By Linda Steele
A few months after my back surgery, I was finally allowed to walk on a flat surface with a companion every day. My daughter, Trudy, and I decided that we would walk in the parking lot at the high school just a few miles down the road. It was June and school was out. The parking lot would be empty so we wouldn’t have to dodge speeding teenagers in their jalopies or kids texting on their phones during our walks. Her Lakeland Terrier, Zoe, was happy to accompany us.
One Sunday evening, soon after our walks began, our lives changed dramatically! I looked up the slight grade to the fenced-in running track and saw a pretty Border Collie looking down on us.
“Look at that dog!” I said. “Every time we circle the lot, she meets us and walks along beside us until we turn the corner and then she stands and waits and watches us till we come back around!”
“I think she is flirting with us or with Zoe. Look how she bows her head and then sways it from side to side when she walks,” Trudy laughed.
“Next turn let’s walk closer and see if we see a human with her,” I suggested.
So, we hobbled along for one more turn in the parking lot. As we approached the entry gate to the running track where the coy, flirty dog was trapped, we noticed a large sign. Gate Closed 10:00 pm Friday through Monday at 9:00 am.
We did not see any humans inside of the gate.
“Good grief! That poor dog has been locked up in there without food or water since Friday night! Somebody must have dumped her here at the school and then she wandered into the track area and got locked in. Poor dog!” Trudy sighed as she jiggled the lock. “How can people be so cruel?”
The dog stuck her nose through the chain link fence and looked hopefully into my eyes with her tail wagging.
“How are we going to get her out of there?” I wondered out loud.
“Let’s call the police!” Trudy suggested.
Minutes later a policeman arrived. If he thought we were a couple of eccentric dog lovers, he never let on.
When he jiggled the lock, the dog ran to the other side of the track as fast as her legs could carry her!
“Looks like she’s afraid of the law,” the policeman laughed.
After an attempt to climb the high fence, the policeman said, “I can’t get in there and I don’t think I’d better cut the fence. Let me call the school’s head maintenance man. He should have a key.
Shortly after that, an old red pickup truck rattled up through the lot and an ancient man wearing baggy khaki shorts with skinny legs and cowboy boots approached us.
“Got a dog locked up in there? Bet he could use a drink of water. I brought some and a little pan. It was 104 degrees today and yesterday wasn’t much better. It’s a wonder he ain’t dead by now!”
The man unlocked the gate and stepped inside, bent down, and put the bowl of water down for her.
The dog remained on the other side of the track, watching until Trudy, Zoe and I stepped inside the fence. First, the dog ran towards us and as she got closer, she moved more slowly. Finally, she crawled to us on her belly. Trudy slipped a braided loop leash over her head and moved the water closer. The dog looked at us but didn’t drink. She smiled the most awkward and adorable crooked smile! We waited and watched and waited some more, but she still didn’t drink. It seemed obvious that she wanted the water as she looked longingly at it. I said, “Come on, doggie, it’s okay.” Instantly the thirsty black and white dog with the most beautiful golden eyes drank and drank.
The policeman said, “I hate to tell you this, but the shelter is closed until Tuesday. Can you keep her till then?”
Hmmm. I seemed to always be bringing some creature or other home. My husband told me once, it was a good thing he was there, or our house would be filled to capacity with stray people and stray animals!
Zoe was interested in our new friend. She was welcoming. We opened the car door and both dogs happily jumped right in.
My husband met us in the garage with a smile on his face. Because his frequent cry was, “Don’t bring anything else home that eats!” I was quick to start explaining. “We found this great dog! She’s a good one! We just have to keep her till the shelter opens on Tuesday.”
“Pepper left the car reluctantly. Those serious golden eyes looked up at him fearfully as he crouched down in front of her and stroked her bowed head.
My husband, who had been on his own since age 14 said in a quiet voice, “Don’t worry, I know what it’s like to be thrown away and homeless. I’ve been there. It’s gonna be okay.”
The next day we had her scanned at the vet’s office for a chip and, there was no chip. We took her picture and made posters and placed them in the school parking lot and at the running track. We also placed an ad in the weekly newspaper that came out on Thursday and decided to keep her until we exhausted all avenues to find her owners
By Thursday we cringed every time the telephone rang. We didn’t want anybody to take our Pepper Pie away from us. Yes, we had already named her Pepper and lovingly called her Pepper Pie. The whole family had fallen in love with the sweetest, most polite dog we ever had the privilege to know. Some folks thought her overbite made her look silly and other folks thought it made her look cute. We thought she was beautiful.
After three weeks, happily, nobody ever claimed her and we wanted to keep her forever. We asked the vet and the folks at the shelter both if we could call her ours and they agreed that she could definitely be ours. I think this is where I should tell you that we all lived happily ever after!
For more information about Lake Chapala visit: www.chapala.com