I have a checkered past with dogs. I dragged a giant stuffed Old English Sheepdog around on a leash for two years before my parents gave me an invisible dog leash. Then came Kris Kringle, an eight-week old Shitzu. Kris didn’t work out for a number of reasons and my parents shipped him off to a “crippled girl who needed a friend” while I was at the movies with my brother.
I lost my second dog, Sally, a skittish Shepherd mix, in a sorrowful break up. I gave up a golden doodle mix, Sydney, in the midst of illness.
Though I have a history of dog trauma, I am experiencing redemption. It began during a spat of unemployment / underemployment in Chicago when 12 week-old Rosie strolled into my life.
Rose and I first met at the saddest of all places—a high-kill shelter in a damp basement on the outskirts of the Appalachian Mountains. The shelter was across from a Walmart about 30 minutes from my sister and brother-in-law’s farm. There were multitudes of dogs, big and small, young and old. I only got around to checking out soft cooing bundles of newborn fur when my nephew David called out, “Hey, Aunt Amy, here’s your dog!” And there she was, a pensive, quiet soul, sitting deep in her cage. Unlike the other dogs, she didn’t bark or paw furiously at her cage to get out… she just stared. As I looked into her eyes it was clear she had seen a lot of life at a young age. I learned they found her wandering on the side of the road. I paid the $25 to break her out and gave her a second chance at life. Having just lost my job, I also needed a second chance, as well as warmth, companionship, and lots of puppy joy.
Back in Chicago we had our routine. I’d take her for a spin around our Rogers Park neighborhood at 5 a.m., and then head to work as a barista at a busy coffee shop in nearby Evanston. After work, I’d sleep for an hour before heading to Montrose dog beach for an afternoon of merriment. The beach is a paradise for dog lovers.
Rosie was a dog beach fanatic. She joyfully romped with regulars, and friends made on the spot. She swam in Lake Michigan, wrestled with others, chased balls and seagulls, dug holes, and basked in the sun while I gossiped with other daytime comrades– actors, writers, a small band of magicians, contractors, and retirees. Occasionally, a brash, territorial canine boy marked one of us. A peril inherent in any dog park. On the way home, Rosie curled up in a sleepy, damp, sandy ball on my passenger seat.
After the beach, she’d lay across my feet as I worked, usually falling asleep while gnawing on a bone. Then the two of us climbed into a persistently sandy bed. To this day, she snores and dream twitches in my arms for one hour before jumping down onto her bed. She likes her nighttime space. Rosie chewed up the Old Testament of a NIV Study Bible, a pair or Ray Ban sunglasses, and the legs of an antique table. Otherwise, she was the perfect pup.
Eventually, the two of us found gainful employment back in Colorado: I at a Christian ministry and she as my trusty sidekick and protector against a wide variety of wildlife including squirrels and deer.
We’ve been through a lot together the past 7 years: Friends leaving, job transition, family illness, road trips, and the adoption and redemptive loss of another dog, Wrecks. Throughout it all she has stood faithfully by my side.
Dogs offer a grab bag of love, affection, security, and stability. They save us when we need saving. They love us without judgment. And God uses them to bring healing to wounded places of loss that only they can only touch. My checkered past with dogs is being redeemed by a gorgeous redhead– and I couldn’t be more fortunate.
(Addendum: The shelter where I got Rosie is now regularly visited by Rescue organizations in neighboring counties and even states. It does my heart good to know that many others are now getting a second chance.)