Dog stories, and in particular, sad dog stories, are nothing new. But when a friend called to tell me of this one, I realized this story had a unique tenor. This is a tale of how both a new dog and new owner had to grieve together to get through a wrenching separation. They still mourn, but finally, it’s fading away.  

The man is an artist of some renown who lives alone and who’s always loved and owned dogs. However, he had not had a dog in his life for some time. He had begun to feel the need to own another pet, but he wondered if he should bring a dog into his life at this point. Life for him was becoming busier every year, and he had to travel since his commissions frequently called him away. He worried about leaving a dog home alone, knowing how they need and crave human companionship.   

He adopted a couple of cats as substitutes knowing he could leave them alone for at least a day or two; but one died under the wheels of a passing car and the other ran away as cats are apt to do. Finally, he decided it was time for him to own another dog. He said he would make certain that this animal would never be left alone. He’d take this new dog on trips with him, and he would keep him away from automobile tires by installing an in-ground electric fence around his home.  

The artist found someone in an ad who was selling dogs of a mixed and interesting pedigree—Welsh Corgi and Border Collie—so he called her. A dog was available. His name was Jack. The artist drove to pick up the dog, but that morning, unbeknownst to the woman, the dog had been taken by her husband to the local shelter for annihilation. 

The artist drove quickly to the shelter to save Jack and found him there, frightened, cowering and shaking in the corner of the cold, cement-floored cage, waiting for his owner to come to save him, not knowing he’d been sent there with no plan for him to ever return home. 

The artist took him immediately and loved him instantly, and the two became inseparable. Jack, who mostly resembled a Border Collie but had the short, muscular bluntness of a Corgi, definitely had a strong personality and a need to be loved so intense he would jump into the artist’s lap even while he drove and into his bed while he slept. Jack was loved not only by the artist, but by everyone.  

The artist could let Jack run freely around his property because of the in-ground electric fence. There was no danger he would be hit by those murderous cars. Jack was safe there. 

The artist took him everywhere. One cold December day he stood outside his studio with Jack, heard his phone ring and went inside to answer it. When he was finished talking, he went outside to find Jack, but he was not there. The artist called and called and soon Jack came running toward him, obedient and loving as he always was. He ran into the studio and went under a desk and looked the way he’d looked when he’d been in the shelter—frightened, shaking and pulling away. And then the artist saw the blood coming from his beloved dog’s mouth. 

Jack could not be saved. The vet tried everything, but for reasons the artist would never know, the dog had jumped the fence and had been hit so hard by a speeding car outside the studio, his internal organs were irreparably destroyed. There was no hope. 

The artist stayed with Jack to the end and then went home to grieve alone. 

“Jack was killed by a car yesterday,” he told his dog’s former owner on the phone the next day. “He was the most wonderful dog, the best I ever owned. I want another, just like him. By any chance, are there any of Jack’s brothers or sisters available?”  

No, the woman told him. They’ve all been taken away. The artist hung up. 

Later, she called him back. By a remarkable coincidence, she said she’d spoken to the owner of one of Jack’s brothers, one that had escaped the shelter and death, and it seemed the man had to move away and could not take the dog. The dog’s name was Harry and the man told him he was going to have the dog euthanized at the shelter. It was apparently too much trouble for him to try to find a new owner for Harry. 

“Don’t take him there!” the artist shouted. “I’ll get there as fast as I can.”  

He drove quickly to the man’s home. 

Harry did not look exactly like Jack, but the muzzle, the expression, the movements were the same. Harry was brown; Jack was black. He’d been poorly cared for, left alone for long periods and was matted and dirty. He was frightened. 

“I’ll take him,” said the artist. 

“Fifty bucks,” said the owner, and as the artist handed the man the money, he wondered why the dog suddenly had value when only hours before, he’d been marked for the gas chamber. 

Harry came home with the artist but kept his distance. The artist bathed him, made him comfortable, fed and loved him. 

Harry was learning that he would no longer be left all alone, nor would he be mistreated. He stays in the back seat of the car when the artist drives, but he’s moving into a brighter spot in his life now. Finally, he will sleep on the artist’s bed, although in the night he gets down and sleeps next to the door, perhaps dreaming about his first home and feeling the old fears. Even though his treatment at the hands of his former owner had not ever been good, Harry had actually loved him, the way dogs will unconditionally worship even those who abuse them.   

The artist is still grieving for Jack, and Harry in his way still grieves for his former life, but now, together, they are both moving away from that and toward each other.     

LC Van Savage is a Coastal Journal contributor and can be reached at [email protected]. Her new book “Queenie” is available at local bookstores and on Amazon.  

 

 

 

 

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