78: A Light in the Heart

78: A Light in the Heart

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Very Good, Very Bad Dog

A Light in the Heart

Fun fact: Some animal shelters test how a dog behaves around cats so they can advise people on whether the dog they want to adopt is “cat-friendly.”

“Has anyone seen Charge?” I murmured, only half-expecting a reply. The kids were running around the house, each doing their own thing, and my husband was watching the football game. So I made a quick check of the bedrooms and looked out in the back yard. Since she had only been out of sight for a few hours, I wasn’t overly concerned. I assumed she must be under one of the kids’ beds, hiding from all the chaos that was normal for a Sunday afternoon in our home.

Charge was a homely, mixed-breed canine, to put it kindly. It wasn’t her fault; she was simply gifted with the worst appearance traits from each of the breeds in her background. She was about the size of a Cockapoo, with gray-and-black wiry hair, short legs, and a long straggly tail. She constantly cowered when strangers approached, which definitely did not help her appearance. But she had a heart of gold, and we loved her.

My husband had found Charge wandering along the freeway one day on his way home from work. She looked as though she hadn’t eaten in weeks, so he stopped and coaxed her into the car with bits of his leftover lunch. Not knowing what to do, he brought her home with the hope of finding her owners or at least a loving family that would take her.

However, once she was in the house, the kids were bound and determined not to let her go. After a day or two of whining and begging, we reluctantly gave in and told them we could keep her — a decision I never regretted.

After observing her actions for a few days, it was obvious that she had been abused. She was extremely untrusting and afraid of everyone. In time, though, she came to love the kids and slept on their beds every night.

Charge was exceptionally nurturing with the children. I wondered if the fact that she had been mistreated had conditioned her to be protective of those who were hurting.

Every time the kids cried, Charge would run to them and tenderly offer her comforting paw. This worked wonders when they were injured, but it more or less defeated the purpose when they were whimpering during a time-out!

Unlike our mamma cat, who had recently given birth to a litter of five, Charge would have been an awesome mother. Sadly, she was never blessed with puppies. We sometimes joked that she was too homely to attract suitors.

When I was finally able to get everyone’s attention at the dinner table, I asked again if anyone had seen Charge. After a unanimous “No,” I thought it would be a good idea to take a look around the neighborhood.

“Who wants to go look for Charge with me?” I hollered as I opened the door of the hall closet and reached in to get my shoes.

“CHARGE!” I screamed, because there she was in the closet! She looked up at me from inside the kittens’ box as if to say, “Shhh, I just got them to sleep!”

We usually kept the closet door open a bit so Mamma Cat could go in and feed her litter, but she always left as soon as they finished nursing. Apparently, Charge knew they needed more Mamma time and was more than willing to help out.

The kids giggled with glee upon seeing the dog in with the kittens. My husband shook his head and quipped, “Only you, Charge. Only you!”

Charge continued to mother the kittens until they were placed in their new homes. She may not have been an attractive dog, but as Kahlil Gibran said, “Beauty is not in the face; beauty is a light in the heart.” Charge truly had that inner beauty.

~Connie Kaseweter Pullen

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