Fate, Courage and a Dog Named Tess

Fate, Courage and a Dog Named Tess

From Chicken Soup for the Dog Lover's Soul

Fate, Courage and a Dog Named Tess

What counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight; it’s the size of the fight in the dog.

Dwight D. Eisenhower

I had just picked up my young niece Hannah from school when I first saw the confused dog darting in and out of traffic at a busy intersection. She was a lanky German shepherd, and I cringed as I watched several cars swerve or stop to avoid hitting her. She appeared to be lost, and Hannah immediately began begging me to intervene. I resisted. I was in a hurry to get home to cook dinner for Hannah and her parents and brother. I had a schedule to maintain, and right then, helping a stray dog was the last thing I wanted to do.

However, as soon as I was able to, I turned around. As we approached the intersection from the opposite direction, we saw her again. She had moved out of the street and was now making friendly advances to everyone walking by, only to be ignored or shooed away by people in a hurry to get home at the end of their workday. With a hopeless sigh, I pulled over and parked my car.

“Okay, Hannah,” I said. “This is what we’ll do. I’ll open the car door and give her one chance to get in, but if she doesn’t, we’re going home. I won’t try to force her.”

I got out, opened the door and made a halfhearted call to a pup more than fifty feet away. At the sound of my voice, she pricked her ears, looked directly at me and came running in our direction. In an instant she was in the car, wagging her tail and showering us with doggy kisses as if she’d known us forever. I couldn’t help but laugh. What a sweet dog! And miracle of miracles, she was wearing a chain collar that I hadn’t noticed before. Even though she didn’t have a name tag, surely someone was missing her. A phone call or two, and with any luck, I’d be able to return her to her family. This might not be so bad after all. I took her home firmly believing she would soon be out of my life.

A week later, after running ads in the paper and making repeated phone calls to the local Humane Society and rabies control, I finally resigned myself to the hard reality that whoever had placed the collar around her neck didn’t want her back. I lived in a small house and already had two dogs, so keeping her wasn’t an option. I decided I would find her a home where she would be cared for and appreciated by a loving family. My first step was to make an appointment with my vet, who pronounced her in perfect health, although obviously underweight. I named her Tess and began to teach her about in-house living, knowing she needed some better manners to increase her appeal.

With lots of food and grooming, she filled out and her scruffy coat began to glisten. She thrived under all the attention. Within six weeks she was completely housebroken and beautiful. I wrote a story about her and convinced the editor of our local paper to run it in the weekend edition. The story was typed and ready to be dropped off at the newspaper office the next day, and I felt certain we were spending one of our last evenings together.

Just as I was getting ready for bed, the doorbell rang, and because it was late, I answered wearing pajamas, thinking it was probably a neighbor wanting to borrow something. Instead, much to my dismay, an unkempt man stood before me, asking to use my phone. No way I wanted this guy in my house, but I offered to make a call for him if he would supply the number. Without another word, he opened the storm door and pushed his way into my living room. My mind raced. Why in God’s name hadn’t I checked to see who it was before opening the door? My two dogs—an English springer spaniel and a shih tzu—and Tess, all stopped their effusive greetings, sensing, as I did, that this guy was trouble. The three of them looked at him, then looked to me for some sign that things were okay.

But things were definitely not okay. I was too terrified to speak or move. I stood frozen, waiting, trapped in a dangerous situation from which I feared there was no escape.

Suddenly, the German shepherd I had taken in to save from a life on the streets stepped between me and this stranger who threateningly stood before us. Tess was only eight or nine months old, big, but still very much a pup, and yet, there she was, head down, hackles raised, emitting a low-pitched, menacing growl as she glared at the intruder. For maybe five long seconds we all stood there, motionless. Then, very slowly, the man took one backward step. He raised his hand slightly as he implored me to hold my dog, and he carefully backed out of my house and down the walk.

At last, finally able to move, I shut the door, locked it and turned to hug my friend, the stray dog I had rescued—and who, now, had rescued me. Magically, with the danger gone, she transformed herself back into the wiggling, tail-wagging, pain-in-the-neck pup I had come to know. The next morning I called and canceled the appointment I had to drop off the story about her. Tess didn’t need a home; she already had one. Two dogs had become three, but the lack of space didn’t seem nearly as important as it had before.

Since that night Tess has never once growled or shown the least bit of hostility to any other human being, and, although her muzzle is now graying, she still often acts like the pup who, without hesitation, bounded into my car—and my life—eleven years ago. I have learned a lot from Tess, especially on that memorable night when she taught me about fate and courage. But most important, she showed me how a random act of kindness can bring blessings to your life.

Susanne Fogle

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