Rusty was feeling sad. All of his friends were gone. As he rested his head between his paws on the cement slab his eyes darted left and right, wondering who would be his next roommate. As each dog approached he made a quick assessment. The one with spots looked angry. The coffee colored one looked too excited, which would be annoying. After hours of this analysis, Rusty began to think that he wouldn’t have a new roommate. Maybe he would get a cage all to himself. Maybe, just maybe, he would get adopted himself. As soon as the thought entered his head, he pushed it out again. He didn’t want to allow himself the vulnerability of having his feelings hurt again. He ate his bland dinner and had a little drink of water. He didn’t want to drink too much because he didn’t like to do business in the cage; his previous owner would be appalled if she knew he had already done this for weeks. He curled up in the corner and fell asleep. He dreamt that he was running in the grass of his old back yard. The children were with him laughing and jumping, just like he was. He was so happy he thought his heart would burst. He could smell the clean air, and hear his owner’s voice as she called the children and himself back into the house.
He awoke with a start. One of the people at the facility was standing in front of his cage with a man who had a beard the same color as his own fur. The man’s eyes were blue and kind. Rusty couldn’t help himself as his tail began to sway back and forth, slowly at first, but then faster and faster as he realized that this man might actually take him home with him. He forgot to contain his thoughts and began having images of running in the grass with children again, having a cozy bed to sleep in. Getting to sleep through the night without others making noises. His heart pounded. He looked into the man’s eyes and pleaded as best he could to take him home.
The man spoke. Rusty wasn’t sure if he was speaking to him or to the person who took care of him at the facility, but he liked his voice. It was comforting. The man didn’t take his eyes off of Rusty and seemed to be talking directly to him. Then, both men turned and walked away. So forlorn was Rusty that he began to cry. His cry sounded like a howl; it came from deep within him. Based on his previous experience with having his hopes crushed, Rusty knew he would not be able to calm down for quite some time. He went back to his corner and wallowed in his misery. He would not be able to eat or drink today. He would not be able to do much of anything.
Unexpectedly, and therefore startling Rusty, he heard a soft-spoken voice. So laden with sadness he hadn’t noticed that the blue-eyed man had returned. Rusty saw a leash in the man’s hand. He knew what that meant! He was leaving here! He was going to have a new home! There would be grass and clean air and children to run and play with! As quickly as he had been devastated, he now was thrilled to a point that he might pop. He jumped up with his two front paws, swishing his tail back and forth and licking the chain links that had bound him for so long.
On the way to his new home, Rusty breathed in deeply as he hung his head out of the window. He knew his lips and ears were flying as the air hit his face, but he didn’t care at all. He could ride in a car all day. The man’s car began slowing down and then stopped in front of a house. Rusty’s joy turned to apprehension as he realized that there might be others to meet, and they may not like him. He was nervous and resolved to be on his best behavior.
The man scooped Rusty up into his arms and carried him inside the house. As he opened the door, Rusty could hear the sounds of feet running toward them. His heart pounded. In seconds he and the man were surrounded by three children. Their voices were loud and excited, nervous, he tried to nestle in closer to the man’s chest. But the man talked and Rusty felt better hearing his voice. The man gently placed Rusty into the arms of a boy. Rusty remained very still, not sure what to do or how the others would respond. He was slowly handed from one child to another. He was carried to the kitchen where, for the first time, he was placed on the floor. In front of him was a bowl filled with something that smelled really good. He looked up not sure if it was OK for him to eat it. Everyone was sitting at the table and smiling at him. He looked back at his bowl and took a bite. It was the very best meat he had ever tasted! It was a Portillo’s hot dog! He licked the bowl until there was not a morsel left. When everyone was finished, they went into a room that had a big tree with lots of lights around it and a big star on top. Underneath the tree were more wrapped packages than Rusty had ever seen. He looked around for the first time. It was a nice house. And it had a door that let him go outside whenever he wanted, without asking! While he was exploring the boy placed a package in front of him and began opening it. To Rusty’s delight, it was a new bed for him. He stepped in, circled twice and then laid down. It was soft and fuzzy. He loved it. He loved his new family too. It was the merriest of Christmases for Rusty.