“Chance” Meetings or Meant to Be?

Sharon L. Peters recently wrote in her USA Today column about losing her beloved dog Rufus. She happened to meet Rufus one Saturday when dropping off cans for recycling at the local animal shelter. Sharon adopted Rufus, an older dog, and enjoyed a few good years with him. Her story got me thinking about how I met some of the dogs that have been an important part of my life.

When I was a kid we couldn’t have a dog because my sister was allergic to them. We had gerbils, and I even got a pony before I ever had a dog. I used to walk the neighbors’ dogs and take care of them when their people went on vacation. Then one morning when I was 12 years old, a puppy appeared on our front porch.

He was hungry and shivering. We took him in, but only until we could find his real owners, my mom said. He slept on a blanket next to my bed and before I knew it he was sleeping on the bed with me. It didn’t take long for my mom to find out where he came from. Some kids had won him at the fair and he had wandered off when they were playing tennis across the street. They’d searched for him, but didn’t find him. The next morning he had turned up on our porch. The kids already had a dog at home and their mom said they couldn’t keep the puppy. They would have to find him another home. I didn’t think it was fair that they might have two dogs while I didn’t even have one. By that time, I had bonded with him and my sister hadn’t reacted to having him in the house. “Fuzzer” was ours to keep. He was the first dog to find me.

Many years later, I met puppy Bandit just minutes after my dog Rusty had passed on. I had taken Rusty, a very old dog, to the vet for the last time. He had been a stray, adopted from the local animal shelter. His liver was failing and he was very ill and in pain. It was his time to go. After he left me, I went out to the truck where Rainbow waited. She was his pal, a much younger and higher energy dog. I took her in to see that Rusty had passed on, then took her back to the truck and was ready to drive home. But I was compelled to go back into the clinic to get her a chew toy. I knew she would be lonely as the only dog and would need something to keep her busy. In the clinic, a blue cattle dog was standing at the counter with an unfamiliar woman. I was surprised because I didn’t see cattle dogs often and hadn’t seen them at our vet clinic before. I asked the woman if it was okay to pet her dog, and told her that I had just lost my cattle dog mix a few minutes earlier. She encouraged me to pet the blue girl, Opal, and told me that she had a red puppy in the car. He was the last one of the litter and he didn’t have a home yet. People on her waiting list had been looking for blues. I told her that I had another red heeler mix in the truck and that we like the reds at our house! I hadn’t even had a chance to think about where my next dog would come from. Rusty was very old, but had fallen ill rather suddenly.

Louanne told me that while she was driving to the clinic, she’d had a peaceful feeling about finding the red puppy a new home. She offered to get him from the car to show me. I told her that I couldn’t make a decision on a new dog right away and that Rainbow was probably upset about Rusty passing on. But Louanne brought the red pup over. He had Rusty’s double mask and red ears. He was a very nice, bold, playful puppy and I was taken with him right away. He and Rainbow got along from the beginning. I asked Louanne for references. I would need some time to make a decision. We exchanged information and Rainbow and I went home.

I kept thinking about that puppy. It was clear that Rainbow needed a playmate. I did my homework, checked Louanne’s website, and contacted her references. Two weeks later, Bandit joined our family. The amazing thing is that I had made an appointment for the vet to come to my home at the end of the day to put Rusty down. But Rusty was suddenly in so much pain that I didn’t want to wait. Louanne lived over an hour away and this was not her regular vet. She was visiting my vet on a referral and had brought puppy Bandit along for the ride. If I hadn’t gone back in to get Rainbow a chew toy, I probably wouldn’t have met Bandit. Now that I have him, the circumstances that brought us together in that lobby seem to be more than coincidence. We were meant to be together. The only red ACD puppy for miles, Bandit found me just minutes after Rusty died. Bandit is the top center dog and Rusty is the bottom center dog in the photo below. Kinda look alike, don’t they?

I met Kate at the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center a few weeks after Hurricane Katrina. I was working in Barn 5, where many of the rescued dogs were housed. I worked in aisle D-E every day and am not sure I would have ever seen Kate if my friend Connie hadn’t grabbed my arm to take me on a special mission. Late one night, after my first full day of caring for dogs at Lamar-Dixon, Connie dragged me over to aisle A to nab some dog rustlers. The fear was that people were stealing pit bulls for dog fighting, a cruel and gruesome spectator “sport”. When Connie grabs you by the arm to help find dog rustlers, you can’t say no, even if you’re wondering what in the world you’ll do if you find some. Fortunately, it was a false alarm. As I turned to go back to aisle D-E where I had been working, I spotted an Australian Cattle Dog! I hadn’t seen any cattle dogs there yet and noticed her right away because I had cattle dogs at home. She was an older blue girl, a bit thick through the middle, a bit worn around the edges, but with a keen intelligence in her eyes. Her teeth were worn down and she was worn out. She didn’t have one whole tooth left in her mouth. Connie had been the first person to sign the log sheet, which said “9-17. 6:45, new arrival.” This girl had arrived at about the same time that I had on Saturday evening. It didn’t feel like a coincidence. That is how I first met Kate. She had no tags, microchip, or identification to tell us who she was or where she had come from. I wondered about her all night.

I first found my dog Chase on my friend Sarah’s website. I had met Sarah caring for rescued animals in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina. We had stayed in touch after she returned home to Virginia and I was helping her apply for grant money for her rescue organization. While I was studying the site, up popped “Fred”, a red heeler mix. He had the same coloring and unusual markings as my former dog Rainbow (He is the upper right dog and Rainbow is the lower left dog in the photo above). This felt like more than mere chance, like perhaps he had been sent by Rainbow. He looked unhappy in the photo, which was taken just after he arrived there. He had been rescued from a violent man who was going to shoot him for chasing sheep.

I thought that “Fred” might make a good playmate for my dog Bandit, who sorely needed a new dog pal after losing Rainbow. Fred’s temperament was crucial to this idea working out. He had to be a dog who liked to play, and yet would be submissive to both Bandit and Kate. I turned to Sarah for input on Fred’s temperament. I trusted her judgment, knowing that she had experience with many different breeds of dogs. From her description, Fred sounded like he would be a good pal for Bandit and would let Bandit be in charge. Fred joined our family and is now called “Chase”.

To think that I wouldn’t have known Fuzzer if he hadn’t been won at the fair and then gotten lost on our street, or Bandit if all the circumstances had not led both Louanne and me to the vet at the same time that day, or Kate if Connie hadn’t dragged me over to barn aisle A, or Chase if I hadn’t met Sarah in Louisiana and his picture hadn’t popped up on my computer screen that day. None of these “chance” meetings seemed like mere chance, they seemed meant to be.

And Sharon might not have met Rufus if she hadn’t stopped by to drop off cans for recycling just when he was going out for his walk. They were meant to be together too, don’t you think? Read more about Sharon and Rufus here:


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