I lost my dog more than a year ago and had no intention of getting another. And I can’t bear to watch the animal rescue ads on television. So it’s somewhat surprising that I chose to surf a pet adoption site while watching TV one night.
I spotted an unusual caption under the picture of a homely looking dog: “Buffy—A True Tale of Courage and Survival.” There were a half-dozen pictures of Buffy, an adult female pit bull, tan and white. She had three legs and ugly black teats hanging down. The text read that the missing leg “shows no signs of having been surgically removed.” She was heavily scarred from her face to the remaining back limb; one ear was mangled. She was found wandering in cold and snowy woods. For two weeks the woman who spotted her tried to coax her out of hiding, but Buffy would not come. Finally, on a particularly bitter day, the dog gave in. Her rescuer said that when Buffy walked into her warm home, you could see the relief.
Interesting, but I would have moved on, except for one photo that made me stop. A young girl was kneeling next to Buffy, and the dog had tipped up her head to kiss the girl’s face. The thought struck me: If this dog still loves people that much after all she has been through, that’s a heck of a dog.
I e-mailed an inquiry in the most general and detached terms. Shortly I had a response that yes, Buffy was still there and would have to be shipped up to Boston from Tennessee if I were interested in adopting her. Let me be clear: I am afraid of pit bulls. There was no way to know her history. I wouldn’t be able to meet the dog before bringing her to my home. And frankly, she was about the ugliest dog ever.
For three months I argued with myself, but I could not get rid of one overarching thought: Buffy had been dealt a bad hand, and I had been given the opportunity to right a wrong. For three months I thought of her and of that song that goes, “I just want you to know who I am.” For three months the shelter staff received no other inquiries from people looking to adopt Buffy.
She arrived about eight months ago, a blank slate. There was no evidence that she’d had any training or had ever assimilated into family life. She did not come, sit, or stay — no idea. She asks for nothing, because she doesn’t know that she can ask. She will bark at a stranger coming to the door but does not recognize the sound of a doorbell. Learning to climb stairs on her three little legs has been a challenge.
We have had some setbacks. She found the last eight pieces of my son’s wedding cake and ate them all. And she devoured a bag of pistachios, with their shells, which made her very sick. She has no trouble breaking into the kitchen trash barrel with the special locking top. You cannot overestimate the persistence and ingenuity of a once-starved pit bull.
I have come to love this sweet and funny dog, but it took a leap of faith. Many people, including me, thought it was a crazy thing to do.
Recently, Buffy and I have enjoyed completing the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen certification program, although she is the furthest thing from an AKC dog you can imagine. We have done this, however, to fulfill the requirements of a new goal: We’ll be visiting with hospitalized returning veterans, particularly amputees. I’m told these veterans sometimes don’t see a future in their new condition, don’t know where and how they will belong. If she could speak, Buffy might tell them this: I just want you to know who I am.
Ewa Erdman and Buffy live in Malden. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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