The realization that not everyone treated their animals kindly came at a young age for me, and I’m thankful for it. At the same time, I started getting the idea that I shouldn’t be so quick to judge anyone on their appearance or on first impressions. Angie taught me those things, and I want to tell you a little about her.
Back in the early ‘80s, we lived on the coast of Massachusetts in a city called Lynn. My brother and I spent a lot of time out in the backyard playing with other kids in the neighborhood. Good times – except for the dogs next door, Angie and Newfield (“Newfie”). Two Saint Bernards barking and slobbering at us from behind a wooden fence in the era of the Stephen King novel “Cujo” had our young minds convinced that we would be eaten at any moment.
We thought those dogs were mean! As time went on, we occasionally got bold enough to taunt them when they came close to the fence. Everyone could catch glimpses of one another through the fence slats, and there was one fist-sized hole that just barely managed to fit the tip of a very large dog’s snout. We’d poke sticks through, and they’d come lunging. That only reinforced our opinion that those dogs were nuts and would take us out in bloody fashion as soon as they got the chance.
I don’t remember how much time went by before we found out the dogs were being neglected. Neighbors in the house in front of ours had been throwing their scraps to the dogs, and my mother asked them why. They told her that the owner’s way of feeding the dogs was to throw a bag of dog food into the backyard every two to three weeks. Naturally, my mom started giving them our scraps too.
More time went on, and Angie kept getting out of the yard. She liked to lay on our front neighbor’s porch, since ours wasn’t big enough to hold an entire Saint Bernard comfortably. Finding her laying there one day – in the middle of a hurricane – was the last straw for my parents. They called her into the house and toweled her off. Even though they let her back outside a couple of times after that, she always came back. Angie was with us to stay.
Later my parents told the neighborhood to inform Angie’s owner to come see them when he got back. He did, and with obvious relief, signed Angie’s papers over to my mom and dad. He had already found a home for Newfie.
Angie was with us for just a few years until she died of a hemorrhage at the age of ten. We all loved her, and we all still appreciate her sweetness, and the joy she brought to our lives. For me, it was the beginning of my penchant for larger dogs – there’s just something about a giant, yet loveable, mushy dog that warms my heart.
And as I mentioned at the beginning of this tale, I got my first taste of regretting my own judgmental attitude. I had judged these big babies as a threat based on a work of fiction, and when I learned they were being neglected, I judged the owners as evil people who didn’t care about their animals. But, it was obvious from the man’s relief at Angie finding a new home that he did care in his own way (I’m not going to defend his actions – he was wrong), and when the time came to do the right thing, he did it. I’ve heard many horror stories of people leaving their animals to wither away and die, and every time I wish that they had cared enough to let them go to a better home. I’m forever grateful that Angie became a part of our family – and forever grateful to my parents for showing me the right way.