Four legged friends and fairy dust

I’d stopped early at the animal shelter one day last fall just as the doors opened.

My beloved 14 year corgi Maddie had passed away just a month before.

I had viewed a couple of dogs on the shelter’s website that I just wanted to meet.

At least that’s what I told myself anyway.

But I knew deep inside that if one of the canines tugged enough at my heart strings, that dog could be going home with me.

My rational side had reasoned that at some point I might take on another small senior dog. Or perhaps one with special needs.

The first pup I wanted to met that September day came with a sweet little expression. She was a little toy poodle, about eight years old.

She was also blind.

And beautiful.

I was the first shelter visitor to approach the service desk. I told the staffer that I wanted to meet this very special girl.

I heard a soft sigh.

It was coming from someone behind me.

I turned to see a blonde 30 something woman in glasses that were fogging up.

She seemed to be crying.

The woman also wanted to meet the same little white poodle.

Her tears were gentle, but they unnerved me some.

The shelter staffer told the woman behind me since I’d arrived right before her, I would be meeting the poodle first and have the first chance at the little dog’s adoption.

The woman nodded.

She fully understood, but her eyes were still moist.

I had to do something.

I turned back to the staffer at the desk and said, “I would really like it if the woman behind me gets the chance to meet the poodle first. Then if she doesn’t take her home, I still want to meet her.”

The staffer agreed and the woman smiled.

I just didn’t want to get in the way of the perfect love match.

Helping love matches was one of my favorite duties when I used to foster a few years back.

I then moved on down the hall to find the other little dog I wanted to meet, but first stopped at the cage of one pup I hadn’t noticed on the site.

There was something about the dog that caught my eye.

The fellow was actually fairly big and tall. Maybe 30-40 pounds. “Possibly part pug mixed with who knows what?” I muttered.

This ten year old was lacking classic good looks, but there was something mighty handsome about his smile.

And his personality.

We hung out for a while together in a small visiting room.

He’d been in the shelter for a while.

But I couldn’t understand why.

He was kind, loving, smart, and fully trained.

The boy was also very flexible.

If you wanted him to be a lap dog, he was more than willing.

And when you wanted him to play ball, he was like an All-Star.

I knew I was starting to fall in love with him, so I thought I better move on.

I knew a larger dog wasn’t the best choice for my current living situation.

But I immediately stopped a volunteer nearby and shared the amazing things I had learned about this amazing pug mix.

She told me she would update his posting with my discoveries.

I didn’t have to go far to find the other dog I had planned to meet that day.

She turned out to be a neighbor of the pug mix.

This five pound black chihuahua pup was nine months old and a bit overwhelmed by the bigger dogs around her. Her name was Tinkerbell.

She’d moved from California where there’s still an overpopulation of chihuahuas in shelters. As many as 50 percent of the shelter dogs there are chis, according to some estimates.

Tinkerbell trotted over to the cage door to greet me and lick my hand.

We went to a visiting room also to play where she immediately climbed right up on my lap and gave me a kiss.

And then another.

Although Tinkerbell was far younger than I was looking for, I knew we’d made a love match.

I put her on an overnight hold so I could prepare my home for her arrival.

As I walked back to the main desk to complete the hold paperwork, I saw the blonde woman again as well as the little blind poodle as they prepared to leave the shelter together.

I was in tears this time as I congratulated her on her adoption.

I was so happy for them both.

The woman was smiling and even the poodle looked to be smiling.

They were another perfect love match, I thought.

That night I was excited as I found the perfect cozy bed for Tinkerbell, yet I couldn’t stop thinking about the pug mix with the handsome smile who’d been in the shelter too long.

Could I give this deserving dog a home too? I wondered.

But I knew that I couldn’t.

It turns out I needn’t have worried.

When I went back to the shelter the next morning to pick up Tinkerbell, I noticed the pug mix was gone.

Someone had read my updated comments about him and adopted him right after I’d left.

I smiled at the thought of yet another love match made that day.

Looking at the sun as Tinkerbell and I walked towards the door, I thought I saw a hint of fairy dust as turned to wave good bye.

After all, magic really does happen sometimes.

Especially in animal shelters.

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Cuddling with a corgi

The night after my corgi Maddie passed away, I stopped by a big patio adoption event just to cuddle with the one corgi who was scheduled to attend.

I scratched the sweet dog’s soft ears.

And rubbed her roly poly belly.

Then I gave her one big hug.

I got my corgi fix.

I know it definitely helped with the grief.

I was thinking again about Maddie this week when I came across another very special event.

This time it was a dog event only involving corgis.

Come “pet a corgi and take a picture,” a Facebook post beckoned.

It was a fundraiser for a rescue group I know well.

As my friend and I walked briskly today towards the brewery where the event was being held, we were surprised to see a long line going all the way down the block.

Then suddenly we saw excited corgis and enthusiastic owners everywhere.

Some corgis were in tutus, others in bow ties and bright t-shirts.

One or two were even neatly tucked into back packs.

Inside the brewery there was a party room in back where I was told more than 50 corgis were already assembled and available for pets, paw shakes and photos.

Once inside, my friend and I skipped the packed party room and hung out in front where other corgis ‘on stand by’ were mingling with the crowd along with the occasional Boston terrier, bull dog, or bichon who mistakenly stumbled in.

I was thinking that maybe we just love our corgis like crazy in the midwest, or maybe we know how to warm ourselves up on a cold winter’s day.

But what I do know is if all dogs go to heaven, my girl Maddie was looking down at me this afternoon and definitely smiling.

I know that I was for sure.

Sweet Passage: Part 2

“Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?”
—————————————————————————–
Clarence, a kindly guardian angel shared those words in the classic 1946 movie ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.”

And I’ve often found the words ring even more true when talking about our dogs.

As my fourteen year old lame corgi Maddie continued to struggle earlier this summer with various health issues, I was already feeling an all too familiar void coming my way.

While lamenting with a fellow corgi owner strolling by with his own corgi pup, I was advised to adopt another dog before Maddie passed on “to help ease the pain.”

He was speaking from his own experience.

“Thanks for the suggestion,” I said dismissing the advice right after our conversation.

After all, I already had a couple of little four legged friends back at home.

Still I knew the hole in my heart was growing as Maddie’s days continued to shrink.

I guess it was no surprise that I found myself ‘just stopping by’ a small shelter one afternoon while driving out in the country.

I’d been visiting a nearby cemetery where my parents and brother were buried, and was feeling a little blue.

As I first entered the shelter, I spotted a white five pound dog dancing with joy as he first saw me.

The silver wispy curls shining like a halo on his head reminded me of Clarence.

And this little guy was clearly a senior as well.

Estimated to be about ten years old, the dog was a dirty, matted mess when he’d first arrived. He had so much hair on his body that the shelter couldn’t safely guess at the breed buried below it.

This former stray, named ‘Dirty Harry’ by the loving staff, was cleaned up and had since been shaved down.

A half hour after my arrival a smiling Harry and smiling me walked together out of the shelter after completing adoption paperwork.

I’d chosen to leave the dirty part of his name far behind.

Back home Harry quickly got to work befriending Maddie as she rested on her plaid dog bed in the kitchen.

Harry continued to share his sweet smiles and dancing acumen daily in spontaneous recitals of joy right next to the stove.

Maddie appeared to approve, watching every move.

She once loved to dance herself on those short hind legs years prior to her lameness.

Harry quickly fell in love with his big sister, joining Maddie in her stroller on our trips to the farmer’s market and for outdoor band concerts down by the lake.

And also on that comfy dog bed.

Maddie was soon smiling brighter again herself.

Yet just two months and a day after Harry’s adoption, the music suddenly stopped.

Harry had left us while sleeping peacefully on my shoulder, just like he did every night.

My own vet suspected Harry was actually older than ten and detected a heart murmur, though it was still unclear why Harry had died that evening.

But one warm day a week later it became clear to me.

Earlier in the morning Maddie had also passed on.

I choose to believe Harry, her guide and protector, had flown back to get her.

He was an angel after all.

Maddie’s guardian and guide granted her wings to finally move on to a more beautiful place where she could kick up her heels and run free once more.

My heart is full again, just at the thought.

Sweet Passage: Part One

“…So their work is mostly us, their families. They stay close, pay close attention, watch over us, and are always available to us.”

Book author Jon Katz wrote those words in a post last week about smaller dogs.

I smiled as I read it, and I also cried some as well.

My 14 year old corgi Maddie had just passed away last Monday.

It seemed I’d become Maddie’s purpose over the years after a brief stint as a breeder dog.

And she handled her role with grace, love and compassion always.

I often felt she’d become my own unique caregiver over the last decade as I dealt with the loss of both my parents and husband from Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

She’d calm my constant rage with the cruel disease by simply offering her belly for scratching or even a soft ear that would just listen.

Sometimes it was a just a big, wet button nose to kiss.

Maddie’s whole face wore joy so well, even in her final months.

She radiated happiness in her pet stroller as we’d navigate around the lake in the sunshine.

And Maddie looked even happier as we’d stop at the nearby bakery for free sugary smells and fresh samples.

Yet she was also very content just keeping an eye on me from her cozy dog bed in the kitchen in her final days.

After all, she still saw it as her job till the end.

Those big round eyes were so full of soul, yet often they were mixed with just a little mischief.

No wonder everyone loved Maddie, both man and beast.

The morning after Maddie passed, my Chi pup Rex was blue and refused to eat for the first time.

And my Yorkie Tucker, hid under the bed.

He’s never done that before either.

Yet this week we all seem to be moving on.

I know Maddie’s in a good place. And as I told the rest of the canine clan this morning, “Don’t worry, she’s still watching over us.”

I like to think they agreed as we looked up at the sky while walking out the door into the beautiful day before us.