We were relaxing in a hotel room in Portland following an afternoon peddling “Wander” at the Oregon Historical Society’s Holiday Cheer. Football was on the TV, but I, of course, wasn’t really watching. I saw the Steelers had won, groaned and said something rude. But the Eagles had lost and that was good. Yes, I was born and raised in PA, but I will never cheer for either team. They sealed that deal when they signed Michael Vick.
And then something else caught my attention, and I forgot all about football. I won’t go into all the details, but in essence a dog that had been adopted by an acquaintance of mine was not working out and needed a home. As you may know, I recently lost Mugsy. For the first time in 30-plus years, there were no four-legged kids underfoot, and my heart was absolutely broken. Chan and I agreed we would rescue another dog or two when the time was right. Maybe in six months or so.
Silly us. If experience has taught me anything, it is that when it comes to rescuing animals, you often get very little say in the how, where or when.
I wasn’t even looking for a dog when I found my beagle Babe in a pet store. She had blue eyes and looked like the loneliest pup in the world. I took her home. We soon learned those blue eyes were likely the result of inbreeding, which also cursed her with a bad heart. We lost her when she was just six.
When I saw the barking, growling, black and brown mutt at the Lincoln County Animal Shelter, I said, ‘No one is ever going to adopt that one. He’s mean.’ Turns out he was just a pup. I named him Mugsy. We quickly decided this boxer/terrier mix was either going to make us the best dog owners ever or terrorize us into never adopting another dog.
There was also Doozi, the shelter rescue Bearded Collie who lived to the ripe old age of 17, and Linus, part of a rescue litter who would die at age eight of uncontrollable seizures. I loved every single one of them with every ounce of me. When Mugsy was the only one left, we knew we would have to be a one-dog household. Mugs just wasn’t interested in sharing us.
Then he was gone, too. And there we were Sunday night. From the conversations with “D,” who originally rescued Luna, but could not keep her because of her own health issues, and “S,” the woman who adopted Luna last summer, I knew this little four-year-old Papillon had some issues. “S” insisted she was a sweet dog, but had bit her boyfriend twice and barked a lot, prompting complaints from her neighbors. On Monday night, “S” brought Luna to us.
She is as sweet as promised, easily startled and not real keen on men — something we are working on. She also has several scars on her nose, and from snippets of conversation, I knew she’d had a very hard start in life. I asked “D” to fill me in. Here, in part, is her note:
“Three yrs ago, a friend told me about these dogs that were used as bait dogs, for pit bull fights in Salem, so I went with some friends to help get them, they were all pretty much skin and bones, very feral. We took them into Portland to file a complaint. They said all three would have to be put down. One passed on the way. It broke my heart, but I had just lost my mom, and my dog and I was not in a good place, I had been praying for a sign, a purpose … I asked if I could try and train her. She bit me a few times … and it took me almost a year to where she was very loyal and knew many commands… She literally saved my life.”
Just as “D” saved Luna’s.
Now, it’s our turn — to make sure Luna knows she is safe; she is loved; she is home.
For those of you who think this is an indictment of pit bulls, it is not. I know some lovely pits and very responsible owners.
For those of you who think I should forget about the hideous Michael Vick and show a little support for my home-state teams, I ask you to reread the note above. Then, take another look at Luna.
Lori Tobias is the author of the novel “Wander” and a journalist of many years. Follow her at loritobias.com.