts and stops as I type through my tears

    • Thanks Suzanne, Anyone who’s had a dog probably knows exactly how that felt. Appreciate that you got it. Hopefully the process gets a bit easier to write the stories about my best trucking buddy. Working on the next one!

  2. Heather, we’re enjoying ‘Rubies in My Mirror’. We never marathon’d like you did w/ the truck, but while traveling in 49 of the 50 states w/ motor home we do appreciate many of your comments. Having a dog as a companion is an indescribable experience. Although we had dogs on the farm, we haven’t tried to keep one the last few years, considering our nomadic lifestyle.
    Looking forward to your next installment. Dick ‘n Barb

    • Hi Kinnan’s! Glad you’re enjoying the stories. I know that you’ve had more traveling experience than most. I’m one of those “I like dogs more than most people” people. Can’t imagine my life without one. He was very hard to write about since he was the first dog I had as truly my own. Represented a very hard time but a very great time in my life. Maybe that is why he’s so hard to let go of. I’ve been working on the next installment. The big name reveal! Thanks again! Hope all is well with you two. Heather

  3. As a dog lover And German Shepherd owner which out of many breeds that I’ve had in the past, best dog I’ve ever had. She’s been there for me through my struggles and hard times. And for that I couldn’t ask for a better friend And when her passing comes it will Absolutely destroy me. But thanks to your story I know her memory Will be as alive as she is. Thank you for sharing your memories of a special bond between pet n owner…


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