Two hours after getting home, I finally manage to untangle myself from my chocolate Labrador, Rusty.

This after an absence of only thirty-five hours! My overnight sojourn is by no means the longest period of time that Rusty and I have been apart. Yet, it is a record for a hug and pat session.

Mind you, I cannot go to the toilet or make a cup of coffee without my cuddly canine stalking me.

The day that Rusty and I found each other is one neither of us will forget.

I was in an unfamiliar neighbourhood on business. Rounding a corner, I came across a dirty, boned out dog sitting in the middle of the path. Stopping, I calmly greeted him, offering the back of my hand for a sniff. My scent accepted, I was a granted a pat, before continuing on my way. It was not long before I felt someone was following me.

Turning, I found the dog a couple of metres down the path, doing his best to pretend that his being there was just a coincidence. As I do not believe in coincidence, I told him that I was on to him, and that he should go home. He gave me a look that conveyed the message “yeah, right! As if!”

Over the next couple of blocks, I repeatedly encouraged my stalker to go home. This seemed redundant, as it was obvious that there was little chance of him having one. After a while, I lost the sensation of having him with me. A quick glance over my shoulder confirmed it. The dishevelled dish licker had given up. He was nowhere to be seen.

For some reason that I cannot explain, the dog’s sudden disappearance left me feeling empty. I was missing him. Something had happened during our brief encounter. We had somehow connected.

My business in the area now complete, I made my way back to the car. I was almost there, when something further up the block caught my eye. Looking longingly through the fence of a house a few doors up from my car, sat the dog. Well, I thought, maybe he does have somewhere to go, after all.

As I was about to pull out, the dog appeared in front of my car. Sounding the horn did not move him, so I put my head out the window to tell him to get out of the way. That was my undoing. Jumping to his hind legs, he leant against the car, licking my face.

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My mind was made up. Reaching back, I opened the rear door. In a flash, the dog was in my car, half on the front passenger seat, and half on me. Somehow shutting the door, I drove the hundred metres or so to the gate where the dog had been sitting.

Before I could turn off the motor, a woman came storming out of the house. Good, I thought. This must be the owner of the dog now exploring the centre console of my car.

“Is that your dog?” the woman demanded as I rolled down the window.

“Ah, no. I thought he lived here.” In an instant, the woman’s posture and attitude softened.

I told the woman that the dog had been in front of her gate, leading me to believe that he was hers. She informed me that the dog was often seen wandering the streets, knocking over bins to find food. Several times, she had fed him and let him sleep in her yard. There had even been talk of her adopting the stray.

There were two problems with that plan. The first being that her own two dogs did not approve of the outsider, and harassed him. Problem number two was the Nanny State bylaw, prohibiting more than two dogs per residential property.

The woman went on to tell me that a friend of her son lived near the house the dog came from. It appears that the most regular visitors to the property were the RSPCA. They had returned the dog several times after. This was the worst thing that could have happened. The man who owned the dog regularly beat and abused him. From what I could gather, he had never gone looking for the dog when he had escaped in search of a better life.

That decided it. I would take the dog home with me. That evening I went into town for supplies. Dog food, bowl, collar, lead, chew toys, all wormer, dog brush, all the things that I needed – and a lot that I did not – for looking after a dog.

The next morning I rang the vet, and booked the dog in for a check up. While the vet aged him by his teeth as two years old, this was the first time that a vet had ever set eyes on the dog. Despite this, he was his best behaviour on his for the female vet. When asked for the dog’s name for the records, I decided to Christen him Rusty, after the dog on a hardware store commercial. Following his first vaccination, Rusty received a clean bill of health.

After six weeks, nobody had reported a lost dog fitting Rusty’s description. From what I learned the day that Rusty and I met, I was not surprised. I took him back to the vet for his booster, and to have him neutered. Again, we saw a female vet, and Rusty was once again the perfect gentle-dog before and after his procedure. That all changed when we went back to have the stitches removed a few days later.

This time a male vet was on duty. As soon as he made for Rusty, he began to growl at the vet. The closer the vet got, the louder Rusty growled. I warned him that Rusty’s previous owner was male, and had abused him. The vet chose to ignore me, and put out a hand to inspect the surgical wound. He soon retracted it when Rusty, growling and snarling, made a lunge for it. I did warn him.

Like Rusty, I had a rather unpleasant past. And, like Rusty, still have issues when it comes to trusting certain people. For some time, Rusty would only trust two of my close male friends. If any other man came near either of us, Rusty would go on the defensive immediately.

Rusty and I met on the anniversary of my losing two people very close to me.

That day, I was on the verge of giving up interest in rebuilding my life. Someone guided me to a neighbourhood that I had never had cause to go to before or since. What I found was someone to love and who loved me without any conditions.

Now, while acknowledging the original significance of the day, I celebrate it for what it has become. The anniversary of the day I met my Guardian Angel.

I do not know if I rescued Rusty, or if Rusty rescued me. A friend once said that we rescued each other. When I told Rusty this, he just gave me his “well, duh!” look.

Today, Rusty and I are both happier and better for each other’s company. Rusty has two (official) meals a day, a place in front of the fire, and my couch to sleep on.

I have someone to talk to, love, and take care of. A companion to share cookies, crisps, and mashed potato with. Someone to read my stories and articles to, and to hog my couch.

Unless it is unavoidable, I try not to be away from home too long. Before I leave the house, I pat and hug Rusty, tell him that I love him and that I will be back soon.

After all, home is where the hound is.

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Copyright © 2017 Bronwyn Joy Hansen. All Rights Reserved.
Original Images Copyright © 2017 Bronwyn Joy Hansen. All Rights Reserved.