Christmas Day nine years ago. We had planned a nice family gathering in our Maine B&B. The Inn was closed for the season. Guest rooms for everyone. A large tenderloin of beef awaited roasting.
Our daughter in law called to say that she would love to join us. But she had been fostering two dogs for a rescue organization. I always wondered how folks could do that. I have a tendency to fall in love with almost any dog I encounter. It would be so hard to get emotionally attached and then just…say good bye. On the other hand, it is a wonderful thing to do - caring for a pup that has probably been traumatized on a truck ride of a thousand miles or so. In this case, Tennessee to Massachusetts. She asked if she could bring the dogs along. Of course, we said “Please do!”
One of the features of the B&B was the “Great Room”. It was a typical December night. A few flakes of snow on the skylights. We sat surrounding the wood stove. Lot’s of conversations about past holidays. Warmed inside and out. A classic Christmas scene. And then an icy cold blast of air…
The front door had opened. They were here! A little black puppy scampered in - the frantic click of toenails on the wood floor. “Sammy” was a very young black “boxer mix”. Super friendly and confident. He enjoyed everyone. We were all charmed and highly entertained. Some family would gobble him up soon.
We were thrilled to get a “doggie fix”. Sammy delivered it in spades.
But there was another dog still in the car. Apparently, a very frightened pup. Our daughter in law brought in a “leggy” black puppy that was quivering with fear. Sammy tried to play with her. But “Gigi” was not interested. She just stood there and shook. Quaking, actually.
Gigi had not eaten in 3 days. A nervous girl, for sure. As I sat across from the wood stove in a big upholstered chair, someone placed this shaking puppy in my lap. I tried to console her, gently petting her. After a bit, she calmed down. Someone passed me a handful of kibble. She ate a few! And then…and then she looked up at me and licked my chin. I glanced at my wife. She simply nodded. We had no plans to adopt a dog. But was this one meant for us? Why her - instead of “happy, easy, Sammy”? Because…well, just take a look.
We had always been “dog people”. But dog ownership had not been a sensible option of late. Inn keeping is demanding. And we had become “snow birds”. We rented a Florida waterside condo for three months - no dogs allowed. How could we consider adopting this dog that seemed to be selecting us?
Son and daughter suggested “they” would watch her for the three months until we returned. (BTW, thanks “kids” for the house training). Our excuses were falling away. We decided to have an overnight test with Gigi.
We were told that Gigi was crate trained. We coaxed her into the crate in our bedroom. We settled in for the night. The scratching on the sides of the crate began just as we turned off the light. And then there was the howling. Very sad, loud and piercing howling. And clawing to escape her cage. We released her. She jumped onto our bed and spent the night between us. Were we being played? Was Gigi wooing us?
We awakened early the next day to licks. The charm offensive was picking up steam. But there was a problem. The bed was soaking wet. She must have finally relaxed. I suspect that might have been a deal breaker for many people. Not us. We were being lured into a relationship of need…and love.
We contacted the dog rescue organization. Yes, we were interested. But oh, no. A family had already agreed to take Gigi. Not meant to be. We had to return this little girl. In 24 hours she had wrapped us around her puppy paw. So sad.
The phone rang later in the day. The puppy placer said that the family had changed their mind. They had very active young kids and Gigi seemed too timid and might not be a good match. We knew about the shy part. When our doorbell rang, she bolted out of the room and hid under the bed. What had happened to this little sweetheart in her first six months? No matter. We were up to the challenge. We were needed.
We were given the number of the family in Tennessee that had originally fostered Gigi’s litter. They had a farm and provided a brief form of shelter before the rescue outfit could arrange to transport her north. They said she was always terrified of rain and especially thunder. Apparently, she had been born and lived under a house owned by an old man who just wanted to get rid of the litter. Use your imagination from there.
So this skinny, nervous and intimidated puppy was to be ours. The name Gigi was taken by a close friend. So a new name was in order. We narrowed it down to a few and then…the name just came to us. We were “Sophie’s choice”.
A few days later, we felt as if we could leave Sophie alone - we went out for dinner. We were not gone long. But this is what we returned to.
And the next week sweet little Sophie ate my prescription eyeglasses. Love was really blind after that. And that’s our little Christmas story. Sophie was the best possible gift.
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