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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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From My Window

Nova

By Jane Thibodeau Martin,


Last Saturday, I was out walking our two big dogs when an unfamiliar dog came charging up to us. I know every dog in our area that is allowed to run free, and had never seen this one before. She was frantically happy to join us " a small, young and submissive ball of energy. She followed us home, and since she had no collar, did not appear to want to leave us and was not familiar to me I resigned myself to putting her in the back yard and beginning a search. In our neighborhood a stray dog does not have a long life expectancy. If they don't get hit on the road, they are shot. People do not appreciate loose dogs, they actively destroy any chasing cattle, and they are tired of the endless flow of dogs and cats dumped off here.

I took pictures, and posted "found dog" posters in two miles in every direction, all the local vet clinics, the grocery store, my workplace and any other location likely to reach someone looking for her. My husband put her on "Craig's List" on the internet in both "Pets" and "Lost and Found." Monday, I took her to my own vet to have her checked for a microchip, but she had none.

Here's the puzzle. She was very well-mannered other than desperately trying to bond with us. She was a good body weight, so she couldn't have been on the run too long. She accepted a collar readily and jumped right into the car when asked to do so. She had to have been someone's dog, but why was she in my yard? Why did they let her run with no collar and tag? And on top of it, to my relief, she was well-behaved, small, healthy and cute - the grand slam of a stray dog I can place - because those are the preferred qualities.

The vet confirmed my guess that she was at least part husky - heavier coat, beautiful markings - but the ears were all wrong. A husky has shorter, rounder stand up ears, to avoid getting frost bite in their normal preferred cold climate. But this little girl had giant, stand-up ears - like a cattle dog. And she was super smart and biddable - I love huskies, but that's not their strong suit. And besides her charming, big open mouth smile, she had one blue eye and one brown. She was a dog with a fashion model face. And at only 35 pounds, a great size, and one year old, over all the puppy destruction but still young enough to learn quickly. I named her "Nova," "new/bright star" because she was something special, and she had to have a name to get spayed and a rabies shot.

But nothing prepared me for the barrage of interest she instantly generated. By Sunday evening, I had six messages. None, alas, from her relieved owner, but from people saying they wanted her. I have taken in literally dozens of animals in my life and never had this kind of choice of adopters to make. I told each potential adopter I would allow 5 days for owner to claim first, and several of them checked back daily to see if I still had her.

There are many horror stories about despicable people who take free animals and feed them to snakes, use them for bait for training fighting dogs, sell them to research labs, use them in breeder mills, chain them up and neglect them, and torture them. I scrutinized and questioned each person, and finally trusted my prayers and my gut and chose a family from 90 miles away.

Their old Husky had died. They couldn't afford to buy a new purebred. They loved the dog's picture, and the woman described typical husky behavior to a "t." "They are vengeful," she said, "If you don't give them enough attention, they will get even!" She was laughing as she said it, and so was I.

When the family piled out of their van, they rushed to Nova and she met them wagging her tail and smiling. The mother and father were profuse in thanking me, assuring me she'd have a good forever home, and that she'd want for nothing. The kids were polite, well-mannered, and respectful to the dog. They had thoughtfully brought a water dish for her, and their own collar and leash - normally, when I place a stray, I lose a leash and collar each time. It was so, so obvious this was meant to be.

As soon as I got home I had a picture of the dog with the kids at home, and the next morning a report of how well she'd done in the house overnight.

There are so few happy endings like this with stray animals. Sometimes I have to let a dog or cat go with a hint of worry " will they really be well-taken care of? Will they be pushed out the door if they have trouble adjusting to the new home? Most stray dogs are not the bright star Nova was. It's hard to find homes for the big ones, the homely ones, the ones with health issues, behavioral issues or who are older. I always send along a written offer that I will take the animal back, no questions asked, if they don't work out. But that takes some initiative from people, and not everyone cares enough even with an open offer like that.

So I share the story of Nova with joy.

My husband, who unfailing supports my "stray animal" habit, made a great suggestion as we drove back home. "Save Nova's picture," he said. "Next time you pick a stray up, post her picture again, and when they show up to see her we will pull a bait-and-switch." There is some pretty good logic there.


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