This is a story of love and heartbreak. This is the story of a dog our family has known for two days.
The sweetest little dog, possibly a Jack Russell terrier, wandered onto my parents' farm last weekend. They don't live there but fed and watered her and showed her a downy bed of hay in the property's dilapidated barn.
I knew of the dog but gave it little thought as my guys and I drove over to seed lettuce in the garden that first evening. Many times throughout my childhood, strays would turn up at the farm. It's far enough off the highway that pet owners see it as a punishment-free animal drop. I had trained myself not to get attached to the animals, because often they would wander away as fast as they would wander in.
As we pulled up, this dog's sweet face and stubby, happy tail caught our attention. She shivered in the evening chill. She clambered into the car without invitation.
This dog is no puppy. Physical traits hint at a rough life. A back toe flops as if it's little more than a skin tag. A raspy whine approximates a bark. Flecks of gray dot her neck.
She had dirty collar with no tag. Quinn, our 3-year-old, named her F-150, after his favorite model of Ford truck. I suggested Effie for short.
We all melted for Effie. Soon we made plans to take her in.
The next day, Quinn and I drove back to the farm and picked her up. First stop was the police station in our small north-central Kansas town, where an animal control officer would check for a microchip. The officer recognized her immediately as the pet of people the department had been watching for some time. She's been tethered outside for most of her life, the officer said. Animal cruelty charges were a possibility.
In the meantime, we've been taking care of her. I have made sure to impress upon the kids that she is not our dog, not yet. Quinn, especially, has been exercising his nurturing instincts. He has bathed Effie and led her on a leash. He has followed her as if he's the puppy, clutching bits of kibble and begging to hand-feed her.
All of us want this arrangement to work, but we have two other pets. Two old cats. The natural order of the house is definitely shaken, and we're all learning to adjust.
Shortly after Effie entered our home, for example, I heard the front door squeak open and closed. I found Quinn standing against it.
"The doggy had to potty," he deadpanned.
I flung the door open and dashed barefoot down three flights of concrete steps descending toward the street. Effie was already zigzagging across the neighborhood, popping in and out of backyards with her nose to the ground. I considered giving up the chase as I hopped in pain and pulled a sandbur from my heel. Then I remembered that animal control had my name and number.
I followed the dog into a couple backyards. I looked up and saw two neighbors peering at me from the other side of a backyard fence, staring with mouths agape.
After a sheepish explanation, I finally cornered the dog and hauled her home. Quinn and I talked about how Effie cannot be set free in our open yard. Eventually she curled up under a blanket, finally calm.
Until Gertie the cat walked in.
Ears pricked. The dog sprinted out of the starting block of the couch and gave chase, as if she were duty-bound. The cat puffed up and leapt onto the piano. The dog scrambled up after her. The cat moved ever higher, scaling eight feet of lace curtains.
No one was hurt, unless you consider my scratched forearm and the alpha cat's ego. She's been in hiding ever since.
We're emotionally torn -- even Will, who has long been the naysayer on the topic of adopting a dog. We all agree on this: We want a dog eventually. We would like to rescue this dog. We hope she can fit with our family. But there's a real chance that she won't. Our cats have been part of our lives for nine years, and it's unfair to make them live out the next nine from the top shelf of a closet. With two small children in the house, I'm not sure I have the energy or patience to facilitate peace among the animals, all while keeping an energetic dog entertained without a proper fenced yard.
Stay tuned. We may need to find a (cat-free) home for this amazing little girl.