My 18-month-old son, Adam, called from the front porch. "Look, Mama! Doggie." I dropped what I was doing and stuck my head out the door.
Brandy, our next-door neighbor's 11-year-old Golden Retriever
, was over again. "Scat!" I said, scooping up Adam and brushing the dog hair off his T-shirt and shorts.
Brandy's owner had died about a month earlier. The woman's family emptied the house, and a real estate agent stuck a For Sale sign in the front yard. But the family had overlooked the old Golden. For weeks she'd been sniffing around the neighborhood, living on scraps and handouts.
It wasn't that I disliked dogs or anything like that. I just didn't think about them much. I never had a dog growing up and never thought to get one.
Brandy loped off and I stayed out on the porch with Adam. The phone rang. I ducked inside to take the call. When I came back out, Adam was gone. I scoured the yard, front and back, then the basketball court and public pool down the block. No trace of him. My worry built to panic. I ran home and called the police, then my husband. Please, Lord, keep Adam safe until we find him.
Police combed the neighborhood. Amid the sirens and commotion of voices, I heard another sound: a dog barking. "It's coming from the woods," one of my neighbors said. We followed the barking to a wooded cliff overlooking a creek. There we found my son, flush up against the trunk of a tree just inches away from the edge of the cliff, fast asleep. Brandy had pressed herself against him. I picked Adam up and leaned down to pat Brandy. She sank down on her side, panting. She must have been holding Adam there for hours!
I thanked the police and brought a safe and sound Adam back to our house. Brandy too. She hesitated a moment on our doorstep, no doubt remembering the times I'd shooed her away. "Come on, girl," I said. "This is your home now." Brandy stepped in, and once she saw she was really welcome, she eased herself onto an old throw rug in the hallway, as if she knew that spot was now hers. She closed her eyes. Her breathing deepened. Her whiskers twitched as she slept. She'd done an incredible thing and I wondered if she knew it. She might have saved my son's life. She'd certainly touched mine in a way no animal ever had. What a shame a dog like Brandy was abandoned. Were there more out there like her?
I learned about other homeless Goldens and took them in, and found homes for many more. It's become a kind of calling for me. Those with disabilities-the old, the blind, the sick-have a special place in my heart. A place I'd never known I had until Brandy opened it.