Amelia’s Turning Two

There are two kinds of people in this world – cat people and dog people. I am decidedly the latter.

Bear as a puppyI have had three great loves in my life. First there was Bear. Bear showed up on my doorstep December 15, 1993 in the middle of a drizzling sleet the very day my parents asked me to leave their home. He was a 4-week-old black ball of fuzz.

As it happened, I knew from whence Bear had wandered. Our neighbor was infamous for having packs of semi-feral dogs used for hunting and other nefarious purposes. So I called him and told him that one of his own had wandered off. He told me if I returned the puppy, he would drown it as he had too many on the place.

So orphaned we two, Bear and I set out together for what turned out to be 13 years of a deep, abiding friendship.

ruthie and mom

Ruthie and Mom at the Christmas Tree, 2009

Ruthie came to me and my husband by way of the ASPCA. She was 8 months old when they had discovered her walking the streets of a nearby city. Received wisdom advises against adopting a pit bull whose lineage is unknown, but as you can see, Ruthie has always been mild tempered and loveable.

But today is about my latest love, Amelia. In the winter of 2010, I was deep in the grip of a clinical depression that was to last 16 months. I had no reason to get out of bed in the morning, and that needed to change. So I began searching online for a canine friend that could help me weather the mental maelstrom. And after a few aborted attempts at nearby rescue shelters, I saw a posting on the Berkeley County Humane Society’s wall for a male Collie German Shepherd puppy who had been discovered abandoned, outside, in the middle of winter so thoroughly infested with fleas and ticks that three separate rinses had failed to abate the problem.

The chances of Lyme disease were high, but the dog was endearing, and unlike an aging rescue dog who would likely come into the house, fight over his territory with a pit bull, and spend the rest of his days sleeping aggressively, a young needy animal was exactly what I needed to pull me out of myself and into the physical plane again.

Very much against my husband’s wishes, I bought a bag of puppy food, a few toys, a blanket, a collar and a leash and headed off to the Humane Society, only to discover that the male puppy I had so thoughtfully named Oliver had already been claimed and was gone.

But just as I was headed, further dejected, out the door, the receptionist told me he was part of a litter of four of which there was but one left – a small female, obviously the runt, that they had nicknamed Spirit.

I sat in a discarded junk room, waiting for them to bring the puppy to me, certain that she would be filled with all sorts of diseases. I was waiting to examine her eyes, her ears, her anal glands to check for signs that anything was running, clouded, or sore – in other words, to prepare for another disappointment. And sure enough, when they brought the puppy in, it was a chase trying to get hold of her.

She ran and hid under every object she could find. When I finally was able to catch her, I immediately felt the body of an engorged tick lodged directly behind her left ear, and did not improve her impression of me by clumsily removing it. But I was able to confirm that her ears were free of mites, that her eyes were bright, and that she had no signs of disease. So as the tech returned her to the cage, I told the receptionist I would take her.

Next I had to find a name, because there is no way I’m going to call an animal Spirit. If she had at all grown used to it (as unlikely as that was for a 4-week old) I needed something that would mimic the vowel sounds, contain a slide or a glide, and have a similar stress. And that is how Amelia got her moniker!

When the paperwork was finished and I carried her out to the car, the formerly squiggling bundle of energy began to tremble violently. I placed her in a box on the front seat and sat with her for a moment so she could get used to her surroundings. It didn’t help. It seemed like all she could do was shake.

Then ...

Where normally you would see an inquisitive puppy, sniffing and investigating, all I had was a quivering mass. I pulled out a toy. I pulled out another toy. Nothing.

Until I got to the kibble. Now I had an interested pet. Unfortunately she was so tiny that even the itty bitty chunks took her 3-4 bites to chews and left a lot of crumbs in the bottom of the box.

Food became an ongoing theme for Amelia. At 4 weeks, she was too young to have left her mom. The first time we were home and I presented her with a food dish, she actually rolled over onto her back and put her paws in the air as though expecting to suckle. It’s a behavior she continues to this day when she plays with her toys and although endearing, it still breaks my heart.

I will not pretend that she and big sis got along from the very start. But Ruthie was one thing that Amelia never feared. And while she’s still the runt of the litter, weighing in at a mere 53 pounds, Amelia has kept my husband and me entertained for the last 2 years and has quite literally saved my life.

... and now!

This Saturday, Amelia turns 2, and in her honor, I will be taking two items to the Berkeley County Humane Society. I’d like to invite you to do the same.

Whether you’re a dog person or a cat person, I’m sure you can appreciate the work that they do to rescue and care for the animals that touch our lives. They are most often in need of bleach, paper towels, and Pine-Sol all-purpose cleaner, as well as kitty litter, and brown puppy food. Check your local Humane Society’s webpage for their own personalized list of needs.

I hope you’ll consider joining me this Saturday to celebrate Amelia’s birthday by giving two items to your local Humane Society. Show your support by joining the Facebook event – Amelia’s Turning Two! and share the event with your friends and family.


  1. In fact there is another kind of person – neither a cat nor a dog person. Is there a word to cover? I love the neighbour’s cat if she catches a rat but not if she goes after our baby frogs in the pond. If the visiting dog licks my hands he’s welcome but if he jumps all over me he’s not. Very picky.

    Your introduced your post as off-topic but it demonstrates what you teach – the power of communication – how a heartfelt, personal story will hold our attention to the end.

    Knowing you as a teacher, mentor and writer this article presents a totally different image – reminding the reader that we are all fragile. All of us.

    I hope Amelia, Bear and Ruthie give you breakfast in bed sometimes.

    • Julia – thank you for finding a way to connect this post to my blog as a whole 😉 And I love the way you define that third realm. I think we should invent a word for those who can find room in their hearts for both.

  2. Hope everyone enjoyed the day as much as Amelia did. She got a good brushing, had her nails clipped, and went for a car ride.

    We bought Clorox bleach, and Bounty paper towels at the Dollar General to donate in honor of her birthday. The Humane Society was PACKED – couldn’t even find a place to park – which was good, because the kennel was full. So many beautiful dogs who need a good home 🙁

    Amelia must have remembered the place, because she was too frightened to get out of the car. But she did give one of the techs some kisses 🙂

    Then she came home, ate a carrot, wrestled with big sis, played throw-the-kong with daddy, and fell fast asleep. Thanks for all the kind thoughts and well wishes, and be sure to make your donation!

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