Scouting Out a Home

Scouting Out a Home

From Chicken Soup for the Dog Lover's Soul

Scouting Out a Home

We didn’t have the space or the energy to take in any more animals. Richard and I and our three dogs and three cats were already cramped in our small, rented home. The last year had brought the deaths of my father and grandmother, a move to a new city, the start of my career as a veterinarian, the purchase of our first house and plans for our wedding. I was exhausted and emotionally drained, which explains how Annie ended up at the shelter that first day.

Richard, a park-service employee, arrived at work to find two dogs—a young golden retriever and a small, black terrier—gallivanting around outside the old house in the woods that served as his office. Both dogs were very friendly, readily coming to him for an ear rub and a check of their collars. They didn’t have any kind of identification, so Richard decided to give them a little time to see if they would head home on their own. For several hours he kept an eye on them through his window, but they showed no inclination to leave. The dogs could only get into trouble if they hung around for much longer, so Richard brought them into his office and called me at the veterinary clinic.

“Hi, honey, we’ve got a situation here.” Richard went on to explain.

At the other end of the line, I groaned. “Look,” I said. “The kennel is completely filled with patients and boarders, and we’re still having trouble finding homes for our available adoptees. My boss will kill me if I let you bring them here, and you know that we can’t handle any more dogs at home.”

“Well, what do you think I should do?”

“The best place for them is probably the shelter,” I replied, feeling a little frazzled. “If their owners want them back, that would be the first place they’d look.”

Richard could tell I was in no mood for an argument and agreed to make the call to animal control. The officer told him that it would be afternoon before she could pick up the dogs. Several hours and a shared lunch later, Richard shepherded them out of his office and reluctantly handed them over.

That evening over dinner our conversation centered around the two dogs. Richard had grown attached to them in the short period of time that they had spent at his office. I was beginning to feel a little guilty for not trying harder to find a way to fit them in at the clinic. We concluded that we had probably done the right thing under the circumstances but hated to think aboutwhat the future could hold for the two good-natured dogs.

A week later I was wrapping up the morning appointments at the clinic when the receptionist called to the back, “Dr. Coates, there are two dogs waiting at the front door.”

I sighed. Walk-in appointments at one o’clock. There goes my lunch break.

“Okay, Royann, please put them in room one and tell the owners that I’ll be right in.”

“No, Dr. C, you don’t understand. It’s just two dogs, no people, and now they’re starting to head for the road.”

“Go get them,” I shrieked through the intercom as we all went running for the front door. The clinic is situated on a busy four-lane road that has been responsible for many of our trauma patients. Thankfully, before I could even make it past the reception area, Royann was steering the dogs through the front door. I stopped short. Before me was a golden retriever and a slightly scruffy black terrier.

“I may be crazy,” I said “but I think these are the dogs that were at Richard’s office last week.” The clinic staff was aware of the story, and looks of disbelief passed all around. If these were the same dogs, what had happened to them at the shelter? I guessed that they had somehow escaped. But what were the chances that they could have found both Richard and me, in a town of thirty-four thousand people, when our offices are separated by five miles?

Needing to know if these were the same two dogs, I brought them home with me after work. As I pulled to a stop in the driveway, my own three dogs, Owen, Duncan and Boomer, sensed that I was not alone in the truck. The sounds of five dogs barking brought Richard to the kitchen door.

“Hey, babe,” I hollered over the din. “I’ve got some folks here I think you might know.”

He made his way to the back of the truck and peered through the fogged-up window of the shell. “What? How?” His stunned expression gave me my answer.

We let them out of the truck to investigate their new surroundings, and they scampered around the yard, tails wagging. I smiled with relief thinking how lucky they had been to escape harm during their recent escapades. The circumstances were too eerie to ignore, and Richard and I decided that they could stay with us until we figured out a long-term solution.

The next morning I left for work with the newcomers still in the fenced yard. Our three dogs stared forlornly out of the front windows of the house as I drove away. I promised to come back at lunch for some supervised introductions and play.

Returning home a few hours later, I could hear dogs barking but was a little surprised when nobody greeted me at the gate. As I pulled up to the kitchen door, I could hear that all the noise was coming from inside the house. A search of the yard proved that the gates were just as I had left them—the two dogs must have gone over the fence. My heart sank as I realized that they had vanished. We had been given a second chance to help, but now that opportunity was gone along with the dogs.

Several weeks passed, during which time we started moving to the farm that we had recently purchased in a nearby town. All our free time was spent traveling between the two houses to renovate and clean. Memories of the two itinerant dogs were beginning to fade, and I no longer expected to see them around every corner.

One Saturday morning, I began to pull away from the housewith a load of boxes and furniture. I stopped the van at the base of the driveway and glanced to the left to check for traffic. In the distance I could just make out a small black dog trotting purposefully down the side of the road. Not wanting to get my hopes up, I slowly got out of the van for a closer look. As she got nearer, she picked up speed and ran to a stop in front ofme. Jumping up, she put her front feet on my thighs and gave me a look as if to say, I choose you. This amazing little dog had somehow made her way back to us for the third time, and I was elated! But where was her friend? The two had been through somuch together; I couldn’t imagine that anything but the worst would have caused their separation.

Although Annie’s friend never did return to our home, he did show up again at the clinic a month later. I had no idea that this was going to be anything but a routine appointment. Walking into the exam room, I glanced at the chart—a golden retriever, one of our most popular breeds. I petted the high-spirited dog as I asked his new owner, “So how’d this beautiful boy come into your life?”

“It’s a funny thing, Doc,” she said. “He showed up at our house a couple times but always left within a day or two. He was hanging around with another dog, but when he came back to stay this last time he was alone.”

I started to laugh as I finally recognized my old friend. Crouching in front of him for a more appropriate hello, I said to his new owner, “Let me guess: the other dog was about so high, shaggy and black with a gray muzzle.”

Astonished, she asked, “How could you possibly know that?”

We compared our stories and were both thrilled that, in the end, the two nomads had each found themselves a loving and permanent home.

Jennifer Coates, D.V.M.

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