they were allergic
Steve was our 'dog' person. He was the one who in general, was the 'expert', and I liked him alot. Tall, laconic, dry witted, and incredibly intelligent, he had gotten to the point with many people where they tried what little was left of his patience. As I leaned against the counter, I had a feeling this would be one of them.
"You see;" the man holding the puppy was saying "We just found out we can't have dogs where we are. We got the puppy from my friend, Joe, who works with me downtown. He got the puppy from this guy he knew who got it for his kid, but the kid was allergic, and he got the puppy from someone who had gotten the puppy from this lady who got it for a present from her kids, but she was too old to take care of it and figured it would be a good present for someone with kids. We figured that, too. She's a nice little puppy."
The nice little puppy was beautiful, slightly longish white fur. She was obviously a mix.
She was only about 9 weeks old. She was cowering in fear, with huge dark eyes, and I could see the confusion there. She looked in good shape, but emotionally, I wondered where she was. She was very young, and she had already been through more homes than many adult dogs.
Steve looked at me, and I shrugged. "I'll have the vet examine her, and if she checks out, we'll take her." he told the man, taking the puppy.
"What an idiot." Was Steve's remark as we leaned across the exam table in the clinic. The puppy sat there, quivering, obviously terrified of yet one more strange thing in her life. Dr. Morris gently gave her a once over, and gave her the thumbs up for adoption, but suggested she remain in the clinic a couple days, as she was a little underweight, probably from stress.
We told the man we'd be taking the puppy, and he looked relieved. He handed us a small leash and a box of biscuits. "Her name is Candy." he said, as we parted company.
Steve came and sat beside me at the desk. He looked gloomy and morose. "I wish people wouldn't think that getting a dog for Christmas is a great idea...it just makes the pet stores profit and the puppies wind up...if they are lucky...like that one there."
I agreed. Every year we saw alot of the same thing. Candy's difference was that she came before Christmas, and that was at least a small change.
The next day Dr. Morris called me. "This puppy doesn't know how to eat much on her own, Fyre. I think that must have been taken away from her mother too young. Someone's going to have to watch her eat, and help urge her along. I don't think she should go to just anyone...make sure the home she gets they have alot of time to spend with her."
People were coming in like crazy for puppies and kittens, but it was not our policy to adopt right before the holidays, which were too stressful for most puppies and kittens. This seemed to agree with Candy, who got to know our staff, and in two days time was romping in the small back room with 2 of our cats who liked dogs.
That afternoon, Steve was asked to pick out a dog or a puppy to take with him to do an educational presentation at the Greenpoint Library. The lecture, to kids and their parents, was why you shouldn't get a pet for the holidays. Steve wanted to take an older dog, but being he needed a dog he could fit in the small car that belonged to our handyman, he reluctantly decided on Candy.
Steve got there, got set up, and spoke with the library staff, who were animal lovers, about the shelter, all of who admired the puppy. Candy, in her days with us, wasn't as shy as she had been, but Steve took great pains to make sure the puppy was comfortable. He put her into a large carrier to nap til they were ready for her, and he set up for the 'talk'.
The audience that filtered in were made up of adults and kids of all ages. They took seats in the kids library, and Steve watched them with irony, wondering how many would really listen to him.
He was introduced by the Head Librarian and had just begun to talk when he noticned a slight disturbance in the back of the room. A man was entering, pushing a wheelchair with a child in it. Steve noticed the little girl, who looked to be about 10, had a scarf over her head and looked very pale. They took their place near the side and Steve noticed they were very attentive.
A few mintues into the presentation, Steve lifted out Candy from her box. There was a chorus of 'ooohs' and 'aaahhhs' but from the side there came a small scream. Steve turned and saw the man, his face white, clutching the girl's hand. The girl looked as if she was seeing a ghost.
"It's her, dad!!!! It's her." the childs voice was filled with anguish, and Steve and everyone turned to look at the man. He was white faced and obviously shaken. The little girl was crying, reaching out her arms. "Oh, please, please let me hold her. She's mine, she's mine!"
There was dead silence in the room. Steve looked at the man and held up his hand to the group. He went over to the man, and settled the puppy in the little girls lap. She buried her face in the puppie's fur and Candy turned and began to lick her ear. Her scarf slipped and Steve could see she had no hair. The man reached out and squeezed her hand, then looked up at Steve. "We can discuss this when I'm done." Steve said, not knowing what else to do. Despite his jaded nature, he felt a lump in his throat, and the rest of the lecture was delivered with a paced warmth and more acceptance than probably anything else he'd done. At the end, he let the children come up and gently pet the puppy where it sat in the little girl's lap. The little girl showed them how to pet the little animal, gently, and held some of the smaller children's hands. When the lecture was over, after Steve had fielded several questions about the shelter, he went back to the man and his daughter. The little girl smiled up at him through tear streaked lashes. "Thank you for bringing her to me! I knew I'd see her again! I just knew it!"
Steve turned to the man, who gave him a desperate look. He led him to the side of the library. "Please let us adopt this puppy. This must be a miracle."
He paused and looked at Steve. "You see, a few weeks ago we answered
an ad about someone who had puppies for adoption. Ann....my daughter....she
has cancer. For Christmas she asked for a puppy, and we thought it would
be a good idea. My wife and I had wanted a dog too, and Ann, well, it seemed
to be an incentive for her to not give up, too, you know? We picked out
this puppy, and the woman said she'd hold it for us til the puppy was a
little older. It was still nursing and being taken care of by it's mother.
We gave the woman our number, and told her to call us. We figured she would.
But two weeks later when I called, she told me she had sold the whole litter.
We tried to find out more, but she wouldn't tell me anything.
He began to cry. Steve did too. He had a lump in his throat. He shook his head. "Come back to the shelter with me. You'll have to do the paperwork to make it offical."
That afternoon, Candy, renamed Holly, went home in the arms of a little girl who thanked us for being angels. Her parents, who had both come in, hugged us in tears.
A year later Steve came upstairs and handed me an envelope. There was a Christmas card inside with a pretty young blond girl sitting on a sofa, her arms around a silky snow coated dog, with a red collar around it's neck.
"Merry Christmas from Anne and her sister, Holly." the card read. "I feel better now, Steve, because of you. I will always take good care of Holly. Love, Ann."
It was the only time I'd ever seen Steve cry.