CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- It was July 4, 2007. I was at the Mountain State Art & Craft Fair near Ripley with my friend Cheryl and her two daughters when she her cellphone rang. "We have to leave now," she told me. "I have to pick up a dog."
On the trip home she told me a sorrowful saga about a stray dog that had been abandoned and was living on the streets in her neighborhood. During the harsh past winter, the dog had delivered a litter of puppies, and all had been adopted; but typically, no one was willing to take the mother. My extraordinary dog-loving friend had the dog spayed and then found a series of temporary foster homes.
The current foster family had called to say they were leaving for vacation that day. Cheryl's two dogs wouldn't tolerate a newcomer, and there were no more foster home options, so there was no alternative but the shelter.
We stopped at the foster home and loaded the dog in the car. The large black Lab obviously loved a ride in the car as she enthusiastically jumped in the SUV and began licking everyone in sight.
The tearful group dropped me off at home, but through the evening the situation nagged at my heart. This gentle animal was destined for a fate that was not promising. I knew that older, large dogs weren't usually adopted. I envisioned her in the shelter with her sad eyes peering out through a chain-link cage.
So, in a moment of weakness and compassion I phoned Cheryl to volunteer to take the dog -- but only until she could find her a good home. I told her the last thing I needed was a dog. This was a temporary arrangement, I said over and over.
The canine stranger was delivered a short time later. Cheryl and her daughters had given her a bath and brought a leash. When they left, I stood in my foyer wondering what I had done.
The two previous years had been very tough for me. My husband had died suddenly of a heart attack in 2006. Then, I had to put down my beloved dog of many years a year later -- on the anniversary of my husband's death. I decided that loving was just too painful.
Instead, I shielded myself from emotional involvement and sank myself into my career. My job was demanding and it became my life. I was happy working. I didn't need any kind of relationship in my life, especially the responsibilities of a pet.