We call my brother “The Dog Whisperer” for his unique way of communicating with animals, but the truth is that Doggie DNA is alive and well in our genes on the Haynes side of the family and only gets stronger through the branches and the leaves. Among my mother’s last coherent words to my father were, “You take care of our dogs.” Dad is called The Treat Man for his never-ending supply of dog treats he keeps stuffed in every drawer and pocket and car console. I’m somehow seen as The Matchmaker. Friends and family call me when they want me to help them find “just the right dog,” and I keep my eyes peeled, pray, and wait. I was hoping to help my brother, Ken, find a new canine companion five months after his buddy crossed the rainbow bridge, even as he awaited an adoption decision on Cooper, a young male Labradoodle in Missouri.
On Valentine’s Day a couple of years ago, I was recovering from being sick and couldn’t sleep. I went to try to sleep in the guest room so I wouldn’t keep my husband awake with my restlessness, but I was so miserable I couldn’t find any rest, so I did what we all do when we can’t sleep – I took to Facebook scrolling. My eyes landed on a picture on one of my favorite dog rescue pages. The perfect dog for my dad stared back at me: an adorable 8-month old Schnoodle, black except for a lock of white under her chin and on her chest. Eyes that screamed, “I can have your dad wrapped around my little paw in no time!” My brother and I knew that after the last of the dogs he and my mother had shared died, Dad would need a new dog soon (despite his insistence otherwise), and a new dog would need him. And here she was.
I’d been awake at 2 a.m. when a man from had Florida posted her picture with a desperate plea for just the right owner to step forward and take her. He had fallen on hard times and was having to move out of his house, unable to keep the precious eight month old Schnoodle in the midst of his divorce. I felt such sympathy for this dog owner, who was doing the right thing despite the fear of backlash from those who would have assumed to have known more about his own situation than he did and would have inevitably tried to convince him that there was a way to keep her. I stepped forward, and he somehow knew that his baby would be in the arms of love with her new home, whether with Dad or with me.
My husband and I met him in Valdosta in a Wal-Mart parking lot, and after a few moments he emerged from his truck, eyes full of tears, looking away without words as he handed her to me with complete trust and a heart full of sacrificial love. He was wearing a burgundy Florida State University t-shirt (my mother’s alma mater), clearly a sign that somehow, she’d been instrumental in this God wink of a dog for Dad when Kona’s owner decided to surrender her. I fell so hard in love with her so fast that Dad almost didn’t get his opportunity to have her, but my brother was already on his way to meet us for the next leg of the rescue journey.
Ken Facetimed me at the end of his leg of the rescue as Dad met Kona for the first time that Valentine’s Day evening. “You have 72 hours to decide,” I told him. “If you decide you don’t want to keep her, the agreement is that she comes back to me. I’ll get in the car, drive down, and pick her up.” I crossed my fingers on one hand that he’d keep her, and fingers on the other that he’d give her back.
But the day of love worked its magic the way it mysteriously does, and their bonding was quick.
And so when Ken’s dog died, he would go to visit Dad and Kona to soothe his grieving heart. He’d sit and play and hold her, take her for a walk. But as every dog owner knows, another person’s dog is not the same. It’s the bond with a forever commitment to a pet that meets the needs of love in our hearts, and Ken realized in those times of visiting that he was ready to make this commitment – to feel this bond of love with a canine companion again.
He was ready for a buddy who needed him as much as he needed her.
And The Matchmaker wanted more than anything to find the perfect gift for her brother on her 56th birthday on July 8, where she sat at F. D. Roosevelt State Park Campground in Warm Sorings, Georgia under the camper awning overlooking Lake Delanor in a pair of denim cutoff shorts and a sweaty t-shirt, Birkenstocks tossed to the side, bare feet propped on a second chair, hair in a messy bun, drinking a Redd’s Apple Ale.
Something caught her eye…..
*According to PetSmart, July 11-17 is National Adoption Week for Pet Smart Charities and The Anti-Cruelty Society. From Tuesday through Friday, I will be sharing the story of my brother’s journey to a new companion.