A young couple, both sopping wet, struggled up the steps of the shelter, holding a small, shivering object wrapped in a towel. As they were handing it in, I asked them what happened, and they explained they had seen this little creature struggling to stay afloat in a flooded gully. The young man gallantly jumped in and, between the two of them, they fished her out. I promised I would look after her, and scooted off around the back to look for her. First, I dried her off with a towel and made sure she had plenty of newspaper for a bed, fresh water, and some food, but not surprisingly she was too traumatized to eat. So I just took her out in the sunshine and hugged her until her breathing settled and she began to relax.
The reason I called her Marigold was her fur had either been dyed or burnt in several places, and there was bright orange cord tied tightly around her back legs, intertwined with large clumps of debris and matted fur. Someone obviously did not intend for her to make it out of that gully!
She didn’t seem to mind me messing with her feet at all, which struck me as strange, since dogs are usually very sensitive about their toes, so I began gently to cut away the matted fur, and I was quickly able to free one foot, and then the other from the horrible orange shackles. Then I trimmed off all the burnt fur and, inspired by her trust, went to work on her eyes, which were all clogged up. When I got rid of the guck, the tell-tale blue told me that she had very little sight, but she was delighted with herself anyway and had clearly decided that I was to be trusted.
In the coming days, Marigold became more relaxed and confident, but to my distress I heard murmurings among the staff that she was ‘too old’ and had ‘bad eyes,’ and the head vet wanted her put down, so I watched over her like a hawk, and redoubled my efforts to make her look as young and sprightly as I could. Somehow it worked, and they held off.
I loved to watch, when I arrived at the kennels, as the little dog in the cage next to her would spot me right away, and start kicking up a ruckus. Marigold immediately knew I was somewhere, but she couldn’t see where, and she would go bounding around the cage looking for me, till when I opened the door she would literally fall into my arms.
One day I found her food bowl full of newspaper, so I pulled it out, dumped the paper, tidied up the cage and closed the door. To my surprise, she seemed quite put out. She got behind the dish and tried to nudge the sides of it as if she wanted to overturn it. I watched, mesmerized, having no idea what she was trying to do. Then she started scratching at another piece of newspaper, tore pieces out of it and carefully put them INTO the dish – kind of like a little bird building a nest. She continued methodically till the dish was completely covered in paper, then she turned, kicked at it twice, and settled down, puffing with the effort. At last, I understood. She was burying her dinner for later.
But time passed, and no one came to adopt her, and when I got the word that this time she only had a few more days, I began to have nightmares, and sent out emails, cursing myself for not having done it before.
First thing the next morning a friend called saying that it was her birthday and she needed cheering up, so Marigold would be her present to herself, and she would come in and do the paperwork the following day. However, I had an uneasy feeling and decided to take her information, advance the adoption fee, and fill out the forms myself right away. Not a minute too soon – when I arrived, they were about to take her away! The following day would have been too late. To cap it all, we were about to be hit by a hurricane and my friend had to collect her, just spayed, in the middle of the gusts.
Later that same week another friend of mine called to say she had found a little dog on the road, covered in mud. She gave her a bath, blow-dried her, and sent me a photo. Not recognizing this cute little doggie all fluffed up, I duly sent the photo out to my email contacts, only to discover when I got a panicky call, that it was my darling Marigold, whose new owner had gone out and she had tried to follow her and got lost.
Several weeks afterward, out of the blue I got a call from my friend to say that Marigold, now renamed Lily, was salivating and she suspected poison. It was a Sunday, and I had in fact just come home from the vet with one of my own dogs and knew that they were just closing up shop, but I gave her the number and thank goodness they stayed open for her, so Lily was saved once again.
All in all, I told my friend I thought I had made a mistake. Lily wasn’t a dog. She was a cat. Only cats have nine lives, four of which to my knowledge have been used up. I told her to listen carefully and see if she purred. But she said no, it’s not a purr, Lily snores!
In the loving arms of her new mum Lily blossomed and reveled in the attention she received from the family as well as the other resident dogs. But there’s no stopping the march of time, and after four happy years, and by now being a very senior lady with all the frailties such an age brings, Lily ‘told’ her mum she was ready to go.
I have no doubt that when she crossed over the Rainbow Bridge the welcoming committee was fascinated by her gentle purring (sorry, snoring).
Rest in peace, dear Lily.