Pepper (sitting) with Arlene O'Neil & Pepper's blind son Little Bit

Attention Must Be Paid!

He sits in the corner of his cage; the cement floor chills his body and spirit. Curled up on a ragged blanket, thin from the use of many, he dreams of a place much different than this, as he drifts into restless sleep. His best friend, his buddy, his owner reaches down to pat his head. "Hey Boy. How was your day?" He wags his tail, so happy to see him. "Go get your ball. Let's play." He runs to find his tennis ball. This was the best part of his day, spent running and playing with his best friend. After, they would get a drink of water and settle down to watch television. He wakes as the hard cement penetrates his muscles. He remembers the day his owner went away, but he doesn't understand the words "new job" or "transfer." He does understand that his buddy is gone, and he is alone. He struggles to his feet and presses his nose against the steel cage. His tail wags as people pass by. No one seems to notice him. "It's the same thing everyday. People walk right by me. Why? If they would just give me a chance, I would show them what a good friend I can be. I know how to sit and play "fetch". I don't know "roll over", but I'll learn if they would teach me. Just because I'm not a puppy, doesn't mean I can't be fun. There is still a lot of life left in me. Let me show them". "

A young boy walks toward his cage. His tail wags furiously as he nuzzles the boy's hand with his nose. His body warms to the touch; his spirit soars. "Maybe this is the one. Maybe this is the one who will be my new best friend, my buddy, my owner". His whole body wiggles with happiness. "Please. Take me home with you. We can run and play, and I'll be warm and loved again. Please. Don't walk away. Give me a chance. That's all I ask". Oh no! He's stopping at the cage with the new puppy in it. "Please come back. I don't want to be alone anymore. I don't want to die! PLEASE! I want to live!" A moment later he returns to the tattered blanket in the corner. The puppy cage is empty. And a teardrop falls.

This situation occurs daily at shelters all over the world. We have a tendency to dismiss the older dog in favor of the puppy. Six years ago, I found myself in a similar situation. My dog, Wrangler, had passed away a few months before and my house was much too empty. I decided to take a look at the dogs for adoption at a local shelter. I brought neither leash nor collar. My intention was merely to look. As I walked past the row of cages, one dog caught my eye. She was a Lab X, just as my Wrangler had been. I glanced at the paper hanging from her cage and saw that she was estimated to be about four years old. She stood on her back legs and her paws reached my shoulders. She was almost taller than me. This was not at all what I had in mind. I wanted a medium sized, younger dog.

I wandered to the end of the row and turned to leave. As I passed her cage, she was lying down, face resting on the hard, cold cement. Only her eyes looked up at me. They were the eyes of my Wrangler! I noticed the date on the paper. This was to be her last day on Earth. I left the shelter with a new leash, new collar, and a new perspective. I named her Pepper. The dog that sat in the passenger seat and halfway across my lap, was not exactly what I had in mind. As I drove from the shelter, I knew I had made a decision of the heart. I now had a "pound puppy…a death row dog", and vowed to give her a better life.

Being a responsible pet owner, I made an appointment to have her spayed. Pepper apparently had other ideas. As I opened the door one day, she bolted past me, only to return a few hours later looking very tired. Two weeks later, when she should have been undergoing anesthesia in preparation of her spaying, I was being handed information on the birth of puppies! On January 4, 1995, Pepper presented me with thirteen of the most adorable Lab X puppies I have ever seen! My house was no longer empty. It was full of love!

Read more on the heart-warming life of Little Bit, a Pepper puppy born a non-breather, who now spends his time breathing life and happiness into the lives of the elderly as a therapy dog. Another decision of the heart…keeping the blind runt of the litter.

Story by Arlene and featured in Storytime Tapestry and Themestream.

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