My Chance of a Lifetime Walked in on Four Legs
When we moved to Salisbury, NC, in March 2003, Snickers, our Brindle Shih Tzu, had recently joined our family. Snickers was the first purebred dog that we ever adopted; the others were all "Heinz 57" variety of mutts, who came from various shelters.
After a while, I started looking for a companion for Snickers. There were many days she was left home alone, and I knew she would be happier with another dog to play with. I started looking in shelters in Salisbury and surrounding areas. I always feel so sad when I visit shelters and see those big brown doggie eyes begging me to give them a home. I was looking for a smaller dog, about the size of Snickers, but all I saw were big dogs.
In early November 2004, I happened to be in downtown Charlotte for a doctor’s appointment and I realized I had time to visit the Mecklenburg Animal Shelter. Once I arrived, a woman at the shelter showed me around the dog area, and, again, all I saw were large dogs, my heart wishing I could give all of them a home.
After about an hour, feeling defeated in my quest, I was preparing to leave the shelter when in walked a young man and woman carrying a very dirty, shaking, gray and white purebred Shih Tzu. I walked up and asked, “What are you doing here with this beautiful Shih Tzu?” The woman told me that her sister had adopted Presley as a puppy, but she had lost her job and then her home. The woman had taken in her sister's dog, but she worked two jobs and had two other dogs to care for at home, and could no longer provide Presley with the kind of home she wanted for him.
I asked her if I could hold him, and she told me that he was afraid of strangers. I told her that I was known as "the Pied Piper of dogs" and not to worry. She handed me the trembling, dirty dog, and as soon as I held him, Presley’s tail starting wagging, and he started licking me like I was his best friend! A big smile came to the woman’s face. She told me she had been dreading having to bring him to the shelter, because she knew he would be terrified if left in a cage. After holding him for only a minute, I knew that this dog was THE ONE!
I told the woman that I had a Shih Tzu at home who would be a great companion, and I asked her and the shelter woman if I could take him home. The woman started crying in relief, and the people surrounding us, watching this scene unfold, starting clapping with great joy and enthusiasm. The shelter woman told me that since he had not even been checked in yet, he was mine to take. The couple walked out, with my assurance that Presley would always be loved and cared for.
As I drove home with Presley in the back seat, I was trying to think of a new name for him, since I did not like his given name. I thought, “What were the chances of me being in that shelter at that exact time when this dog was brought in?” After months of looking, I had found the perfect dog and companion for Snickers. Without much further thought, I said his new name out loud: Chance of a Lifetime Doering. By taking Chance, he had been given a third and last time to be loved and cared for the rest of his life.
When Chance arrived home, I found out immediately that he was terrified of men. After calling the woman I had taken him from, she confirmed that he had been abused by a man. Chance refused to go near my husband, Don, and hid under the bed in fear. After two weeks of Don trying to soothe Chance, I suggested that he try hand-feeding him. After a couple of tries, Chance finally took the food and trusted that Don would not harm him.
For the next two years, we took Chance on many walks around parks, and he continued to fear men. I would ask them to stoop down and hold out their hands, and Chance would tentatively give them a sniff, and then allow men to pet him. I was amazed he retained this fear for so many years.
Chance has been part of our family for seven years now and, finally, he is no longer terrified of men -- but there's still that hesitation. He has been the most loving and faithful dog I have ever been privileged to love, and he follows me everywhere around the house. He is truly a blessing.
Illustrations by the always-awesome Nigel Sussman.
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