Caro's Sundae Sunshine was a whimsical, sweet as pie cocker spaniel. His luxurious beige coat curled from a proud head to a jet-propelled tail. His leg fur feathered into strands of glistening silk. The ribbons of hair on his ears cascaded like mountain waterfalls. Soft, black eyelashes swept over chocolate endless-love eyes. Caro's Sundae Sunshine was his fancy name, but I always called him Sunny. Our fifteen years together were filled with laughs, loyal companionship, love. But when I think of Sunny's beginnings, I am still saddened.
Although reading the "Pets for Sale" ads in the newspaper was habit, back in 1991 I was not looking for another dog. I was in the middle of unpacking from a big move and finishing college. The ad was in bold print. "NINE-MONTH-OLD COCKER SPANIEL NEEDS PATIENT, LOVING HOME." I loved cockers, but the ad was a dead ringer for a problem animal likely the product of a treacherous "puppy mill" breeder. I don't know why I went to see him.
Five disheveled children opened the door. A creeping baby
followed behind, collecting furry dust balls on gooey hands. They led me
to the kitchen where a well-worn woman sat on an equally worn gray vinyl
chair. She brushed an inch of crumbs from the table to the floor and
motioned me to take a seat. The dog, crawling like the baby, slithered
from under the table and placed a grimy face in my lap.
"Well, there he is," said the mom. "We told Mikey we'd get rid of him if he didn't teach him right."
"I tried, Mom," cried the biggest child through tears sketching streaks down a dirty face.
Mikey was no more than six-years-old. His parents had dumped full responsibility for the puppy on a child barely able to reach the sink to fill a water bowl.
"We thought it would teach him something," the mother quietly said. The sincerity in her eyes showed a caring, overworked, misguided woman.
The dog's head became heavy in my lap. His pleading, crusty eyes stayed fixed on mine. Mikey started to cry again, the mother yelled, the baby threw up a puddle of green on the floor. Imagining the desperate animal placing the ad in the paper himself, I wrote out a check without bargaining for price. I put my frightened, trembling pup in the car. Looking into his eyes I envisioned him going from the warmth and security of furry littermates directly into chaos - no strokes of comfort, no training, no water, no regular feedings - his only lifeline a moppet who could barely feed himself. We sat quietly in the car for a bit. In truth, we sat until I stopped sobbing. Once the motor was running pup stopped shaking, sat straight up and looked ahead. For me this was a clear sign of brighter days. I decided right then to call him Sunny.
I drove to a park. We settled down on the bank of a stream. I soaked a cloth in the cool water wiped Sunny's crusted face and put my hand out, palm up. He sniffed and licked. Reaching under his snout to scratch his chest, I felt the tension release. I asked him to sit and pushed lightly on his rump. He willingly complied. We shared an apple and icy water from my thermos and headed for home. In the following weeks a beautiful, trusting, well-mannered, happy companion emerged, a beloved new family member enhancing my life.
A friend, relating the uncanny
antics of her little brown dachshund, once said to me, "I often wonder
just who's inside that dog suit." It was a sweet comment and one I’ve
thought of often over the years as different dogs have shared their lives with
me and as I have honored and cherished the loving spirit residing in each dog