28: Finding Spirit’s Spirit

28: Finding Spirit’s Spirit

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dog Did What?

Finding Spirit’s Spirit

Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.

~Jane Howard

Her name was Spirit, but looking at her you wondered if she had any left. The gold and black German Shepherd-Pug mix lay under the table the SPCA had set up at our small-town festival. A cage filled with kittens stood nearby and got a lot more attention, despite the fact the dog under the table was young and had an intriguing look.

As a family with three small children, I turned the stroller holding the baby toward the kittens, assuming my four-year-old and two-year-old were headed that way. Their father stepped up and began a conversation with the associate manning the table. I looked ahead of me. My daughter was talking to one of the kittens, but my son was absent. I looked to my left and beheld a nerve-wracking yet amazing sight. My son had crawled under the table and looped his arms lovingly around the dog’s neck. An astounding transformation ensued. She lifted her head and her warm brown eyes brightened. Her tail lifted and she followed my son out from under the table to stand next to him. The associate was surprised, noting this was the first interest the dog had taken in anyone since the pup had arrived at the SPCA.

My husband, a softie despite a tough truck driver persona, fell in love at that moment. He hid it well, though, talking to the associate a bit more, playing with the kittens with our kids and then turning away to walk through the rest of the festival. His interest in the dog became apparent a bit later, as the kids went through the fun house and rode the carousel.

“What would you think of going down to the SPCA tomorrow to look around?” he asked.

I was surprised. Our house was already inhabited by two dogs, a cat and three ferrets, all but one of the dogs a rescue. My husband was the one who had said no more animals. We had three kids, one of them a newborn.

On Sundays, our SPCA opens at noon. We were there shortly afterward. We walked through, but didn’t see Spirit. A volunteer told us she was in an outside pen and asked if we would like to take her for a walk. Yes! During our walk she bounced around us, licking the two older kids and even managing to give the baby a kiss while I had her in the sling. She was gentle despite her high energy level. The volunteers were all very surprised at her change in behavior, as she had never shown this much interest in anything before. We brought her home to foster. In the three days we had her, she got along well with the other dogs and showed curiosity in the cat and ferrets but obeyed commands to leave them alone.

She showed how well behaved she could be and was anxious to please with house-training, despite some accidents due to excitement. She obviously adored all three children, establishing herself as the dog that wanted to run and play with them and receive their hugs. She even checked on them when they were in different rooms, making sure everybody was okay. At a little less than a year old, she was the perfect age to grow with them and seemed happy to do so.

After our trial period, she was so well suited to our family that we knew we couldn’t give her back. I called to discuss the adoption fee and was told we needed to bring in Spirit for shots if we were adopting her.

I took her into the SPCA with three young children in tow. The shelter manager asked what dog I had with me. When I answered, “Spirit,” the manager did a double take. When Spirit was at the shelter, she was timid and despondent even when shelter workers brought her into the office to work one-on-one with her. She would hide under the desk and not respond to anyone, even when offered treats. The dog before them now was nothing like the pup they knew before. She was so much happier and outgoing after just three days as a part of our family.

Since then, we have found that Spirit loves camping, running excitedly during the day and sleeping calmly at the end of my sleeping bag at night. She obeys commands from the children as quickly as she obeys the adults. She understands her place in the household and enjoys it very much. While I didn’t understand exactly why the SPCA chose to take such a withdrawn animal to the local festival that day, it makes a lot more sense to me now.

We found Spirit’s spirit. It was hiding at our house, among our family.

~JoEllen Wankel

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