By Terri Florentino
“Will you rescue my dog?”
Through the phone, I could hear his voice crack.
“He’s a Border Collie mixed with English Shepherd,” Bill said. The dog was living outside part time and in a basement of a building he was helping renovate. “This is no life for my best pal,” he said, “but right now I don’t even have a home for myself. It would destroy both of us if I had to leave him at a shelter.” The dog would need basic training, neutering, and vaccines. He choked up again as he said, “But he’s absolutely wonderful.”
As I pulled into the parking lot, I saw a man who looked like Grizzly Adams standing with a handsome, densely coated, tri-colored dog calmly sniffing around the end of a leash. As Bill and I shook hands, the dog walked right up to me, tail wagging. I put out my hand to let him sniff, and he nudged it, inviting me to pet him. I chuckled at his forwardness. I massaged my fingers through the thick fur on his neck then behind his ears, gradually moving down his back, under his belly, and toward his paws and ears, making sure he was safe to handle. He didn’t care what I did—he loved the attention.
“Like I told you, he’s friendly,” Bill said, smiling proudly through his beard.
“He sure is!” I ruffled his neck and ears. “What’s his name?”
“Whiskey’s what I call him.” Bill got him as a puppy from a friend. “We’ve been inseparable ever since. Four years.” Bill warmed to the subject and reminisced about Whiskey’s mischievous puppy days, his awkward adolescence, his good-natured adulthood, and many happy adventures up until now. “Four of the best years with my best pal.” He reached down and scratched Whiskey on the chest, and Whiskey looked up with adoration.
“How does he do with other dogs?”
“I don’t know,” Bill said. “We don’t really run into them.”
“We’re in luck—I brought one of mine.” I’d brought Tulley—he’d always been good with other dogs. I got him out of my truck, and we walk around together, keeping a a distance. Tulley wiggled and lowered his head, and Whiskey barked and pulled on the leash as if he wanted to bound over and say hello. I was pleased to see no sign of aggression. I let Tulley lead me over for a three-second meet-and-greet–more wiggles, wags, and noses. If anything, Whiskey was almost too friendly; he bounced in the air and tried to wrap his front legs around Tulley’s neck. Tulley welcomed the play, but Bill and I had business.
“You were right,” I said after returning Tulley to my truck. “Whiskey’s a great dog. I can find him a forever home.”
“Thank you,” Bill said, and his whole body seemed to slump. “Thank you, so much,” he said, his voice now quivering with emotion. He knelt and pressed his face to Whiskey’s muzzle. “Be sure to let me know if there is anything he needs.” He squeezed his eyes closed, and I thought I saw tears on his lashes. “Let me know how he’s doing.”
“I will. And you can visit any time.”
While Bill loaded up my truck with the dog’s crate, food and favorite belongings, Tulley watched intently from his crate, and Whiskey became uneasy—pacing, panting, and jumping onto Bill, sensing his anxiety. Bill’s tears were falling frankly. Once all of Whiskey’s belongings were loaded into my vehicle, Bill bent down to say his final goodbye. He buried his face into the dog’s neck, no longer able to contain his emotion. He sobbed, inconsolable. “You’re my best pal, okay? My best pal ever. This is what’s best for my best pal.”