Shadow

He showed up one afternoon and settled down to watch us from a safe distance. We had recently purchased this farm and had begun the cleanup process…an endeavor not for the faint of heart. In order to entice boarders to our facility, we had to erase years of neglect starting with permanent residents who made it quite clear they resented having their solid webs being vacuumed out of existence.

“Where did he come from?” my husband enquired.

“Who?” I answered, not taking my eyes off a particularly defensive wolf spider.

“That dog over there.”

As if aware he was the subject of discussion, the dog lifted his head, thumping his tail once.

Being a sucker for stray animals, I stepped down off the ladder and slowly walked over to him. Curious but not certain of my intentions, he quickly stood up and walked a few steps away.

“Man, boy, do you smell!” I exclaimed. It was obvious that although he had remained in the area, he belonged to no one in particular. He wagged his tail some more. Yes, I do . I’m really happy you noticed and you’re still petting me!”

As time went on, we gleaned a little more information about him from our neighbors. General consensus said he’d turned up almost four or five years ago, most likely dumped. A “hitch in his get along” indicated he’d been struck by a car. He’d survived all those years going from house to house, becoming a familiar fixture enough that he earned a minimum of at least three names we know of: King, Romeo and Buddy.  He answered to none of them, choosing instead to drift, friendly yet aloof.

Most definitely a chow mix, he captured my heart immediately. His warm eyes were hopeful but he remained aloof. I’m not ready to trust you but I think I’m willing to give you a chance.  I withdrew. He settled in again.

At the end of the day, as we walked up to the cottage, the dog followed at a safe distance. Later, when we piled into the truck to drive to the hardware store he ran after us for nearly half a mile, desperate to keep us in sight. It was heartbreaking.

That was the pattern for the next few days until finally, after bribing him with canned dog food and his own kibble bowl, he approached us. Yes, I think you are the ones I have been waiting for. I stroked his head as he looked up me with limpid brown eyes. His tail never stopped its slow,  metronome tempo.

“Man, boy, do you smell!” I exclaimed. It was obvious that although he had remained in the area, he belonged to no one in particular. He wagged his tail some more. Yes, I do . I’m really happy you noticed and you’re still petting me!”

As time went on, we gleaned a little more information about him from our neighbors. General consensus said he’d turned up almost four or five years ago, most likely dumped. A “hitch in his get along” indicated he’d been struck by a car. He’d survived all those years going from house to house, becoming a familiar fixture enough that he earned a minimum of at least three names we know of: King, Romeo and Buddy.  He answered to none of them, choosing instead to drift, friendly yet aloof and watchful, until we came along.

We named him Shadow, for obvious reasons for wherever we were, he wasn’t far away. He didn’t run, he ambled…slowly, deliberately. Once in awhile he would break into a slow trot but it never lasted too long. He was an old soul wrapped in a thick chestnut coat; a master of casual cool. The neighbors across the street owned four boxers who remained contained inside a chain link fence, a territory they guarded ferociously. On a regular basis, Shadow would cross the street, antagonizing those boxers. Deliberately, and I suspect with canine relish, he would meander next to their fence and nonchalantly pee as you please, oblivious to their frenzied barking.  He may have been neutered, but he still had balls.

There was an instinctive gentleness about him. On a farm dotted with mature oaks, squirrels are abundant. Surprisingly, baby squirrels drop out of trees on a regular basis. One afternoon, Shadow came ambling up from the barn carrying what we thought was an old shoe. What he dropped at my feet was a baby squirrel he’d gently carried up from the barn. Left alone, the squirrel wouldn’t have stood a chance. To this day, I don’t what compelled Shadow to carefully cradle the helpless animal in his mouth to drop it my feet but four weeks later, we released that same animal in a nearby tree.

Perhaps Shadow fell in love with our walking ottoman, Abby or reveled in the constant pestering from Charlie, our ADD Jack-Shitz.  People often remarked how lucky Shadow was to find our family. The truth is, we were the lucky ones. He’d experienced first hand the worst behavior humans are capable of yet retained the sweetness of a gentle soul. He deserved so much more than life had given him. It may have taken a few years to choose a permanent family but when he did, he remained loyal and protective to the very end.

The truth of the matter is this. One doesn’t find these creatures. These wonderful animals, whether they be feline, equine or canine, find you and our lives are so much richer because of it.

 

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2 thoughts on “Shadow

    • They do worm their way into our hearts don’t they. This story didn’t convey what a gentle soul he was. Broke my heart to think what he endured until he decided to remain with us. So sorry for your loss.

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