Traverse City Record-Eagle

December 29, 2013

Loraine Anderson: Looking a gift dog in the eye


Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — Gifts can come at such unexpected times and places.

I am writing this column on my sofa just days before Christmas. I am thinking about the gifts of this past year.

My new 5-year-old, miniature dachshund lies beside me, ecstatically chewing on her new favorite squeaker toy, a stuffed Grinch who stole Christmas. His squeaker remains intact, but it’s apparent he won’t last till Christmas.

I got her just two months ago at Tractor Supply, where I’d gone with a friend to buy a squirrel live trap. It was one of the Saturdays that HANNDS to the Rescue brings in adoptable animals for display in the store.

Christmas music plays on my sound system as I write. The Nutcracker marches and sugar fairies dance. My mother loved the Nutcracker Suite during the holidays, and I keep the long family tradition of playing it at least a few times. She died 11 years ago. Time flies, and I am astounded how it has passed so quickly.

I know little about this dog’s previous life. I can see from living with her that someone loved her much and trained her well. She’s half sweetie and half comical imp.

I wasn’t looking for a new dog that Saturday, but I had been missing my corgi, Emma, who died in March at age 13. Even so, I felt firm and sure of my plan to wait another year. I watched as a HANNDS rescue volunteer took her out of the crate to show a young mother and daughter. I remembered all the wonderful dogs in my life. I hoped they would take her home.

I moved on to look for a squirrel trap but decided to make another pass to the crates on my way to the checkout counter. The mother and daughter were gone. And the little dog was still there. It couldn’t hurt to ask her name, I thought.

“Tootsie,” replied the rescue volunteer. I laughed. She was, indeed, the color of a Tootsie Roll.

My resolve crumbled and my heart opened while the little dog stared at me quietly.

An old photograph of my German war-bride mother and aunt Ruth, her best friend since early childhood in Berlin, flashed into mind. They were laughing, as if they had played one of their countless practical jokes on someone.

It felt as if they had decided now was the time for me to get a new dog.

Then, I remembered that Ruth’s in-laws had a beautiful, rich, deep chocolate, brown dachshund that I had loved as a little girl.

That dog’s name was Hershey.

What bigger sign did I need?

How could I ever say “No” to such a gift?

Reach Record-Eagle writer Loraine Anderson at landerson@record-eagle.com.