It was love at first sight, at least for her. But who could blame her staring intently back at me? After all, what’s not to love? Dark raven black hair, steely dark eyes, and an anxious gaze of anticipation all told me this would be a match made in heaven.
And so began a love affair in the winter of 1996 which continues until this day.
Her name was Angel and I guess she deserved the name, having known only hell until being rescued from a ditch bank only a few days before our introduction. She’d been struck by a car, broken jaw, broken ribs, broken pelvis, but, most of all, a broken heart. She’d remain for three long days trapped in the ditch, right before Thanksgiving, 35-degree weather, spitting rain, the world busily whizzing by, caring not one iota about her plight. But this apathy was nothing new since she came from the mean streets of Porter’s Alley in Dawson, where every dog must fight for every scrap every day.
A real life Angel found her after three hard, long days and took her to the local vet. It was there I picked her up, needing another dog about as much as I needed another root canal.
Her right leg bent to an outward angle, which caused her to walk with a pronounced limp, and her jaw set a little sideways, giving her a crooked smile. She was mostly Chow, the rest grit and determination.
I took her home at lunch on a work day. No time to stay and gain acquaintance, I left her on the back door steps of my country home and hoped she’d be there when I returned that night. I got home a little after dark and there she sat, on the top step, where I’d left her. For the first time in her life she had a home and, by God, she wasn’t going to leave it.
Soon, her days were filled with rides in the back of the truck and chasing squirrels — those dreaded squirrels. A limping walk would transform into a bolt of lightning at the mere glimpse of a squirrel. She’s lived with German shepherds twice her size, a 10-pound Boston terrier who bit her on the nose when first they met, a slew of yard cats and even once a squirrel — yes, the hated enemy the squirrel — and never once so much as snarled, or growled, at any of these God’s creatures.
The Hurricane boy has pulled and tugged and ridden and harassed, but all he gets in return is a wag of the tail and a lick In the face.
But now her steely eyes have dimmed and there are no more days of chasing squirrels and summer rides. Seventeen years of as pure a love as God himself knows how to grant is, I fear, near its end. The walk is pained and slow. The gaze sometimes uncertain and weak.
In lighter moments, I refer to her as the Walking Dead and tell the kids not to wake her, lest she discover she’s been dead for the last two years.
Truth be known, for her there will not be another Thanksgiving Day celebration. Of course, I said that last year, and the year before, but Father Time appears now to be making his last call.
So when we slice the turkey, we’ll cut an extra large piece for the Angel, and stop and pray and thank God for the blessing of a beat-up, broken-down, reject of a dog that gave more love in a day than most folks know how to give in a lifetime.
That is what I’m thankful for this Thanksgiving. What are you thankful for this year?
Contact columnist T. Gamble at firstname.lastname@example.org.