Editor’s note: Author Annie England Noblin has been rescuing animals for more than 10 years, and those efforts inspired her new dog-centric romance-mystery novel, Sit! Stay! Speak! We asked Annie to tell us about the first rescue dog she ever adopted. His name was Louis. Be sure to have a tissue handy.
He was old when I got him. The animal rescue said he was four or five, but the truth was he was more like six or seven. His muzzle was already graying, and he walked with a slight limp due to arthritis. They’d also told me he was a Boston Terrier mix, and when I arrived to meet him one sunny Saturday afternoon in March of 2007, I knew that wasn’t true, either. His nose was too long, and so was his tail. I stared at him for a long time trying to figure out just exactly what he was crossed with, but by the time we left that day, it didn’t matter. He was my dog.
I’ll never forget the way he looked at me once I’d signed the adoption papers and we were alone in my car. I put the harness on him with the jangling name tag that read “Louis.” It was like he knew he was home.
Now, eight years later, here we were, back in the car, this time for our last ride together. I’d come home from a shopping trip to find him wheezing on the kitchen floor. He’d wagged his tail when he saw me, but he couldn’t get up. He didn’t want any treats I offered him. I knew it was time.
The truth was that I’d known this day was coming. Over the last several months there had been more visits to the vet than normal. He’d had two fatty tumors removed, and just two weeks before he’d developed a horrible hacking cough that wouldn’t go away.
Louis was my first rescue dog. I adopted him after he was abandoned in a hotel room in rural Missouri. I didn’t know anything about his history other than what the rescue group told me. He liked treats, all treats, and he could escape from just about any enclosed space. There was no way to know anything else, and so we got to know each other while I was living alone in a rented little farm house.
Louis followed me everywhere. He followed me to the kitchen, to the living room, and even to the bathroom. He sat patiently outside the door until I was finished, looking at me as if to say, “Okay, where are we off to next?”
As we drove to the vet, I tried to thank Louis for everything he’d done for me. I thanked him for moving around with me all over the place. I thanked him for accepting all of the dogs who came in and out of our home, the dogs who stayed and the dogs who didn’t, some of those on their way to rescue and a better life. I thanked him for cleaning up after every meal I ate. In eight years, I’d never had to pick food up from off the floor. I thanked him for sleeping in all those Saturdays when I didn’t want to get up and let him outside.
Most of all, I thanked him for being my dog. He’d protected me when my house was broken into, growling at the front door until the robbers ran away and the police arrived. He never seemed to mind that I got married and he got less attention, and then again when I had a baby. He never got cranky, even as the baby got bigger and he got older. He never seemed to mind when instead of sleeping in on Saturdays, we got up at 5 a.m. He didn’t ask for a reward when one spring he protected the baby from two copperheads in the front yard and almost lost an eye. Louis followed him the way he followed me. There were always adventures to have and places to go, Louis looking at my son as if to say, “Okay, where are we off to next?”
This was our last adventure, and my old man knew it. When I carried him into the vet’s office, he rested his head against my chest because he was too tired to lift it up. I’d been carrying him a lot lately. He was too sore from arthritis to jump up onto the bed or the couch. Sometimes he didn’t make it outside before he had an accident. He was 15 and deaf. He was mostly blind.
I hoped he also knew that what I was doing for him now was the only thing I could do to thank him for being my dog. I sat in that room and held him. I told him that I loved him, and I promised him I’d be okay. I told him that his job was done, and for the first time in all those years, I realized that I hadn’t been the one to rescue him on that sunny March morning. He had absolutely, without a doubt, been the one to rescue me.
Now let’s hear from you, readers. Tell us about your first rescue dog. Did he or she end up rescuing you? Please share in the comments.
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About the author: Annie England Noblin graduated with an M.A. in creative writing from Missouri State University and currently teaches English for Arkansas State University. Her poetry has been featured in such publications as the Red Booth Review and the Moon City Review. She lives with her son, husband, and three rescue dogs — Lillie the Frenchie/Pug, Lucky the Boston Terrier, and Mikey the English Bulldog — in the Missouri Ozarks. In addition to her writing, Noblin started working with rescue organizations across the country 10 years ago, and has never looked back. The work she does serves as an inspiration in everyday life, as well as in her writing. Follow Annie on Twitter and on Facebook.