Welcome Back Neighbor

For several months there was a big, friendly black lab/pit bull "puppy" who lived in our rural community outside of Westport. The "puppy" would always come bounding over to the fence to visit when we were out mowing the "back 40". He'd wiggling everything from his big nose to his large tail. We asked around to see who owned him, and a neighbor told us that he was just a "neighborhood dog". (We suspected, however, that the neighbor was the real owner, even if he was reluctant to admit it.) The dog was allowed to run loose and was not neutered.

Then last spring or early summer we notice the dog wasn't around anymore. We didn't think much of it, but missed seeing him. In the meantime, our beloved 11-year-old Sheltie passed away from renal failure. We were devastated, and my husband said he would never, ever, be able to give his heart to another dog. The grief was almost unbearable and so we decided not to ever get another dog.

We decided to drive over to the Westport docks, 5 miles away, to take pictures of the Tall Ships that were docked that weekend. While we were strolling down Dock Street taking pictures, my husband pointed across the street to a dog, running frantically up and down the street like he was looking for something. He said, "Isn't that the dog that used to live in our neighborhood?" I said, I couldn't tell because he was so thin.

A minute later I ran into one of my friends who was setting up her booth and she told me that the dog had been in town the day before too, running frantically up and down the street, asking people for food and, at one point, drinking water from the ocean! He was being shooed away by everyone, probably because he was wearing a collar, and was so big. Well, I immediately went after the dog, moving incredibly fast for an over-60 woman. When I caught up with him he was so happy to see me and readily jumped into the back seat of our car. He was, indeed, our old "neighborhood dog". I immediately fed him some dog food and water, which I always carry with me in my car for just such occasions, and took him home. He was nothing but ribs and backbone, but still had his friendly, puppy-like disposition.

My husband said that this dog would have to be "my" dog. The neighbors recognized my 'new' dog and said the man who owned him had given him away to a little girl who lived near the docks in Westport a month or two before. Her family already had a puppy and so kicked this one out to fend for himself. He apparently was able to scrounge enough food and water to stay alive during that time, partly from digging in the earth and eating grubs.

He was totally exhausted and slept on the living room rug for about 10 hours, after which he ate and drank ravenously. When I let him outside he sounded like a horse galloping around the house. I looked out and watched as my very happy dog was doing something I had never seen a dog do before. He was running around the exterior perimeter of the house as fast as he could, ears flying in the wind, kicking up lawn divots as he went. He went around 4 times, finally stopping in the backyard where he tossed his new chew toy into the air playfully several times before settling down to gnaw away at it. (My husband now refers to him as "the horse")

He has since filled out nicely, weighing in at about 85 pounds. I got him neutered and vaccinated and he is really a happy (and spoiled) fellow. Our friends and family adore him and he is very content. There is a lot more to the story, but suffice to say, my husband and I have both given our hearts to him, and vice versa.

Ironically, a black cat that had apparently also been "owned" by this neighbor, moved into our closed-in porch, (as many other strays have done over the years) and never left. He and the dog, having been old friends and it was a fine reunion with the dog licking the cat and the cat rubbing up against the dog. "Blackie" as I not-so-imaginatively called the kitty, is now one of the family as well, and has a place to sleep indoors or out, as he wishes, right along with his old buddy.

Sandi Clark


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