Two winters ago, clients of mine found a man dressed in several layers of badly worn clothing wandering up and down the dog food aisles of Petsmart with a tiny, emaciated black puppy in his arms. He was saying to himself that he could not afford dog food.
The young couple asked the man about his puppy. He said he needed someone to take her because he did not have any money to care for her. They asked if he would take twenty dollars for her (which they had brought with them to spend at Petsmart, but probably not quite like that), and he did. They brought her to my hospital to be examined. Other than her very thin body condition, I found no other physical problems. They did not know if they were adopting or rescuing…they just saw a puppy in need and a man in distress and sort of swooped.
Two days later, Layla came home to live with us, and after much name-trying, we renamed her Joy Layla Finch. The name Joy was suggested by the daughter of Joy King, who had been our very dear friend and had recently passed away. We also named her in honor of our other dear friends’ newborn daughter whose twin sister had just passed away.
The conversation with Joy King’s daughter went something like this:
“Are you sure your Mom would not mind having a dog named after her?”
“This puppy is so happy, like Mom was, and has such gorgeous black hair, like Mom did…Not only would she not mind, she would be honored!”
Joy…what an odd thing to name our new puppy during what was such a sad season for so many friends we loved. She has more than lived up to her name.
When I first met Joy, I was so angry at the man who had almost let her starve to death that I could not see straight. My friend Janelle said, “He did take her to where he knew she would get help.” That statement stopped me in my tracks.
Having probably very little even for himself, the man who first owned Joy did everything he could for her, and maybe the reason he held on to her as long as he did was because he did not want to give up his puppy.
I feel as though I owe him an apology and a thank you, though I have never met him. So I will write one here, and though he will almost certainly never see it, I hope it serves as a reminder to myself to let my first reaction be one of compassion, not one of judgment.
I also hope God blesses Joy’s original owner beyond what I can even imagine. In what must have been such a difficult season in his own life, he looked past himself and reached out with love and compassion to care for a tiny, helpless, goofy puppy who needed him.
To the Original Owner of Joy the Puppy,
Thank you so much for the gift of Joy. She has been a wonderful addition to our family, so gentle and playful with our kids, and fitting right in with our other two dogs. She is loved and warm and fed. I pray that you are as well. I will keep an eye out for you and try to make sure that you are.
If you had been in a different season of life, with a home and resources to take care of the both of you, would you still have her with you? I bet you miss her. I can not tell you how much I appreciate you giving her up so that she could have a healthy life. If things have turned around for you, and there is room in your life for a puppy again, I will do everything I can to help make that happen.
Forgive me for being so angry initially that she was such a skinny thing. I know that when you ran out of puppy food, you shared your own food with her, and probably gave up a meal or two at least, so the little bottomless pit would not have to. She had the cutest little bug eyes-I would have held on to her until the last possible moment too, if I had been in your place. I will remember that the next time I am getting worked up to judge someone who is probably doing the best that they can.
Be proud of your dog. She turned out great. She started off so cute and grew up to be gorgeous. If you hadn’t protected her from the streets of Omaha in her first few bitter cold weeks, she may not have survived. If you hadn’t taught her a person’s love right from the start, it would have taken us years. Thank you so much. If this does not reach you directly, I will try to thank you indirectly every way that I am able.
Shawn Finch, DVM
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