Stray Dog Morning... 11:17 a.m. 2006-03-15

"I have caught more ills from people sneezing over me and giving me virus infections than from kissing dogs." - Barbara Woodhouse

So, this morning, I am almost to work. I am listening to the second part of Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. Right now, I am on part two, where she goes to live in an ashram in India, so I am feeling kind of spiritual. To my right, on the sidewalk of an office park, I see a medium-sized shaggy black dog. It seems to be alone - no person attached to a leash! After a moment's hesitation, I turn at my next right, drive through the parking lot of the office building, and see the dog - still sniffing around between the sidewalk and the busy roadway.

I get out of the car and squat down, saying,"Come here, doggie, come here!" First, he comes towards me warily. Then he sits down, still way out of my reach. He looks like he wants to come, but is still unsure, so I call him again, wishing I still had some of the Sausage McMuffin I just finished on the way. Then he goes from the sitting down position to the "sphinx" position, looking for a moment as if he were going to stay put. The next instant, I realize tht it was a playful bow, then he springs up and takes off like a hare in the other direction.

Obviously, it was not meant to be. He had a collar on, so he belonged to someone else - he's probably an escapee with an owner worrying about him. Also, he had long hair - my husband's only complaint about Connolly. As a bonus, he apparently does not come when he is called - I had a flashback to Chelsea, the crazy Australian Shepherd I adopted after my other dog, Addison, died. She would not come either, even after obedience lessons.

And, anyway, what if he had come to me? What would I have done? Would I have left him in my car all day? Would I have brought him (a strange dog) into my classroom? Apparently I was not thinking beyond the fact that this could possibly be a sign that this would be my new dog. After all, Connolly - the dog that I had for 14 years who just passed away - was a stray dog.

While I was teaching in Monticello, Georgia, I had finally sold my wacky Aussie to a college student - who hoped to train her to be a frisbee dog (I hope he had some luck on that!). I hated the idea that I had "abandoned" my dog - something I had sworn I would not do again. So I worked as hard as I could - she would run away, never came when she was called - actually jumped through a screen window to get out of the house. I couldn't take her with me to the barn, because she chased horses (she took that whole "shepherding" thing very seriously). We had our squabbles - I am not proud to say that I tried to run her down in my Festiva, only to have her think that my car was a giant white cow that wanted to play. (No, I wasn't really thinking about running over her...) Like in any difficult marriage, we went to counseling (I invested in a private dog trainer while in Louisiana). After one of our sessions, my "partner" locked me out of the car, requiring a locksmith to come out to the country to open the door.

Finally, I had to admit it was not working, and placed an ad in the newspaper, asking $75.00 for her - a figure that any of my friends who had been around her were astonished at, even after I pointed out that I paid to get her spayed. Also, you have to name a price, just to make sure that your dog doesn't get sold to be a lab animal or something. Although there are no guarantees. If you ever have been a fan of the dog trainer, Barbara Woodhouse, you may know that she doesn't believe in giving animals away. She thinks that you should take the responsibility and have the animal put to sleep if you don't want it. That's way too radical for me - and there is always the hope that she will fit with the college student.

A whole summer passed, and I think that it was around October of the next year that Connolly came to me. I was chatting with a couple of teachers outside of the entrance to our high school when this mangy black puppy comes up to us, begging for Krispy Kreme donuts (the other teachers were fund-raising). I leaned down to pet her, as she rolled over on her back to expose her belly. One of the teachers, a bossy, motherly type scolded me, saying, "Don't touch that dog - you don't know where it's been!" At that instant, I looked at my friend, looked at the puppy, then picked the puppy up, put her in my car, and took her back to my house - which was only 3 minutes away - and barricaded her in the kitchen until I could return to check on her. By the way, she did have mange. Luckily for me, it was not the kind that is easily spread to humans.

For the past 14 years, Connolly has been the only constant in my life. She almost died 3 times - once by sliding down a waterfall, and the other times by ingesting rat or roach poison. Oh, and a couple of years ago by eating ant bait. The last two times, I wasn't completely sure if she had actually eaten the poison, but better safe than sorry. We lived in apartments, in houses, on horse farms, and she traveled with me everywhere I could take her. Even when the summer camp I worked for forbade counselors from bringing dogs, I was able to sneak her on the two night camping trips we took on horseback. She was no fool - she rode in the truck with the camping supplies and met me there.

I miss my dog - she's been gone for over 2 months and many times it's easy to be busy enough not to think about it. And I haven't really cried at all since we brought her to the emergency room and she passed away - but I am tearing up now... We had a really good run together - 14 years is a long time, although I was hoping for the super-doggy age of 16. This shaggy dog is not destined to be my next great friend. I don't know who that will be. Just like in marriages, you can't catch something that won't cooperate. I need to wait for the dog to come to me.

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