“Does anyone want a dog? Tim’s going to shoot that Border Collie.”
I was on a road trip, 40 miles off Highway 80 in Nevada, wandering around a historic site where Mark Twain had tried his hand at silver mining. The woman was delivering mail and an opportunity that changed my life.
Tim lived in a run-down trailer. Tragically widowed months before when his wife died in an off-road vehicle accident, he already had two Border Collies when his stepdaughter abandoned another. Tim’s work took him away for days at a time. The one-year old pup was more than an inconvenience, and it was clear that arranging a rescue was beyond this grieving man.
Another dog was the last thing on my mind. Back home, I had only Karl, a Shepherd-Pitt Bull mix. I was in no hurry to fill the emptiness left by Pumpkin, a goofy, willful Labrador.
I can’t be responsible for every dog in trouble, I told myself as I reluctantly made my way across the dirt road, biscuit in hand. I was prepared to resist. After all, not all dogs are a match.
Approaching the chain-linked enclosure I noticed her nose was bloody. Tim explained, somewhat annoyed, that the doomed dog had just gotten into the garbage. I concluded she had found the trash preferable to the contents of her food bowl, a combination of unnatural shades.
Classically beautiful, her brown eyes made intense contact that I was later to learn was natural for the breed. I spoke quietly to her, offering the treat through the fence. She showed no interest.
Her gaze remained strong, but she offered no response to my overtures. Taken by her elegance but torn by reluctance, hers and mine, I reached my fingers between the metal fence. I wanted to touch her, to reassure her that though I might not be her liberator, I was at least friendly.
As I did, she moved close to my outstretched hand, resting her neck contentedly against my welcoming caress.
“I can’t take her now. I’ll come back for her. I promise.”
Tim, in turn, promised not shoot her.
All the way to Cheyenne, anxious thoughts filled my brain. At the first opportunity, I called Tim. “Is she still there? I am coming back for her.”
Tears of relief filled my eyes as I heard his monotone reply.
A week later, on the deserted road toward Unionville, I felt jumpy. What if Tim hadn’t kept his promise? What if…?
Ten years later the what-ifs still echo. What if I hadn’t decided to explore Samuel Clemens’ historical site? What if I had arrived a few hours later? What if the postal woman hadn’t been delivering her mail at that exact moment? What if Sam hadn’t been there at the end of the road, wagging her tail, joyfully greeting me on my return?
No need to ask. We forever dog owners know how this works.