Thought for today: What’s life without a risk or two?
It was sweltering July day, and the pounding rain caused clouds of steam to rise off the sidewalks. I was making my way out of Philadelphia and heading for home anxiously thinking of all I had to do in anticipation of our move. There was lots of packing to do and uncertainty in general since the home we were building was behind in construction. I was disheartened because I had no idea how long my family would be living in temporary housing.
I stopped at a red light – third in line. That’s when I spotted a pathetic looking, little cocker spaniel trying to push her way into a bank door. People were moving in and out shushing her away, and she was soaking wet. Her sad brown eyes darted back and forth, scared and sadly searching for someone…anyone. She was obviously abandoned, and my heart broke. Without thinking, I pulled over to the side of the road. It wasn’t a safe neighborhood, so I wasn’t about to get out of the car. I reached for a towel on the floor of the car and quickly threw it on the seat. I opened the passenger door and called to her. If she gets in, I’ll…well, I don’t know what I’ll do, but if she doesn’t, she’s out of luck. Without hesitation, the dog ran to me and jumped right in the car, sat down and looked out the front window as if to say “where are we going?” I fed her a pretzel, which she immediately hid in the towel. It became her way with food – always hiding a little of it to save for later. It must have been something she learned living on the streets.
I thought about the other two dogs I had at home, a golden retriever and a black lab. I don’t need another dog, I thought. I would be living with my brother in the interim until the house was completed – how would he react to one more dog?
Driving straight to my veterinarian, I was lucky they took her in. “Can you please keep her over night, give her all her shots and please, could someone bathe her?” I asked. She was a grimy brownish-gray color. A while later the veterinarian called to report she was very sick with a fever and full of worms and fleas. She weighed only 16 lbs. – half of what she should have weighed. Heaven only knows how long she had survived out on the streets of Philadelphia by herself. I authorized all treatment.
After I broke the news to my family, I fretted over how Skylar would get along with my other dogs. Throwing caution to the wind, I picked her up the next day. She was hanging out in the office with the receptionist who was feeding her treats. I looked but almost didn’t recognize her, astounded that once bathed she was pure white with a few brown patches around her eye and on her ears. She was adorably cute and spunky. Everyone had fallen in love with her at the veterinarian’s office. The vet tech wanted to take her home to her grandmother. But my gut said no; I had found her for a reason, and she was meant to be with me.
The first few days weren’t easy. My other two dogs were very friendly, but Skylar was scared, constantly growling and snapping at them. It must have been frightening for her with two towering giants sticking their curious noses in her face. She wouldn’t sleep in the crate, scratching and pawing frantically until we let her out. She chased my neighbor’s cats relentlessly and was merciless with the squirrels in our yard. She barked at every moving object. She was extremely territorial with her food, which was probably a survival mechanism. Feeding time became a snarling fight until I began feeding her in another room. Eventually she settled in. She loved going for car rides and was a relentless ball catcher and squeaky toy player.
A month later we all moved in with my brother, who accepted her unconditionally. She adjusted tremendously as we all did. In time we moved to a new home, and it was as if she had been with us all of our lives. And you know what? She became one of the best dogs I’ve ever had!
Skylar stood faithfully by my side and comforted me during many difficult situations including the death of my parents, divorce, my kids leaving the nest and the sad passings of my other beloved dogs. She became my role model for adaptation and flexibility and demonstrated endurance through hard times.
Skylar suffered through many health problems including chronic ear infections, tick disease, a torn ACL, eye ulcers and two cancerous tumor removals. Yet, through it all she remained as sweet and as adventurous as the day I picked her up. She mellowed with age and slept a lot toward the end. Listening to her gentle snoring used to warm my heart, and I thanked God for this little ball of fur He blessed me with so long ago.
She developed cancer in the end and was a trooper, as always, through what was probably painful for her at times. The night I took her for her last car ride to the veterinarian’s office, my heart ached as I glanced over to see her sitting and looking out the window just as she had on that first car ride home. Our veterinarian told me that Skylar had been hanging in there for me because of all I had been going through personally, and now it was time to let her go in peace. So I painfully said goodbye to my faithful little companion of almost ten years.
I’ll never know what made me stop my car and open the door on that miserably hot and rainy summer’s day, but when I did, I was blessed with an angel disguised as a spunky little street dog who will always own a piece of my heart.