I took the children out this morning
to procure spangly things for birthday invitations.
Town is a twenty minute drive in and so we may have been gone for a little over an hour.
As we rounded the corner, we noticed a small white dog gingerly walking down our street.
She was matted and skinny and she walked as one who had been on a long journey.
I could tell that nobody had looked after her for a very long time,
She had a look of sheer determination on her face though
and I hoped that she would not try to wander into our path as we passed her.
She did not see us as we slid past her -
just kept on walking.
My big girls sat for as long as they could before they took from the bus and up to the old dog.
She was not frightened of them, she simply acknowledged their presence and then went to keep on with her journey
but a few steps in she seemed to tire
and so she sat and watched all of us.
I wondered what to do at first
and then I called the vet, who gave us the number for the ranger service.
They asked us to secure the dog,
for they didn’t know how long it would take for them to make their way to our community.
I was worried that the dog might turn because we were strangers and clearly she was not in any fit state
but Maddy came back with towels
and Immy with our red wagon
and Lily with some food and water
and she looked up at them as if to say ‘I’m done’.
They scooped her up and brought her home.
She sat in that wagon, while the girls trundled it down the street so slowly and carefully,
for fear, I think, she might break
and she ate and drank as one who had not for the longest time.
She had just one jaunty tooth left in her mouth but she managed somehow
and for the next hour the girls loved on her and told this poor mangy beast that she was lovely.
Even our other dogs were respectful.
When we first moved we lost a little white dog.
She was frightened of thunder storms and one night
burrowed under the fence and into the darkness.
We searched everywhere and placed signs in the nearby pub.
Then one day someone contacted us and said that they had found her dead on the main road into town.
Hit by a car.
Dave went to retrieve her body and he buried her in the back yard.
I didn’t look.
We were newly rehomed
and I was pregnant.
It was all too much.
When I looked into the face of the old white dog I thought for all the world that she might be ours.
Her face was suddenly familiar
and she seemed to recognise our yard
She looked to be deaf and partially blind
but she must have been a beauty when she was younger.
Just like our girl
and the kids suddenly said “It couldn’t be her, could it”
and brought out old photos to compare
and goodness, if she didn’t have the same features.
By the time the ranger arrived, I was convinced we had made a mistake all of those years ago and the dog lying before me was ours.
By some miracle she had found her way home
and even though I knew she was old and sick and would need a lot of care to see her through
I secretly hoped.
The ranger took the scanner and ran it over her body, looking for a chip.
Our girl was chipped
and we all held our breath for what seemed to be the longest time
but there was no beep indicating that she belonged to someone.
There was nothing.
The ranger tried twice more but nothing registered
and so we knew it couldn’t be
and that glimmer of hope died, right there, in our yard
and as if she knew
that poor old girl lay her head on my hand and shut her eyes.
I sent the kids inside then, not sure what would happen next.
I felt my eyes filling up with stupid tears.
The ones that fall when you least want them to.
The ranger said she looked as though she was sick and would not last the seven days
of required holding in the pound.
She said they would clean her up
and feed her
and get her all of the best veterinary care they could
but if there was no hope they would do the humane thing and put her down.
It was the right thing to do,
the only thing
because there might be someone else out there hoping for their girl to return.
It didn’t make me feel any better.
I asked that if she did survive
and nobody came to claim her
that they contact us
so she could live her last days with people who would love her
and respect her for who she is -
the little white dog, who looked as though she had been on the longest of life’s journeys,
who came to us one Friday
at the end of the road.