Dogs, as my friend KT says, are never mad at you. You leave 'em out in the rain? No problem. Make 'em stay in a crate all day while you work? Who cares? Get home 2 hours late? So what? They are ALWAYS thrilled to see you. No matter what. Really.
So I already loved them, but I've learned to love them even more through working with a rescue group and serving as a foster home for dogs who faced other, much more bleak, possibilities. April might be the best story I can tell you about rescue, and fostering and happy endings. On April Fool's Day last year, I picked up a skinny, scared female Boxer from the Clay County shelter. When she felt safe enough she showed us her real personality: she was sassy, bossy and charming and we loved her immediately. The shelter folks thought she might have mastitis or some other inflammation of breast tissue, but it became clear pretty quickly that she had breast cancer and needed surgery. Boxer Aid and Rescue Coalition came to her rescue for a second time, helped along by a great vet, Dr. Rick Sutliff. April underwent a successful mastectomy in early May.
In late May, April found her way into the hearts of the people who would become her own family. Just about as sassy and delightful as April herself was Angie; her husband David was a patient, easy-going guy and their daughter was reserved but twinkled with fun. They were engaged by April's recovery from cancer. Angie's mother had died of the disease, her favorite month was April, and she seemed to have a strong feeling that April might be perfect for them. She adapted quickly to their cat, less quickly to being crated during the day. The first week with them, they closed her in the bathroom instead of putting her in her crate, and came home to find the bathroom door facing chewed into pieces. Patient David made a trip to the hardware store, replaced the door facing, and they stayed with it. When they called to tell me, I was amazed: so many people would have just called us and asked us to take her back. David emailed a photo of his daughter sound asleep on the sofa with Angie and April: his girls. One Saturday morning they called us from Panera, where they'd taken April for breakfast. Rodney and I laughed out loud from the simple joy of the thing.
The other day Angie left me a message. They had taken April to the Relays for Life walk, a fundraiser for The American Cancer Society. She wore a purple t-shirt, and walked the first lap with the other cancer survivors. Since my dear old friend Carrie died of breast cancer just over 5 years ago, this was powerfully personal stuff for me, one of those unexpected intersections life presents us now and then. In her small way, April brought a touch of healing to several lives, maybe more than I know. Small magic, but magic all the same.