Ellie gazed vacantly through the chain-link fence that spanned the front of her pen. The hot sun beat down on the tin roof covering the pen heating it up like a brick oven. The excessive heat caused Ellie to pant while she lay there staring out into the yard separating the row of dog pens from the building housing the cats.
Ellie, a one year old Border Collie, was all black except for a white stripe running down the middle of her face that expanded across her muzzle and into a collar around her neck. She also had four white stockings. Soft, brown, intelligent eyes rested on the bridge of her long muzzle. Ellie’s ears stood erect on the top of her head giving her an alert appearance.
Why am I here? Ellie asked herself for what must be the one hundredth time since being brought to the animal shelter. Ellie remembered vividly the worst day of her life. On that day, two weeks ago, Ellie’s owners, Tom and Janet, loaded her into their car. Ellie felt elated. She loved going places with Tom and Janet. She jumped into the car with her normal amount of enthusiasm. As soon as she settled herself into the back seat, she sensed that something wasn’t right. She could feel the tension in the air. Tom and Janet usually talked to her about how much fun they were about to have, but this time they were silent as they drove.
When they brought her inside the Colton County Animal Shelter, Ellie felt a cold fear begin to grip her heart. Ellie sat numbed by shock while Tom and Janet explained to the shelter worker why they were leaving her with them. They explained that Janet was pregnant with their first child and they would not have time for Ellie once the baby was born. The shelter worker tried to convince Tom and Janet to at least wait until the baby was born before making their decision. But Tom and Janet told the worker that their minds were made up and they weren’t going to change them.
Ellie could not believe what she was hearing. She loved children and had been overwhelmed with happiness at the thought of having a baby in the house. She couldn’t believe that Tom and Janet were going to leave her at the shelter. Ellie tried to think about what she had done to make them think she would not be good with the baby, but she was at a loss.
Now, two weeks later, Ellie still couldn’t understand why she was at the shelter. For the first few days, her heart had been filled with the hope that Tom and Janet would change their minds and return for her. But as the days had passed, the hope had been replaced with sadness. She had finally come to the realization that they were never coming back for her.
During the last two weeks, a few people had shown interest in adopting Ellie, but in the end they had settled on other dogs. Most people were interested in puppies or small breed dogs. They did not want a middle sized, older dog. At first, Ellie tried to get the attention of the people passing by her pen by running up to the fence, giving a bark, and wagging her tail enthusiastically. But her efforts had not gotten anyone to agree to take her home. Now when people stopped at her pen, she just looked past them out into the yard waiting for them to reject her and move on to someone else.
As Ellie sat lost in her thoughts, she heard a soft female voice say, “Well, hello there, beautiful. Aren’t you a pretty thing?”
Ellie turned her head and looked at the person who had spoken to her. A petite woman knelt in front of Ellie’s pen. Short, curly, brown hair framed an open, friendly face. Large round glasses sat on the bridge of the woman’s nose. Feeling drawn to the woman, Ellie stood and moved toward the front of her pen.
“That’s it, girl,” said the woman as Ellie moved toward her. “Come here and let me get a better look at you. My name is Anne, and the card on your pen says that you are Ellie. How are you doing today, Ellie?”
Ellie cautiously walked up to the front of her pen. She sat down and looked straight into Anne’s eyes. Anne gazed steadily back at her through eyes that were the color of the summer sky. Ellie could see kindness and understanding shimmering in the depths of those eyes. Ellie felt a peacefulness creep into her soul as the two sat looking at each other for several moments.
Finally, Anne smiled and turned to get the attention of one of the shelter workers wandering around the yard. As one of the workers passed by Anne said, “Excuse me.” The worker turned toward Anne. After gaining the worker’s attention, Anne said, “I would like to take Ellie for a walk.”
“Sure,” responded the worker. “Let me just go and get a leash.”
Anne turned back to Ellie. “What do you say, girl? Does a walk sound good to you?”
Ellie felt a rush of happiness and began thumping her tail in response to Anne’s question. Anne let out a soft laugh and said, “Well, okay, then. Let’s go for a walk.”
The shelter worker returned and handed Anne a leash. Anne unlatched the gate on Ellie’s pen and stepped inside. She gently placed the leash around Ellie’s neck and led her out into the yard. It was the first time Ellie had been out of her pen since she had arrived. It felt great to finally be able to stretch her legs.
Anne led Ellie down a short dirt pathway to a small enclosure. As soon as they entered the enclosure, Anne removed Ellie’s collar and said, “How about a run?”
Overwhelmed with delight, Ellie let out a bark of happiness and took off running as fast as she could. She ran several loops around the enclosure, enjoying the feel of the wind in her face as she ran. She loved the feeling of freedom that always accompanied a good run. Ellie could hear Anne’s musical laughter drifting on the breeze as she ran around the enclosure. Finally, feeling winded, she slowed to a trot and went to stand in front of Anne.
Anne came down on her knees and asked, “Ellie, would you like to come home with me?”
Ellie felt joy flood her soul. She began to jump and spin in happiness. Anne sat back on her heels and grinning widely said, “I guess that means, yes.”
Ellie stopped spinning and returned Anne’s grin. “Well, don’t you have a pretty smile,” praised Anne. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a dog smile like that before.”
Ellie pressed her head into Anne’s arm. Anne put her arms around Ellie’s neck and gave her a hug. Then Anne said, “You and I are going to be great friends, Ellie.”
Anne stood and placed the leash back around Ellie’s neck. She walked Ellie to the main building that ran beside the dog pens. They walked inside and addressing the receptionist sitting behind a long counter, Anne said, “I would like to adopt Ellie.”
The receptionist beamed. “Oh, that’s wonderful!” she exclaimed. “We all think Ellie is so sweet. You made a great choice.”
The receptionist asked Anne a series of questions and had her fill out a stack of forms. After several minutes, the receptionist said, “Well, I guess that does it. Ellie is all yours.”
Anne bent down and rubbing Ellie’s ear said, “Let’s go home, Ellie.”
Ellie felt a bounce in her step as she walked beside Anne to her car. Anne stopped in front of a bright red sedan and opened the back door. Ellie jumped in and settled herself on the seat. As they traveled down the road toward what was to be her new home, Ellie stared out the window and thought about the abrupt turn her life had just taken. She couldn’t believe that she had been adopted by such a nice person. Ellie knew in her heart that she belonged with Anne.
They drove for several miles and then Anne turned the car down a bumpy gravel road. Ellie could see dust billowing up behind the car as they drove. Finally, after several minutes, Anne pulled to a stop in front of a small yellow house with green shutters. A wide porch covered the front of the house. Ellie could see a porch swing swaying slightly in the breeze. Several baskets filled with brightly colored flowers hung from the porch railing.
Anne climbed out of the car and came around to let Ellie out. “Welcome home, Ellie,” Anne said as she opened the door.
Ellie hopped out of the car and glanced around at her new surroundings. A tall oak tree stood to one side of the front yard providing a large amount of shade. Ellie spotted a squirrel dart up the side of the tree. The sounds of singing birds, chattering squirrels, and buzzing bees drifted along on the breeze.
“Come on, Ellie. Let me show you around the place,” said Anne as she walked up onto the front porch.
Ellie followed Anne up the steps and into the house. They stepped through the doorway and into the living room. Brightly polished wood covered the floor. The walls were painted a pale blue. A faint lemony scent filled the air.
Anne continued through the living room and into a kitchen. She reached into a cabinet and pulled out a metal dog dish. “Are you thirsty?” she asked as she filled the bowl with water.
Anne bent and placed the bowl on the floor in front of Ellie. After she drank her fill, Anne said, “Ready to see the back yard?”
Ellie followed Anne down a hallway that led to the back door. Anne pulled open a brown wooden door, pushed open a screen door, and stepped out onto the back porch. She held the door open for Ellie to follow her out. Wow, thought Ellie at her first look into the yard. It’s beautiful.
Thick green grass covered the ground like a blanket. Vibrantly colored flowers grew in patches spread out around the yard. Two large oak trees loomed up out of the ground marking each back corner. A dense forest lay beyond the edge of the yard.
Ellie glanced up at Anne with a questioning look to get permission to go explore her surroundings. Anne smiled down at her and understanding Ellie’s look said, “Go ahead and take a look around.”
Ellie bounded off the porch and begin to sniff around becoming familiar with the smells of her new yard. Anne sat down on the back porch and seemed content to watch Ellie explore the yard. After Ellie felt as if she had gotten a good sense of the area, she joined Anne on the porch. They sat in silent companionship for several more minutes until finally Anne said, “Well, Ellie, let’s call it a night.”
The next morning, Anne let Ellie out into the back yard while she stayed inside to do some housework. Ellie was exploring the edge of the forest when she heard a small animal scream in pain. Without giving it much thought, Ellie rushed into the thick trees. She strained her ears to listen for any more sounds. Finally, she heard the faint sound of panting coming from somewhere to her right. Ellie turned and hurried toward the sound.
As she moved in the direction of the panting, the metallic scent of blood filled her nostrils. Something must be hurt badly, Ellie thought as she continued to move toward the smell. Suddenly, a frantic rustling sound and several more small screams ripped through the air very near Ellie.
Ellie turned her head toward the sound and spotted a small rabbit struggling frantically against a vine that was wrapped around its hind legs. The rabbit gazed with wide, terror filled eyes at Ellie as she struggled.
Ellie realized that she was the reason the rabbit was in such a panic. She spoke gently, “Don’t be afraid, little one. I’m not going to hurt you. I want to help.”
The rabbit continued to scream and struggle against the vine. She clearly did not believe that Ellie wasn’t going to hurt her.
“Please calm down, before you hurt yourself even more. I truly mean you no harm. If you just calm down, I will see if I can get that vine off of you,” said Ellie in a quiet, calm voice.
Suddenly, the rabbit stopped struggling and lay there panting heavily. Exhausted from the struggle, the rabbit continued to stare at Ellie as if expecting to be eaten at any moment.
Ellie slowly made her way toward the frightened rabbit. She continued to speak in a low soothing voice as she bent her head toward the vine. Ellie could see the rabbit’s muscles tense up in anticipation of the pain she certain she was about to feel when Ellie sunk her teeth into her.
Ellie grasped the vine between her teeth and bit down hard. The vine broke and immediately loosened its grip on the rabbit’s legs. The rabbit tried to spring up and run away, but its legs were too damaged by the vine and it couldn’t get its footing.
“You don’t have to run, little one. I will take you home with me, and Anne will take care of you,” Ellie said softly.
Finally, the rabbit spoke. “Who’s Anne?” she asked with a tremble in her voice.
“Anne is my owner,” answered Ellie. She was very pleased that the rabbit had finally spoken to her.
“You really aren’t going to eat me?” asked the rabbit.
Ellie gave a soft chuckle at the question and said, “I am really not going to eat you. Like I said before, I only want to help you. Now, I’m going to have to pick you up in order to carry you home. Will you let me?”
The rabbit looked deep into Ellie’s eyes and seeing only kindness there answered, “Yes.”
Ellie used her teeth to gently lift the small rabbit by the scruff of her neck. Then she carried the rabbit through the woods toward her house. Ellie knew in her heart Anne would help the hurt little rabbit.
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