This morning I got an update on a former foster dog — a Cavalier King Charles spaniel who lived with us two years ago, from just prior to Halloween to just before Christmas.
The dog had some kind of skin condition and arrived hairless, itchy, raw, reddened and miserable. He was about as sad as sad can look. He didn’t come with a name, so I named him Georgie, because his naked face reminded me of the illustration of the children’s book character Curious George.
Another volunteer, Huntly, picked Georgie up in Vermont and a mutual friend delivered him as far as a highway exit in New Hampshire. The first time I saw him, he was in a dog crate in the back of a van at a rest area, growling and snarling, his skinny body pressed as far back as he could get against the crate’s back wall, and looking for all the world more like a gremlin than a Cavalier. (More “Lilo and Stitch” than “Lady and the Tramp.”)
Prior to the pickup, he had been living by himself in an unheated trailer, with a litter box and a bag of cheap kibble. Details were fuzzy, but there was something about a divorce, and an owner who had moved to a place that didn’t allow dogs, and a hope that he might have been adopted to someone the owner knew. But who wanted a hairless, irritable dog with some kind of undiagnosed, ugly skin condition?
Georgie was with us for a few months. Turns out he was allergic to pretty much everything; had raging ear infections; and needed regular dermatology visits, medicated baths every other day, and deep ear cleanings. I kept him sequestered from our other dogs until he was stable, which meant he and I spent a lot of one-on-one time… unlike any other foster dog I ever had. Boy was he high-maintenance! But so sweet and such a little impish personality. I fell for him hard.
The nature of the foster relationship is temporary, of course. I couldn’t keep Georgie, and anyway, even if I wanted to, we weren’t the right kind of family. We already had three Cavaliers, and Georgie needed a home where he could be the only dog; he wasn’t particularly good at sharing.
So eventually, the day came when, stronger and fuzzier, he went home to his new life. If I tried to describe how much I missed him, you’d think I was describing how I had lost a lung. How much can you miss a creature who squirms at the endless ear cleaning? Who struggles in the bath? Who growls at your son? Who nips at your other dogs? Who hops over gates? Who hoards his food? How much can you miss a tense, skittish creature whose naked tail quickens like the reverberations of a violin string when he sees you? How much can you miss something that presses his lean body so tightly against your leg that you can feel his heart keeping time with your own?
It’s surprising how much, really.
In her note, Georgie’s new Mom calls him fabulous. Playful. A love. “I cannot thank you enough!” she writes. She includes a picture of Georgie as he is today, poised expectantly above a tennis ball, furry as a collie. There’s something about his eyes that’s familiar. Otherwise, I barely recognize him. Which thrills me.
Georgie is one of those rescue miracle stories; the kind of from-the-brink of disaster stories you hear sometimes at a party or whatever, about animals or people or about other kinds of reformations. And you think, “Really? Could that really be true?”
But it is true. It really happens that way sometimes. Which not only fills my heart but also gives me a kind of faith in humanity, and reminds me of the enormous capacity of love.
As goofy as that might sound.