“The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.” —Coretta Scott King
She was walking around the perimeter of the pack, on nimble legs. Hind end permanently swollen from pushing life after life after life into the world, and two rows of four dangling nipples each—make that three on the left side where, before she was old enough to have babies of her own, she allowed a motherless kitten to suckle one nipple right off her body—all seven casting shadows on the ground as the sun shone down. A new set of younger breeder dogs had arrived, and the old girl looked displaced.
“What’s the plan with Tink?” I asked. “Is she heading into retirement soon?”
My sister explained that Tink had, indeed, completed her tenure as a puppy factory, and they were considering rehoming her.
“She has to stay in the family,” I said. “She is family.”
I had first met Tink when she was a spry 10-week-old black streak of a dog, never staying in one space for long if she wasn’t furled up inside someone’s sweatshirt. When awake, she leapt from sofas to chairs and back ‘round again, invisible cape wildly flowing behind her in the visions of those who loved her. Through the years, we procured two of her puppies, Piper and then Friday, who I referred to as my therapy dogs—I hadn’t experienced such devotion or adoration out of a living thing before. Tragically, each of their lives was cut short.
Piper was attacked by a larger dog while the kids and I were on a family walk shortly after their dad and I had broken our house in two. She was the loving creature who soaked up lonely spaces in my life as I transitioned into the idea of “visitation” and no longer being part of every moment of my kids’ lives. The pit bull had rushed out from under his fence with little warning and ripped Piper right off the end of the leash my seven year old was holding. As the kids and I rushed her torn body to the pet emergency clinic, we pushed words through our heaving sobs: “You’re a good dog, Piper. We are right here. We love you.”
Several years later, Friday chased a squirrel out into Lincoln Street, just off of Cannon Hill Park on the south hill, after a botched leash exchange between the kids. Cars in one direction had stopped, but a lady in a red car talking on her cell phone never slowed or even looked back after her bumper hit Friday in the head, killing her instantly. I had given the kids a 10 minute head start to the park, and as I walked over to meet them their cries pulled me faster. I dashed toward the street, turning the corner to see a man dressed in white surrounded by a group of people, Friday cradled in his arms as though she was sleeping. We sat in the backyard petting her still body, once again pushing words through the tears: “You’re a good dog, Friday. We are right here. We love you.” She had gotten me through two miscarriages, never leaving my side, curling up with me for days when I couldn’t get out of bed, always in the ready to clear my face of tears. Those losses rose to the surface again, although this time without the comfort she had provided me because she was gone now, too.
I vowed to never bring a dog into my life again … but there was Tink, on the farm that day, ready for retirement. She had been a source of comfort for me after the loss of Piper and Friday, rushing to my lap as I arrived for family visits. Curling up and staring right through my eyes and into my soul, without hesitation she, too, would clear the tears as they fell.
A running joke with the kids is that if anything ever happens to Tink, they aren’t sure how I would get through it. They’ve seen me face the loss of humans and family, but Tink is like a precious toddler to me; we are tethered together as though we are each other’s lifelines. She can no longer hear, has gone blind in her left eye and is quite a bit more decrepit than before. She’s still a mighty dog, and she loves like no other living thing.
A couple of weeks ago, I realized she wasn’t right beside me, or in her dog bed. When I couldn’t find her in the house, I peeked out the slider doors even though it didn’t make sense that she would be outside in the heat for more than a quick bathroom break. I lost all of the air in my lungs when I saw the front gate ajar. My blood-curdling scream brought the kids rushing out to the front yard with me when she was nowhere to be seen.
I bawled as I ran toward Thor and then toward Freya … the end-caps to our street that would be impossible for a small dog to survive crossing. In between sobbing meltdowns, I posted to my Facebook page and to the lost pets pages. Within seconds, my posts were being shared and people were messaging me, wondering how they could help. Friends reached out to me via text and phone calls, people I didn’t know messaged me through Facebook and the NextDoor app. At least 20 people rushed to the neighborhood, driving or walking street after street, looking for Tink.
Linda and her teenage daughter, Jaylie, had traveled to Trader Joe’s for the first time that Saturday. It had been on their to-do list for quite some time. As they headed back home to Post Falls, they came upon a busy intersection on Freya as a little black dog was being dodged by four lanes of traffic. Linda pulled over instantly as Jaylie jumped out to wave down traffic and catch the little dog before she was run over. The moments were so harrowing and intense, Jaylie busted into tears when she climbed back into the truck with her mom, the little dog safely wrapped in her arms. When they couldn’t see anyone looking for a lost dog, Jaylie begged her mom to let her take the dog home. She couldn’t stand the thought of her being left at a shelter after the trauma of being a lost dog in traffic.
Seventeen hours later—after my social media posts were shared more than 250 times—I received a call from Karen in Post Falls, who saw the post and believed her neighbors had found Tink. Shortly afterward, I was standing in front of Linda and Jaylie’s house as Jaylie brought Tink, freshly bathed and loved and hand-fed salami, out to me. I sat in the car and cried for a while, Tink in my lap, stretching her nose up to me and pressing her head onto my chest. “You’re a good dog, Tink. I’m right here. I love you.”
At 14 1/2, I know she won’t be here forever, which is hard to fathom. For now, I’m grateful for a community who cared about my old girl, a dog, and who cared about me enough to rally to my aid in time of despair. Heartfelt thanks to Linda and Jaylie, two angels on earth.
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To community … and everything we hold closest to our hearts,