77: My Little Diplomat

77: My Little Diplomat

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

My Little Diplomat

People often say that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” but I say that the most liberating thing about beauty is realizing that you are the beholder. This empowers us to find beauty in places where others have not dared to look, including inside ourselves.

~Salma Hayek

Nathaniel was the first dog that was entirely my responsibility. I was twenty-one when I left home and found myself living next door to a couple who had a cute little Poodle with a litter of pups. They suspected a Terrier living in the next block had fathered her brood.

Barely six weeks old when I brought him home, he was a cute little guy, but as he grew, he got uglier by the day. His coat stuck out in every direction like a bottle brush and was black, flecked with gray; not the most attractive of color combinations. He was slim but his legs were way too long for his body and his goofy-looking tail curled in an arch over his back. Literally everyone who saw him teased me about what a ridiculous-looking little animal he was. Yet, in the end, he always won their hearts. He was Mr. Personality; a homely little dog that made friends everywhere we went.

When I got him, I was just entering my hippie phase. I moved around a lot, switched boyfriends fairly often, hitchhiked when my junk heap of a car wasn’t running and generally lived a lifestyle most dogs would have found difficult to accept. Not Nathaniel. I could take him anywhere and as soon as he inspected the place a bit, he would settle in with ease. Even without a leash, he never ran into the street or made messes inside and he learned to sit up and beg, which increased his appeal to everyone we encountered during our adventures. He was the perfect traveling companion and his manners were impeccable. Somehow, he always seemed to know just how to act in every situation.

He did get lost once. He followed my friend’s Irish Setter when she dug under the fence to escape in search of a doggie adventure. Nathaniel was unfamiliar with the area and apparently, couldn’t keep up with the bigger dog or find his way back. I was fearful and worried when the Setter came home without him. He was wearing a nametag, but he was so ugly, I was afraid no one would bother to help him.

He not only found a sympathetic soul who called me, but when I went to get him, I discovered she lived in one of the most affluent neighborhoods I had ever seen. I passed one mansion after another until I came to the address. There were iron gates and an intercom which I buzzed, even as I wondered if this could really be the right house. Sure enough, the gates parted and a voice told me to drive on in.

As I approached the house, the front door opened and there stood a woman with a cute little Yorkshire Terrier under one arm and Nathaniel under the other. She told me if he hadn’t had the nametag she would have kept him because, other than her little Yorkie, he was the sweetest and smartest dog she had ever encountered. To get her attention, he walked up to her in a parking lot, barked, then twirled on his hind legs before coming to rest in his “sit up and beg” position.

“It was as if he was asking me to read his tag,” she gushed, as she handed him to me.

Being beautiful can be a great advantage, but Nathaniel taught me that what’s on the inside is infinitely more powerful and important than what’s on the outside. Whenever I’m feeling insecure because of a bad hair day or those few extra pounds I can’t seem to lose, I remember my homely little dog who managed to get positive feedback from everyone he ever met.

A couple of years ago I ran into a guy I hadn’t seen for almost three decades. Within two minutes he brought up the ugly little dog he remembered was always with me and asked whatever happened to him. I told him Nathaniel had lived almost seventeen years; longer than any other dog I’ve ever owned.

“He sure was something,” my friend commented.

He was right.

~Susanne Fogle

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