Animal shelters can be a wonderful place to adopt a pet, but once-in-awhile a pet adopts you.
In January of 1997 a stray showed up in our backyard. She was a mixed breed, a cross between a setter and retriever. Still a pup, she was a beautiful dog, but we already had a pet, Frosty, a small Benji-type poodle-terrier mix the kids dearly loved.
Luke, our fourteen-year-old, was the first to notice her. Around noon on this particular January day, Frosty was sitting at the end of his chain outside the dog house shivering. Luke knelt down to talk to and pet Frosty for a few minutes and ask him what he was doing outside in the cold. Then he walked over to the doghouse and looked inside.
There sat a strawberry-blond stray. He ran her out of the doghouse. She took off for the ally, stopped at the fence and turned around to check on Luke, Frosty and her abandoned dog house. Plopping just out of arm’s reach on the other side of the backyard fence, she wouldn’t budge. As soon as Luke came back in the house, she moved back into Frosty’s doghouse, and Frosty, refusing to share it with her, was out in the cold again.
We repeated this routine a half dozen times in the next twenty-four hours. It occurred to me Frosty had probably sat outside most of the night in the cold. He was no match for her size-wise so he was giving her his dog house while he slept on the cold ground.
The weatherman was predicting an incoming cold snap, an Alberta Clipper. Frosty’s doghouse was insulated, and ordinarily, he would have been pretty snug. If the weather turned life threatening, we brought him into the insulated sun porch until the weather improved anyway. But he couldn’t sit outside in the cold all night long if the temperature started dropping.
We had a family powwow. The solution seemed to be to build a second doghouse. We tried to install the stray in it, but she wouldn’t budge. Frosty took it and she wound up with the one she’d commandeered.
In the end, Frosty and the new dog only spent a couple of nights on the sunporch, and then the weather improved again. Ian and I came up with her name, Buttercup. It was the only name she would respond to.
Ian usually took her with him to deliver his newspapers on Wednesday afternoons. A photographer from the Ottumwa Courier saw them together and snapped a picture. It was printed on the front page of the Courier the next day.
That afternoon a neighbor showed up at our front door. She claimed Buttercup was a Christmas gift to her daughter. She wanted the dog back. Looking at Ian’s crestfallen face was not easy, but I nodded ‘yes’. However, twenty-four hours later, Buttercup was back. The woman did not return to claim her a second time.
While Buttercup is loyally attached to our children, she turned out to be a woman’s dog. She can usually be found wherever I am in the house, often curled at my feet under my computer desk. Regardless, she and Ian are and have been very close over the years. We quickly learned she was terrified of thunderstorms and fireworks.
On one occasion she followed Ian to McDonald’s. A family picked her up in the parking lot. She was destined for an animal shelter in 24 hours when I saw the lost and found ad in the newspaper, and we went to claim her. ON another occasion, I had given her to a family with two small children, because they lived in the country and I thought a retriever needed wide open spaces to roam in, not a 50 x 100 ft. city lot.
However, two weeks later, I found her back in her doghouse. We knew then Buttercup had chosen us, and she was going to be part of our lives. What a blessing she turned out to be. In 2005 when Hunter was three years old, we found out he had cancer, an inoperable tumor at the top of his brainstem. Then in April of 2009, I discovered I had colon cancer and went through a grueling reconstructive surgery, six months of chemo and ongoing recovery.
She has been calm in the midst of life’s storms, a solace, a comfort, offering unconditional love and support. She has had endless patience for our children. When I sit down in a chair, she sleeps at my feet. If I wake up in the middle of the night, she follows me from room to room until I pick a place to land. She sleeps under my side of the bed where I could easily step on her when I get up, but some inner radar she has for me warns her to move right before I take a step out of the bed. Her muzzle is turning gray.
The day she took off our the front door of our new house on a dead run to chase the new country smell, and Luke came carrying her back, he said, “She didn’t have a lot of stamina, or I’d never have been able to catch her.” I knew something was wrong. She has congestive heart failure. We give her lacex every day. She has a golfball-sized tumor on her tailbone called a blood wart, but it doesn’t seem to bother her overly much. She still chases a bird down our country lane for a good three minutes before she runs out of breath, and she wiggles her tail and cocks her head like a frisky pup when we return home from any outing. I’ve called her my guardian angel, sent from God to see us through the rough stretches in our lives.
Hebrews 13:2 ” Do not neglect to give hospitality to strangers, for by this, some have entertained angels without knowing it.”