Sunday, October 11, 2009


Just a few months ago, I commented on the joys of owning a dog. Enrique, my husband, and I love our 8-month old mixed breed - German Sheppard, collie and husky – dog, Sofi. Our dog is a lot of fun, but as it turned out, she was lonely. Her home was outside and she spent a lot of time at the door, crying for us to come out and play. She is a good-size dog now and weighs, by our guess, 50 pounds, and she is still growing. To us, she seems hyperactive, always playing rowdily with her toys -- with us or by herself. We play with her at least twice a day, and my husband and I take her for walks two or three times a week.

We knew she needed more company and more opportunities to play. Unfortunately, we didn’t have any more time to dedicate to her. It seemed apparent that she needed a companion dog. But we weren’t ready to get another dog. Our yard is small and we don’t have much money to pay more vet bills, which are substantial in the first year of a dog’s life. So, while we talked about having another dog, we didn’t really make any effort to get one.

Last Wednesday, we took Sofi on a morning walk - for her much needed exercise and ours, as well -- to a small park at the bottom of our hill. It is a quiet park and we have taken Sofi there once or twice a week since she was a puppy. We walk her around the park two or three times and then my husband lets her loose in a semi-enclosed area that is a children’s play ground with swings, see-saws and a slide. She makes her usual rounds leisurely in this area, sniffing just about everything.

Everything was going well with our walk, and I crossed the street to buy a few things at the small grocery store on the corner. Enrique stayed watching Sofi. According to his account, Sofi suddenly barked, wandered over to a secluded spot in the play area and began pawing at a black bag that was on the ground. To Enrique’s surprise, something in the black bag started moving around. When he investigated, he found an abandoned puppy. The stray dog was in terrible shape. It clearly hadn’t eaten in some time, had all kinds of ticks and lice, and showed signs of having been mistreated. Nevertheless, the little dog gathered up what strength it had left to greet Sofi and Enrique and began to follow them around.

At about that time, I returned with the food that I had purchased at the corner store. Enrique yelled to me to come over and see what he had found. I saw a tiny stray dog. Enrique looked at me and asked: “What can we do with it?” At that point, we didn’t know whether it was a male or female. I looked at the tiny face and knew right away that I wanted to take the dog home and care for it. The dog was in really bad shape, but it was still wagging its tail and jumping around. On closer inspection, it was clear that the dog was some kind of terrier. It showed a lot of vitality, which amazed us under the circumstances we found it in. I knew at once that the puppy was a survivor.

We walked Sofi back up the hill, and Enrique carried the small dog to the house. We fed the puppy, as much as it wanted. It ate like it was starved, which we knew was the case. Enrique made the tiny dog a cinder-block “cave” so that it could stay away from Sofi who was, by that time, not so happy to have found a cousin in the street. Sofi continued to snap at her new companion, but the tiny dog didn’t seem to be very frightened. In fact, it showed clear signs of wanting to make friends.

We weren’t sure that the older dog would accept her new companion, but Enrique said we should feed the puppy as much as she wanted and call the vet the next day to examine her. We wondered if the stray dog would survive the night, what with having such poor health and Sofi's hostility. The dog did last the night, of course, and by the next day the two dogs were acting fairly friendly. The new dog ate everything that was offered and tried to eat Sofi’s food also. Sofi wasn’t happy with that idea and growled and nudged the little dog, but didn’t seem to want to hurt it. So, then there were two dogs dignifying our small yard.

By midday, the two students who work in our vet's office had come by to give Sofi her regularly scheduled vaccine and to examine our new dog. They also brought us a special soap to wash both dogs, to be applied each day for two days. This soap kills all kinds of infestations including fleas, ticks, and lice. The vet students said that the little dog was a female and that she appeared to be a schnauzer, but easily could also be some kind of mix with schnauzer. They said she was at least two and a half months old, but terribly underweight from malnutrition. They told us to bring the little dog into the vet's office as soon as possible for a check-up and vaccines and to rid her of parasites.

We talked about calling the new dog Elena because Santa Elena is the name of the neighborhood that we live in. But then, the name Elena seemed too formal for such an active, small dog. So, we decided to call her Helen, the English translation for Elena.

Well, that was several days ago, and the two dogs have made friends. Sofi seems like a giant dog beside the tiny terrier, but in spite of the differences in their size, they seem to get along. They play together a lot and sometimes their play gets rough. When this happens, Helen eventually gets hurt. She yelps several times, and Sofi backs off, not really wanting to hurt her tiny companion. Helen is gaining weight and does her best to keep up with the bigger dog. She is really a dear and follows Enrique and me around all the time while we are outdoors. She doesn’t ask for much, but eats heartily and generally shows her appreciation for having been rescued and given a chance for a good life in a new home. We also feel lucky to have a dog like Helen.

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