Jeff and I live in a neat cottage next to the James River, with the dog, in a dog-loving neighborhood. There is Munsen, the shy basset hound who nonetheless will come up to you and bay, bolting should you offer to turn around, and his girlfriend, Clover. There is the scary husky who barks at us when we go walking and who nearly chokes herself on her leash...she's always outside on her leash, which probably explains the barking. The Rottweiler, who I christened Brunhilde, very much an attack dog, silent as a shadow and ready to kill if it weren't for the steel fence disguised as a simple white picket and an invisible fence set to "stun." The herd of mutts who rush out to bark from afar. The beagle who sits twitching at the top of the driveway, silent but ready to jump, bark and terrorize if only the training would wear off. The fuzzy black dog who has a bark like a rasp on gravel. The bitchy beagle who barks at us as we cross the electric fence so Kismet can play with the friendly basset. The liver-colored Doberman. Snoopy, a Lhasa-apso who takes his ninety-year old owner for a walk every night. Cora, who only goes for a walk with both momma and daddy, not just momma. And more.
Then there's Sancho. Kizzy and I walk down to the pecan tree in the yard of Jeff's relatives...his aunt told me I could have the pecans once they ripen and I am determined to get to them before the squirrels do, they are tenacious. One evening, as we were walking back, Kizzy stopped to sniff n' pee (he does this a lot), and I noticed there was a little black Chihuahua following us. I stopped to make friends...it took awhile, but soon the Chihuahua was letting me pet him and sniffing Kizzy's rear. After a few pats, I stood up and kept walking.
He followed us. On the way I met Cora's mom, out by herself, and asked if she knew where the dog lived. She did not. We knocked on a couple of doors and discovered that the dog probably lived at that house over there with the porch. I assured Cora's mom I could handle it from here, went over to the house by myself and knocked on the door. The Chihuhahua was visibly happy to be home, scratching at the door and whining to be let in, but no one answered. Figuring he'd stick around now he was home, I tugged at Kizzy's leash and we turned around.
He followed us home. Somewhere along the way I dubbed him "Sancho."
Jeff was not happy. I have been working on him about getting another dog, with all the skills I possesses, honed over a dog-loving lifetime, but Jeff was having none of it. Never mind the fact that we can't really afford two dogs at this juncture (Kismet's doggy day care and organic treats really put a dent in the monthly budget), but neither of us particularly care for Chihuahuas. Plus there was the beagle to consider, and Kismet seemed exasperated by this small, black thing that kept barking at him, attempting to recreate some famous love scenes at every opportunity. I didn't really want to keep Sancho. I knew where he lived and I didn't want a dog smaller than some sandwiches I've eaten, but it was getting dark, and I had visions of his small black self getting hit by a car or possibly eaten by something. A raccoon, perhaps. I put him in Kizzy's crate, closed the door and tried to sleep through the unvaried whining.
The next morning, on my way to work, I dropped him off in front of his house. A week later, returning to check on the pecan tree, I heard shrill barking emanating from the porch: Sancho had made it onto the still and was howling for all he was worth, safe at home. I felt good.
Tonight Jeff and I were out walking once again, and this time we were accosted by a man in a van. Quite a respectable man, with shiny shoes and a button-down shirt, asking, since we already had a beagle, had we lost one? He and his wife had found a beagle after the ungodly flood of last week. It was obvious this was someone's pet and they were trying to find it's home, but no luck. I suggested he try the House of Beagles, next to the house containing the bitchy beagle and sweet basset, across from the ranch that contained the herd. He thanked me and drove on. After stopping to chat with Snoopy's mom, and someone else who, inexplicably, did not currently have his dog with him, we continued on to the pecan tree. Not quite ready yet. The man in the van pulled up next to us. "I found her a home!" he said. "I knew you'd be worried, so I thought I would tell you." Oh? He found her owners? "No, I stopped at that house there--" gesturing to Sancho's house, "--and they said they recently lost their dog, run over by a car, so I sort of said 'well, uh, are you looking for another dog?' and they said sure!" Seeing the surprised look on my face he hurried on. "They have lots of kids, I'm sure she'll have a great life there!" And we both sort of nodded in agreement and the man drove on.
I believe that dogs (and cats) come into our lives when we're ready for them. Or not. But they come into our lives of their own accord, clicking into place like a puzzle piece. Sometimes they go away. I also know there are about ten dogs for every person out there, and far more are euthanized than are hit by cars or neglected by their owners. But it hurts to think that, as easy as it would have been to erect an electric fence, or tie him up when he was outside, someone didn't care enough about little Sancho to keep him safe from himself. This part of the world is no place for some fancy city sandwich sized dog. I just hope this family takes better care of their new dog.