I used to babysit when I was a teenager. I have always enjoyed spending time with children. At twenty five cents an hour my income from those Friday and Saturday night gigs never came to much. It wasn’t unusual at all for me to walk away from a long evening of corralling as many as six youngsters with a dollar in my pocket. Taking care of dogs while neighbors were on vacation was always a much less labor intensive venture. It usually simply meant checking in on the little critters each day and filling their water and food bowls. Because most animals lived outside in a fenced in yard in those days there was no need to take them for walks or even spend a great deal of time with them. The pay couldn’t be based on hours so it was more like earning a professional salary, often as much as five dollars a week for little more than a few minutes of actual work. Caring for a pet was always like being generously compensated for having fun.
Today I am sitting in my daughter’s home about two hundred miles from my own abode for the purpose of keeping her two dogs comfortable in her absence. They are elegant little creatures who only spend enough time in the yard to relieve themselves several times each day. Instead they hold court in their domain of the great indoors. They recline in comfy beds designed solely for their comfort and play with a variety of toys that are only theirs. To say that they are loved is an understatement. I suspect that if they were allowed to travel inside the cabin of a plane and romp through Yellowstone National Park with their family, they would be enjoying a grand vacation right now. Instead they have to stay behind while the rest of their crew takes some time off each year.
From appearances one might come to the false conclusion that the two dogs have always been coddled but that would be false. The main reason that I am watching them in the familiar environment of their home is because one of them has only recently been rescued from an horrific fate. She is a beautiful collie who not long ago was found wandering the streets of Kansas with a shabby and mangy coat and a body so thin that it appeared that she had not eaten in weeks. She was homeless, hungry and very sick, so much so that she was initially deemed a lost cause by those who found her. But for the goodness of a Texas rescue group she would have been summarily put to sleep. Instead she traveled hundreds of miles with kindly individuals who wanted the opportunity to make her whole again. In the end she survived her ordeal and once again became beautiful. That’s when my daughter and her children saw a photograph of her and knew that she needed to be theirs.
The team that rescued her interviewed the family and then brought the dog to visit their home. Everyone fell in love with her immediately and the caseworker could see that the sweet little dog would be treasured. A deal was struck and she became a member of the clan but not without a few more bumps in the road.
The children named her Hermione for one of their favorite characters in the Harry Potter series of books. She lived up to her name in appearance but was far more anxious and timid than Harry’s plucky sidekick. It became immediately apparent that she had endured far more than anyone imagined. She was skittish, often pacing nervously around the room as though she was in fear that something terrible might happen at any moment. She was particularly frightened of men, causing all of us to wonder if she had been abused at the hands of some brute in her long and treacherous journey. It took her much more time to trust her new keepers but ever so slowly she began to realize that they were not going to hurt her.
She sat next to my daughter for most of the day and slept in my granddaughter’s room at night. Even though she would run from my son-in-law she enjoyed sitting at his feet under his desk whenever he worked on his computer in the evenings. Lucy, the other little pup who already lived in the house slowly coaxed Hermione into playing with her and the boys. Over time she relaxed and began to trust the members of her new family. Her coat began to gleam from the care that they gave her. Her tail wagged more often than it fell between her legs. She began to show more and more of her personality which is quiet and gentle. She became protective of the people who had provided her with a loving home but sometimes her past still haunted her in her dreams. There were moments when she would cry but now there was someone to comfort her.
I’m here today because my daughter feared that it was too soon to send Hermione to a kennel or even to my home while everyone was away on vacation. She felt that the poor girl might think that she was being abandoned once again. It seemed best to allow Hermione to enjoy the comforts of the environment that she has grown to love. I was enlisted to watch over her and her little companion, Lucy.
Our days are rather simple. They begin with a trip outdoors followed by a nice breakfast. We play for a time and then they squeeze in a morning nap while I write. They love to curl up on the couch and snore. It is quite peaceful. Later we snuggle and play. They enjoy being hugged and petted. When one comes the other follows and pushes her way to the fore. They are like two kids with a sibling rivalry, wanting as much attention as I am willing to give. It is easy to care for them and I joke with them that I plan to steal them away to my home when it is time for me to return.
They are doing well although it is apparent that they long for their family to come home once again. I suspect that they lose track of time but certain instincts tell them that those that they love have been away far longer than usual. Luckily they know me well enough to trust that eventually all will soon be normal again. I am quite happy to be able to spend time with them. They are both very good dogs who have done their best to make me feel welcome. They demonstrate their gratitude for my efforts and let me know that they are happy to have me here with them.
Dogs are indeed remarkable creatures. They are so faithful and loving. It is difficult for me to imagine why anyone would ever be cruel to them. They rely on us for their care and feeding but give back far more in return for our efforts. They are a glorious gift that we should cherish and thankfully there are kind souls who do rescue work to help the pups who have been neglected or abused. It warms my heart to know that my daughter and her family have taken the time to bring joy and contentment to Hermione, a little collie who might otherwise have died.
Caring for a pet brings out the best instincts in humans. It is a task requiring responsibility and love. It appeals to our better natures and makes our world a happier place to be. As I sit in the quiet and watch my grand dogs snoring peacefully I feel relaxed and content. I wonder if we humans rescue them or they rescue us.