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Tied to our Heartstrings
Recovering from heartbreak
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Shaking my umbrella, I unbuttoned my coat. I was drenched. I needed a cup of hot tea.

I poured our tea and went to sit by the fireplace. I closed my eyes a moment when my husband spoke.

“What’s that? I’m sorry; I wasn’t listening.”

He said, “Would you like to go for a ride after we eat lunch?”

“A ride? In this downpour? To where?”

“Uh…I’d like to ride up to the dog pound. The guys at work say they’ve got a lot of really good…”

“I thought we’ve talked about this. Delilah has only been gone a month. I understand you were not able to do it, but you know, I had to sit with Delilah, and our last three dogs while they took their last breath. I looked into their sad eyes and said, ‘It’s okay, Baby.’ It wasn’t okay. I sat stroking their heads and lied. I vowed Delilah was the last one…ever!”

I burst into tears.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to upset you.”

He sat there and stared at the floor. I knew he missed Delilah, too. Maybe I was being selfish and should let him, at least, look at the dogs.

“I’ll go, but please don’t ask to bring one home. We’ll just look. Okay?”

“I promise, I won’t pressure you. We’ll look and that’s all.”

Delilah, our Doberman Pinscher, had broken down in the her hips and spine. We spent quite a bit on treatment but the money really wasn’t the issue. It was seeing our beloved pet suffer and, finally, putting her down.

Caring for such a large dog was difficult. She was heavy and couldn’t stand on her own. We had to support her with a towel under her stomach so she could even relieve herself. We were older, with physical issues of our own, but we gave her all the care and comfort possible.

Once at the dog pound, I asked to see dogs that were a little older, thinking they wouldn’t tempt me like a puppy might.

The lady asked a young man to show us dogs six months to a year. There were ten cages. I quickly walked up and down the row. I was afraid to look at them, for fear I would weaken.

The bulletin board contained 3-by-5 cards with information about the dogs.

My eyes came to rest on one card. It read “Lab” and no other breed. I felt I was being pulled to that card by some invisible force. I moved in closer to read it.

Breed: Lab (female)

Age: 7 months

Name: “Spuds”

Comments: Housebroken

Reason: Moved to apartment. Wouldn’t take dogs.

My husband was squatting in front of a cage that contained a small dog, who was busily licking his fingers.

Across the aisle, directly behind him, a dog was springing up and down like a yo-yo. I said, “Where’s number 6, it’s supposed to be a Lab.”

Cage #6 happened to be the bouncing dog desperately trying to get my husband’s attention. She was long, thin and a shiny jet black. She did look like a Lab, except for a little white on her chest and back paws. I said, “She looks more ‘Curbside Terrier’ than pure Lab.”

The boy approached and asked if he should take her into the “visiting room.” I said, “Oh no, we are just looking, not shopping.”

He said, “She would enjoy getting out of the cage for a while.”

“I … suppose it wouldn’t hurt to visit for a few minutes.”

You can guess the rest.

She was delightful—affectionate, calm, good-natured and beautiful.

We came to pick her up on Valentine’s Day. She pranced along, happily, as though she was going home. In the car, she flopped down between us, resting her head on my knee.

We renamed her “Phoebe,” as “Spuds” didn’t suit her at all. She was a marvelous dog from day one. We crated her only a few days. It was obvious she could be trusted. She never got on the furniture, had accidents or chewed.

She was the easiest dog I ever obedience trained. The first time I gave the “heel” command and began walking, I started to tug to move her up. To my surprise, there she was, already in position. She mastered commands, quickly. By graduation night, she was among the best in class. She had two close competitors: a Great Dane and a Standard Schnauzer.

After all candidates had completed their routines, we lined up to face the judge, to await her decision. She announced, “Third place, the Dane, second place, the Schnauzer, and first place, a mixed breed (guess who?), Phoebe.” I was so proud her. She had performed like a grand champion.

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