My daughter snaps a quick close up pic with her iPhone—“Smile, Fred!”—and opening her text messages enters the nine-digit phone number of her dad. “Look what we got,” in the text line, accompanies the photo of a grumpy little wiry face.
We wait on pins and needles for a response. We snuck off to our local animal shelter, on the sly, only minutes after my husband left for a business trip. Our mission...to adopt this little critter in much need of medical attention and a loving home. He has already ingrained himself as leader of this pack of two large quirky rescue dogs. Fred is the ten-pound leader, dictating the food bowls so we had to spread them apart to opposite ends of the house. Otherwise, Buddy and Dingo wouldn't be allowed to eat. His skinny legs make it hard to guard both bowls, so he stands guard—in the middle—casting a growly face, first left, then right, warning two 60-pound dogs away. They are happy to abide by his new rules having been lost and distraught when Neo, their 14-year-old leader passed away just a month earlier leaving them aimless and shaken. They will happily eat when Fred says it is okay.
A “ding" indicates a notification has arrived on my daughter’s phone. We look at each other, tense, as she clicks the message to open. “You got THAT dog?” my husband’s exasperated response pops up and is shortly followed by several emojis, angry, sweaty, bug-eyed, and resigned. We smile at the resigned little cartoon face and say, “YES!” My husband has recently discovered emojis and uses them in series now instead of words. Easier than the slow process of typing with “sausage fingers".
I quickly pick Fred up for a hug and am rewarded by a startled nip to my cheek. We have to remember that this guy suffered some serious abuse and he will need time to overcome his fears. “No face bites,” I scold him, and he pensively licks my reddening cheek.
My husband finally parks in the driveway, making it home after an overnight work-laden trip. We have bathed, brushed, and given Fred a little full-body Mohawk in anticipation of their first official meeting. We are not sure how this meeting will go, given the still unknown list of Fred’s fears, already realizing he is terrified of children, quaking and panting and baring teeth earlier in the vet’s office as a sweet little girl approached, “Pet doggie?" her mission. A child must have tortured this sad little dog. It is our hope that he tolerates being around a man without the same heart-wrenching panic.
The side door opens and my husband walks in, a little squeak emanating from a wonky wheel on the duffel bag he rolls behind him. I look at my daughter, she looks at me, we look at Fred and we all look at my husband. A little whine emanates from low in Fred’s throat. “My new Daddy!” he jumps from the couch and tail wagging, prances and dances and spins a happy bark resounding. We are relieved as my husband lifts Fred up into his arms and is assaulted, his face slathered with kisses.
“You never listen to me,” my husband scolds. “Thank you,”...long pause, the wheels in motion behind his eyelids as he comes up with the punch line…"for NOTHING!” and he laughs but I notice his hand. It is still massaging Fred’s little head.
By Lisa H. Owens
Inspired by true events
(Click to read Part 6)