A few months ago, I shared a story about a very special golden retriever who got her ear in a predicament.
Her name is Poppy, and she has changed our lives.
When we first met her last winter, we were just helping out one of the families I nanny for. She belonged to them, you see. They’d rescued her from a shelter a couple of years ago, and so she’d been showered with love from 3 kids and two cats since then. But occasionally, they travel, so we happily opened our home to have Poppy stay with us whenever they went away.
Then, something strange happened.
Every time they came home to their busy lives, they noticed Poppy seemed to be a little…less. Less happy, less energetic, less Poppy. They felt concerned, and a little guilty that they couldn’t devote more attention.
So, while it was painful, they decided to do what was best for her. They gave her to us. They would feel better knowing she could have more space out of town to run, and to be adored by a family that wasn’t quite as busy. The kids were consoled knowing that I could bring Poppy for visits when I came to nanny them. And me? Well, I was like a kid on Christmas morning. The golden retriever I’d always dreamed of having was now a reality.
In the past few months, we have learned many things about Miss Poppy.
1. She is made to adore.
Her eyes are pools of dark melted chocolate, and they speak volumes. If we’ve been separated for a few hours, her reaction to seeing us again will instantly change our mood. She jumps and hops and *smiles* in absolute exuberant joy at our existence. I’m not gonna lie, it feels pretty damn good.
2. She’s cool with Walter.
Which is just an amazing bonus. I love that we are a little family of rescuers and the rescued.
But even she knows better than to cross paths with him in a catnip-induced hallway hangout.
3. She knows what the words “car ride” mean.
4. Playing a game of tag with her will lighten your soul.
Without a doubt, this beautiful creature is teaching me how to play again. Can you believe she is 8 years old? I’m half her age in human years, and her energy puts me to glorious shame.
5. As strongly as she loves, she just as strongly hates.
She actually cannot handle thunder, the vacuum cleaner, anyone squeezing her ears or touching her food bowl when she’s not done eating. We don’t really know what to do about that, but we’re working on it.
6. She has the soul of a wanderer.
We have a very big yard where we live, and it’s completely fenced in – which is perfect for Poppy (and friends) because, while we rent a large property, there is a raging highway and a thick forest full of bear and moose not far from our house.
About a month ago, I had a day off at home, so I was relaxing on the deck in the beautiful sun while Poppy chased her purple squeezy ball around the yard.
After a while, I went inside to make some lunch, leaving the dog outside. In the distance, I heard a roll of thunder, but didn’t think too much of it. We’d been having thunder every day for almost a week now; I opened the screen door to let Poppy inside.
She was gone.
I searched every inch of the yard, looked under the house, called and called. She was mischievous occasionally when it came to the fence, but she always came back when I called.
There were no obvious openings in the fence, and she was not coming to my call.
Lunch forgotten, I grabbed her leash and jumped in my car, preparing to peruse the neighborhood street, preparing myself to *not think* about the highway and the forest.
After an hour of driving and calling, I phoned Steven at work. I tried to keep the worry from my voice, but his mind went to the exact same place mine already had.
“Shit,” he muttered, “I can’t leave work. Just pray, and keep calling. Let me know if she shows up.”
It would be 4 hours before Steve could get home, and so for the next 4 hours, I screamed and prayed and swore into the atmosphere that if she didn’t get her GD-effing-ass home right now, Mama was gonna lose her shit. Because there was no way we were ready to lose *another* precious family member after last summer.
When Steve got home, I had almost no voice left. With slight relief, he told me that he had not seen any dogs on the highway, alive or dead.
We decided to go to all the places we had ever taken Poppy, starting with our landlords farm just down the road. They weren’t home, but we felt free to explore their property and call her for the 57,000th time.
No sign of her.
So we posted a LOST sign on the neighborhood mailbox, and went the opposite way on the highway. A knot of dread sat in my stomach as I pictured her beautiful amber fur matted with blood, her energy and passion sapped and lifeless…
Nothing. No news is good news.
We went back to our neighborhood, deciding to go door-to-door now that it was almost evening.
Starting with the abandoned property directly across the street from us, we parked the truck.
Like a dream, we heard a reply coming from our house.
We abandoned the truck and ran down our driveway. A farm truck we’d never seen before was parked at our house, and guess who was in the passenger seat.
We all but fell at the farmer’s rubber boots in gratitude. He shrugged, like it was no big deal.
“She showed up at my place a few hours ago, and jumped in my truck like we were best friends. So I figured I’d better go around and find her home.”
(Yes, of course this would happen before we’ve had a chance to get her a proper dog tag!)
“Took her up to Gweek Riding Center, and Cindy thought she looked a lot like pictures she’d seen online and sent me over here.”
(Bless Cindy. And bless Facebook pictures.)
“Where do you live?” We asked him.
“‘Bout two kilometers up the highway. She was soaking wet when she showed up; I figger she swam all the way up Deep Creek.”
Two kilometers. Up a creek. Returned to us because of Facebook and good neighbors. Without a scratch on her.
Moments after this photo was taken, she barfed up a gallon of creek water and grass on the kitchen floor, then took a long nap.
We didn’t mind at all.
She hasn’t tried to escape since then. It’s like she knows what she put us through. She knows that we need her, for just a little while longer. And for that, we’re grateful.
Welcome to the family, Poppy. We love you.