60: The Dog Nobody Wanted

60: The Dog Nobody Wanted

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: What I Learned from the Dog

The Dog Nobody Wanted

An animal’s eyes have the power to speak a great language.

~Martin Buber

Nobody wanted Little Bit.

The animal shelter Chihuahua with the tiny black body and oversized ears had been my widowed mother’s constant companion for the past fifteen years. But she was one of the few possessions Mother failed to list in her who-gets-what-upon-my-death notebook. My brother Rusty got the fishing boat. My sister Mandy got the Christmas china. I got the antique dining room table.

But nobody wanted Little Bit.

“I can’t take her,” Rusty said. “My dogs would eat her for an appetizer.” He was right. Little Bit would never survive in a family that owned a German Shepherd and a Doberman Pinscher.

“I can’t take her,” Mandy said. “Nobody’s home at my house during the day. She’d be too lonely. Not to mention what she’d do to the carpet.”

My siblings looked at me expectantly.

“I can’t take her,” I said. “I don’t want her.”

The words were scarcely out of my mouth before pictures of my mother flashed, unbidden, through my mind. She was standing at the stove frying chicken, with Little Bit waiting patiently at her feet for the first bite. She was climbing a stepladder to fill the bird-feeder, with Little Bit standing guard at the bottom. She was sitting in her worn recliner, watching Wheel of Fortune on TV, with Little Bit snuggled on her lap.

And the last, still-too-vivid pictures of Mother curled up in a hospital bed, cancer consuming her frail body. “Hand me my notebook and my pencil,” she’d say. “I need to write some things down.”

First were the funeral plans. Family and friends to be notified of her death. Details to be included in the obituary. Bible verses to be read. Hymns to be sung. Then it was on to who-gets-what. Methodically and deliberately, Mother listed from memory all the items of value in every room in her house and to whom they should be given. She left out nothing, from screwdrivers to shrimp forks.

Except for Little Bit.

It wasn’t as though she could have forgotten about her. In complete violation of hospital rules, my siblings and I had smuggled the six-pound dog into her room—and her bed—several times. The reunions were always joyful and tear-filled. So why was Mother reluctant to say who would inherit her best friend once she was gone?

Perhaps because she already knew where Little Bit would end up. Rusty had a Doberman and a German Shepherd. Mandy had a full-time job. By default, Little Bit would come to live at my house after Mother died. Even though I didn’t want her.

That’s exactly what happened. And you know what? Everything I dreaded about taking on a house dog came to pass. Little Bit jumped on the furniture. She tormented my cats. She slept all day and yapped all night. She piddled—and worse—on the living room rug. She behaved like a spoiled princess.

“I don’t know how much more I can take,” I told a friend after two angst-filled weeks. “As much as I hate to do it, I’m going to try to find her someplace else to live.”

But finding a new home for Little Bit was easier said than done. When inquirers called in response to the want ad I’d placed in the newspaper, I was honest about her shortcomings. Perhaps too honest. I soon discovered that an elderly dog who jumped on furniture, tormented cats, yapped all night, and piddled—and worse—on the rug was a hard sell.

Nobody wanted Little Bit. What was to become of her?

Late one afternoon, in total despair, I threw myself into my worn recliner and began to sob. Life wasn’t fair. Not only had I lost my mother, I was stuck with her dog. The more I thought about the injustice of it all, the harder I cried. Until something plopped into my lap. A six-pound something with oversized ears, a graying muzzle, and big brown eyes that locked onto mine and wouldn’t let go. Halfheartedly, I scratched the top of Little Bit’s head. And then she began to cry. Not tears, of course, but the most pitiful whimpering I’d ever heard.

That’s when it hit me. Little Bit hadn’t been behaving like a spoiled princess. She’d been behaving like someone eaten up with grief. A living creature who’d had the human being she loved more than anyone in the world snatched away from her.

Just like me.

“You miss your mother, don’t you, old girl?” I scratched the top of her head, wholeheartedly this time. “So do I. But you know what? We’ll make it through this thing together. You and me.” I blew my nose and reached for the remote control on the table beside my chair. “How about if we turn on Wheel of Fortune and see if that makes us feel better?”

But Little Bit didn’t answer. She was snuggled down in my lap, snoring contentedly.

~Jennie Ivey

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