A “tail” of my conversion

Published 12:00 pm Sunday, June 27, 2021

BY SHERRON WESTERFIELD

Community columnist

It was in July three years ago that I became a dog lover. Up until that time I had developed some stereotypical misgivings about dogs that made me avoid their company as much as possible. Based solely on my observation and experience with other people’s dogs, I had determined that all dogs were smelly, drank from toilets and then wanted to nuzzle you, had bad breath, and were walking flea hotels.

I was quick to tell of dogs who barked in the night at a decibel level unheard by their owners but that kept me from peaceful sleep. Dogs dug under fences and made unsightly holes in the middle of otherwise well manicured lawns. Dogs terrorized my cats and sometimes small neighborhood children. And, the worst offensive behavior of all, dogs used my yard as a latrine while keeping their masters’ properties free of shoe-fouling messes and dead spots in the shrubs.

With all those negative impressions I was proceeding through life with the erroneous conviction that I would ever be a dyed-in-the-wool cat fancier. But God, in His infinite wisdom, had other plans. He wanted me to experience a broader scope of life. And He knew that I needed a belly laugh to lift heavy sadness from my grieving heart following my only son’s death.

It all began when a large black puppy with big white feet appeared at the water dish near the bird feeder in our back yard. We were living on a farm then and it was common practice for some folks to discard unwanted animals in the country as if they were fast food containers or beer cans.

Our five former tomcats watched in disgust as the little dog ran nervously around the yard checking unfamiliar scents while pausing frequently to lap up more water. It was obvious he had been without food or water for too long. And, he had three bloated lime green ticks on his back but he was too scared to let me get close enough to extract them.

I provided him with some cat chow, which he gobbled up gratefully, and then I went inside to call the Danville-Boyle County Animal Shelter. As could be expected, no one had reported such a dog was missing. For his safety, we decided to encourage him to stay around while we looked for his owner or, alternately, a good home. We certainly were not going to keep him.

My “found dog” ad ran three days and brought no response. By then the nameless mutt had permitted us to touch him long enough to remove the ticks. Next, a “free to good home” ad drew five promising inquiries that resulted in five couples driving out to look at the dog. I learned he was possibly part Labrador Retriever and part anyone’s guess. His big feet foretold the large dog he would become. But he was ordinary. Nothing special. No one wanted him. Including us.

After a week of hanging around our place, sleeping safely in the garage at night, and trying to make friends with us and our disdainful cats, I knew it was time to drive the vagabond to the animal shelter. I did not want a dog.

Oh sure, he was cute and playful. That first night we said he was possibly some sort of traveling salesman. Later, when he stole the brush we used to wash our cars, we jokingly called him a Fuller Brush man. Big mistake! We became too familiar. We named him. “Fuller,” of course.

Into the second week of Fuller’s “visit,” I went for a walk one evening after dinner. The foundling followed me to the edge of the meadow behind our house as I continued on toward the tobacco barn. Walking back toward the house, I was deep in thought, including what to do about the dog.

As I approached the meadow I noticed Fuller was sitting there. As soon as I looked at him his tail started thumping in the grass. He was clearly happy to see me. The closer I came, the faster that tail wagged until Fuller was so overcome with excitement that he ran to me. Still unsure of me but wanting my attention, he began running around me in a wide figure eight as I walked on toward the house. I think I called him a silly boy or something similar and the sound of my voice made him run faster.

By now, Fuller was a canine version of a motocross race. His eyes seemed about ready to fall out of his head as he leaned into the curves and his tongue hung out the side of his mouth. I had never seen such a sight in my life and I could not help but laugh. The more I laughed, the faster Fuller ran around me.

By the time I reached our kitchen, happy tears were streaming down my cheeks. It had been a very long time since I had laughed so much. When my husband asked me what on earth was going on, I replied that it looked like we had ourselves a dog. I knew in my heart that God sent me that wonderful, silly looking mongrel to open my heart and feel joyous again. What a blessed gift Fuller turned out to be. (To be continued)

Sherron Westerfield is a freelance writer residing in Danville.