She was rescued from the middle of a Florida highway, a soft brown ball of fur surrounded by whizzing cars. One driver stopped, scooped her up and brought her to an animal shelter. Ten days later, when no one claimed her, she was vaccinated, spayed and trucked to Maine by an animal rescue organization.
“We’re getting a puppy,” I told a friend.
“Are you sure that’s a good idea?” she asked.
“Yes,” I said with more certainty than I felt.
One year before, we’d had to put down our dear, 13-year-old golden retriever. Ever since, I’d been searching websites of local animal shelters and petfinder.com for a new furry friend to bring home. I hoped for another female. Not too big. Not too fuzzy. Good on a leash. One that would keep me company while our children were at school and that would guard our chickens.
“God, would you bring our family just the right dog?” I prayed.
Not just any dog. The right dog.
When a pup that seemed to match our needs crossed my computer screen, I’d send an email only to find it was already pending adoption – or that it wasn’t yet in Maine, a risk I wasn’t sure I wanted to take. Then I spotted a photo of a little brown face, furry ears folded over, bright eyes looking up eagerly at whoever had taken her picture, and I clicked on her profile. Three months old. A collie mix. Friendly and eager to please. Best of all, she was already in Maine.
The next night, my husband, Dana, and our three youngest children climbed in our truck and drove 40 minutes down the Interstate. “We’re just going to meet her,” I warned our kids. After the woman who was fostering her opened her door, out trotted Delia. Tail wagging, she circled from our children to us, as if knowing all along that we were coming for her. And despite my former warning, I heard myself say, “How can we not bring her home?”
Two days later – after spending a small ransom on puppy gates, food and toys – we did. Only later, did I discover how she’d been rescued, which explains why she shakes and tries to flee at the sight of each passing car. It will take practice before she learns to walk on a leash without pulling. As for chickens, she thinks chasing them is a game – something else we’ll have to work on.
Wanting to give her a new start, we also changed her name. Dahlia? Della? Delilah? We talked through a number of possibilities before settling on one that seemed to suit her even better: Fable – a short story, in which the main character is typically an animal, and which conveys a moral. Whenever I call her, I am reminded that we too are part of a rescue story, one in which in spite of our failures and shortcomings, we are chosen, given a new start and welcomed home.
Meadow Rue Merrill, author of the award-winning memoir, Redeeming Ruth, writes for children and adults from a little house in the big woods of midcoast Maine. The Christmas Cradle, the first book in her Lantern Hill Farm picture-book series, is now available.