Monday, December 25, 2006

A dog for Christmas

I don't think I've told the story of how I came to own Betsy, the Best Dog in the World.

The very best dog in the whole, wide world

I had moved into this house, and hadn't owned a dog for years, after living in apartments. I had Zsa Zsa, a cranky apricot-Persian cat, but I wanted a dog, too. I decided I would go to the local Humane Society and find a cute little lap dog -- that's what I had in mind, anyway -- one who would be 10-15 pounds when fully grown.

My plan was to take off work early, and hit the local Humane Society. That morning, just before Christmas, however, I heard a report on the television about how the Humane Society in the county just to the north had been inundated with dogs. Staff at the overcrowded facility would be forced to start putting down dogs soon.

I changed plans and drove northward through the back roads to that shelter, instead of the local one.

The place was overflowing with dogs. Most of them were big bruisers, though, and I didn't want an aggressive Rottweiler or pit bull. (There are a lot of people who live in the back woods up there, who like big, aggressive dogs. I won't use the "R" word.) The few smaller dogs seemed to have poor dispositions, not good pet quality or to be trusted around a rather sickly elderly cat, either.

After walking back and forth, looking at the howling horde, I decided I'd made a mistake driving north; there wasn't a dog for me there. I'd have to visit another shelter.

One of the workers said, "Did you see the little border collie?"

I hadn't. I like border collies.

She took me back to one of the pens, and there, sitting quietly behind some big bruisers was Betsy. Betsy was three-and-a-half months old. She had been adopted out from the shelter, then returned, her owners stating they had to move and couldn't take Betsy with them.

This may have been true; I generally consider such statements to mean, "We decided we didn't want that dog."

What foolish people, if so. I walked Betsy around the grounds, and her forlorn demeanor turned cheerful.

I brought her home, and Zsa Zsa, who disliked most people and hated all other cats, took to Betsy immediately. She would wash Betsy's face for her.

Betsy tenderly took care of Jack, who came into the household as a tiny kitten with a clawed-up face and punctured, infected eyeball. Jack loved Betsy immediately.

Elvis took a little longer to adjust -- he came out of my mother's house, where there was a dog who used to tyrannize and terrify him. Betsy won over Elvis after a while, though, and now the two of them sleep side by side.

Betsy had been partly house-trained, and it took little work to complete the job. Betsy is a smart girl, and caught on quickly. She's a very social dog, who gets along with other pets and loves to be around people.

She's been my constant companion these seven years, always greeting me at the door when I come in, staying at my heels as I move about the house, and sleeping at the foot of my bed. She's snoozing, inches from me, as I write this.

Betsy's very favorite thing is going for walks. Going for a walk in a Christmas parade is even better, in her book.

Betsy: "Let's go for a walk!"

Her exuberance, her zest for life cheer me when I'm down. Her loving nature touches me when I feel all alone.

She is the Christmas dog, a wonderful gift from God.

I've noticed my little puppy-girl is looking middle-aged these days. The white that used to just touch the end of her muzzle has spread upward toward her eyes, and she's getting the loose skin of a middle-aged dog around her eyes.

She still dances with joy over a walk, praise, a treat, a trip with me in the car, or a visitor to the house, and she still races around playing games with Jack.

I pray she'll be my companion for many years to come. All 46 pounds of her.

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