This is the story of a mother and daughter brought to the shelter, whom I named Twilight and Aurora.
When I first saw Twilight I did a double take, as she reminded me so much of a dog I had cared for a few years back. Skipper was a big shaggy grey dog, perpetually thin, who belonged to neighbours of mine, but was neglected and left to roam the streets. He never went far and I used to sit on the sidewalk with him on the way home from work, comb out his tangles, treat his wounds and hot spots, and give him some food from the store I always keep in my car. I begged the owners countless times to give him to me or let me find a good home, but they refused, and as the years passed Skipper’s condition deteriorated, his steps got weaker, he was no longer able to bounce back, and eventually when I discovered a huge maggot wound after they had him locked up for several days, I had to literally shame them into putting him to sleep.
Twilight was Skipper all over again in miniature. It was uncanny. She responded to me the first time I approached her cage as if she had known me all her life, and it really made me wonder . . . As I opened the door of the eye-level cage she leaped out to me so fast I had to grab her back legs, as she nearly went right over my shoulder, and she held on to my neck for dear life, whimpering and whimpering and frantically showering me with tiny kisses.
Her tummy was swollen when she was brought in and I suspected she might be pregnant, but none of the staff seemed to notice, till she got progressively heavier and it could no longer be ignored. I wondered if they would let her have the puppies, but they decided to spay her and take away the babies and I was rather relieved, as I was having a hard time picturing her trying to cope with offspring in a space where she could hardly turn around. She came through it fine and after a day or two I felt safe taking her out for a walk, and by now she had clearly decided that her preferred mode of travel was just as it had been that first day, draped over my left shoulder like a fox fur. I no longer even had to hold on to her, she balanced perfectly, and never complained of being dizzy always looking backwards instead of forwards. When I put her down to walk, I didn’t really need the leash, she never left my ankle, except sometimes to walk ahead and cross over in front of me. Several times I nearly tripped over her doing this, and had to be very watchful. As soon as I sat down she would scramble up onto the bench and throw herself into my lap, put her front paws round my neck and slobber all over my face and neck, and I would be left wearing a sticky mask and wondering if I could maybe rent her out to a spa to give exfoliating facials.
When I heard that she had been adopted I was sad for me but so glad for her, that she would soon get out of that cramped little cage, and I secretly hoped that someone in her new family would inspire her devotion the way it seemed that I had. I still wonder if Skipper’s spirit was dancing in her little body.
They said that Aurora was Twilight’s mother, and there was no doubt they were related because they both had a distinctive little patch of black round by the rump which stood out on Twilight’s dark grey and Aurora’s paler greyish white. She was certainly too big for the ‘little dog’ section and had been put in with a companion in a larger cage. At first she looked at me with dull eyes, and didn’t show much interest in coming outside at all, so I had to pull at her. Once out, everything frightened her, even the smallest of unexpected movements. I shuddered to think what she must have been through, and wondered how long it would take to gain her trust.
As it happened, it took no time at all. Twilight had been matted but not badly. Poor Aurora must have once had a long lustrous coat, but it was now horribly matted with dirt, brambles and all kinds of other things. My only option was to take it all off. It was as if she understood immediately, and not only did she give no trouble at all as I began, but she obligingly jumped up on the bench beside me so I didn’t have to bend over as I worked. I started from her little stump of a tail and worked up her back, massaging each section as it came off, and she would turn and look at me in surprise, then half-close her eyes as I rubbed her head. She was definitely enjoying it!
Under all the mess and tangles Aurora’s fur was baby-soft and pale grey, and she would give a little shiver of pleasure as I stroked her. I had cut her down to almost nothing, but she was so pleased to be rid of all that nastiness! She was one of the gentlest girls I had ever met, and whereas Twilight was always in a frenzy and terribly needy, Aurora was laid back and quite calm. She did jump up a bit when I first released her from her cage, but she soon quieted down. A favourite habit was when we approached the few-and-far-between clumps of grass growing in the car park, she would delicately rub her nose in them, as if savouring the little bit of green available.
But her most endearing habit was when I reached out a hand to her she would stretch up on her back legs and put both front paws ever so gently on top of my hand. Sometimes she even crossed her paws! I would usually move closer at that point and use the other hand to rub her tummy as she leaned against me. I think she would have stayed happily in that position, standing and resting against me, except my back would begin to ache and I would head for the bench. And that was where we spent the rest of the time. She would jump up and sit like a sentinel squeezed up as close to me as she could get, and wait for me to put my arm around her. She also liked to sprawl across me, front legs one side, back legs the other side, and doze off with her head resting on my leg. I hated to get up and move her because she was so perfectly at peace and comfortable.
You could tell she had produced a litter but somehow she seemed to me to be very young, and sure enough a closer examination of the paperwork revealed that Twilight was the mother and she the daughter. Little by little she began to warm up to other people as well, so long as they didn’t make any sudden movement towards her.
One day we were sitting contentedly on the bench enjoying the breeze and someone called out ‘Dirty Girl’. The woman turned out to be the original owner of both Aurora and Twilight as well as two others who had been put down on arrival because of heartworm, all of whom she no longer wanted. She said she called her that because she was always dirty, and I wanted to tell her she was dirty only because she wasn’t looked after, but held my tongue, smiled sweetly, and said ‘Well, you can see she is lovely and clean now!’
Time passed and I heard that Aurora had been adopted. She was duly spayed and I held my breath to see if she would be collected the next day but she wasn’t, so we had a lovely afternoon, with me spending more time with her than usual. The same happened for several days, till one day when I led her back to her cage instead of going straight to her water dish she turned, stretched up and put her two front paws on my hand and craned her little head up to lick my cheeks. Somehow she knew she wouldn’t see me again, and this was her sweet goodbye.
The next day she was gone.