At Face Value

At Face Value

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Stories of Faith

At Face Value

About five years ago, I had a recurring dream. The message was clear and precise, directing me to go to a specific shelter and adopt a particular dog. It was obvious from the dream that I would know the dog by something unusual about its face. But when I woke up, I could never recall what the unique facial feature was. I could only remember it was important for identifying the right dog.

I was very curious and felt compelled to follow the instructions in the dream. So early one Saturday morning, I went to the specified shelter to check the available canine adoptees. After looking carefully at all the dogs, I was disappointed that not one dog had anything unusual about its face. There were lots of cute puppies and just as many appealing older dogs, but I didn’t feel a connection to any of them.

On my way out of the shelter, I noticed a box of puppies just outside of view from the main area. My attention was drawn to one puppy in particular, and I decided to take a closer look. The one puppy appeared to have no fur on his face, while the rest of the litter were all black with spots of white. I was worried about the strange-looking pup, and hoped he hadn’t been injured. The puppies were a mix of black Lab and Chesapeake Bay retriever, called Chesapeake Labs. Each pup was named after a type of pasta. The one who had captured my interest was Fettuccine. On closer inspection, I realized he did have fur on his face, but it was a very odd shade of gray that made it look like skin. Satisfied that he was okay, I turned to leave the shelter.

And then it hit me: The face—it’s the dog with the unusual face! Immediately, I returned to the puppy and picked him up. As I lifted him from the box, his large and clumsy paws reached over my shoulders to cling tightly to my back. We bonded instantly, and I knew we belonged together. I could not leave without him, so I headed for the adoption desk. In that short amount of time, the gray-faced pup had wrapped his paws around my heart.

Meeting with the adoption counselor, I was informed that a family had already selected him. There was, however, still a slight chance since the family had not made their final decision. They were choosing between Fettuccine, the gray-faced pup, and his littermate, a female named Penne. I decided to wait for their decision. I hung around outside, watching the door. After an anxiety-filled hour, I saw the family leaving the shelter carrying Fettuccine. I began to cry inside. Then I realized a member of the family, the mother, was walking straight toward me. They knew I was awaiting their decision, and I was prepared for the worst. My heart pounded and I stood frozen in place as she approached. For a moment she didn’t say a word or give any indication of her decision, then, with a broad grin, she said, “Here’s your dog.”

I was speechless as grateful tears gushed from my eyes. I hugged the puppy to me and again felt those big front paws securely hugging my back. Although I was thankful to have him then, I didn’t know how thankful I would be later.

I took the gray-faced pup home and named him Dominic, keeping Fettuccine as his middle name. From the start, he was not at all a typical, rambunctious puppy. He was very calm, serious and didn’t play much. However, he was obedient, intelligent and very attentive. We lived happily together, and as Dom grew into a healthy, robust dog, he became my valued companion.

When Dominic was two years old, I was diagnosed with a seizure disorder. I was having full-blown grand mal seizures as well as milder petit mal types. These seizures caused me to collapse into unconsciousness. Upon awakening, I would always find Dom on top of me. At first I was not at all happy to have a ninety-pound dog lying on top of me, until I came to realize he was preventing me from hurting myself by restricting my thrashing movements.

During mild seizures, Dom stood rock solid, so I could hold onto his front legs until the seizure passed. He was also helpful after a seizure. As I began to regain consciousness, I was aware of his “voice.” Focusing on his barking became a means to bring me back to full consciousness. I soon came to rely on Dom to warn me before a seizure would take hold, and we’d work through it together, each of us knowing what we had to do till the crisis passed. Dom was my four-legged medical assistant.

During my worst period, I had five grand mal seizures a day. They came without warning, but the force of the seizures and the physical injuries I received were minimized when the vigilant Dom sprang into action. Dominic, the puppy I was led to in a dream, turned out to be a natural-born seizure-assistance dog—a one-in-a-million pup with astounding instincts.

For about a year I had seizures every day, then they gradually started to subside. I am now well, and seizure-free. Dom has returned to his previous daily doggy activities, though still watchful of me and ready to be of assistance.

He finds ways to help out around the house—and I indulge his sense of duty, since that is what he lives for.

Some heroes wear a uniform or a badge; my hero wears fur.

~Linda Saraco

Chicken Soup for the Dog Lover’s Soul

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