The Dog of Destiny

The Dog of Destiny, amongst the rice paddies.
The Dog of Destiny (named by our niece)

The Dog of Destiny was found wandering the streets of Georgia. She was taken to a “kill-shelter” with a less-than-inspired approach to animal welfare. She and her unborn pups were slated for destruction (what passes for humane treatment in the Redneck Belt). Thankfully, a volunteer from an animal rescue found her in time.

I imagine the Dog of Destiny in that moment, panting behind chain-link, white-dappled paws on cold concrete. Her tail wagging in spite of it all. Pregnant belly swaying. Those gentle, brown eyes pleading in their unassuming way. Can I come with you?

She was placed in a foster home and nurtured back to health. She was house-broken and socialized. She was given love and affection, perhaps for the very first time in her life. Then she was driven by a volunteer to an animal rescue in New Jersey, where she gave birth to eight healthy puppies.

Her puppies found homes one by one. The Dog of Destiny patiently waited her turn.

Dahlia and I wanted another dog. It took three years until we were ready. Three years for the pain of loss to fade. Our beloved boxer Gracie had been stricken with a mysterious illness while we were living in Egypt. We tried to save her, but in the end we had to let her go. I was heart-broken, still am. That’s pretty much all I want to say about it.

I saw a photo of The Dog of Destiny on an animal rescue website. I let them know we were interested in adopting her.

We filled out an application. We were interviewed. We provided personal references. They actually called and asked about us. It was quite the process.

Then I was driving down to meet her. I knew as soon as I met The Dog of Destiny that I would be bringing her home. She was such a sweet, gentle girl. Playful and full of spirit. She had this beautiful brindle coat with a patch of white on her chest. When she wagged her tail, she wagged her whole body. I noted she was still a bit saggy from nursing—okay, more than a bit—but that didn’t matter. I signed the paperwork, paid the fee, and we drove home together.

Home has always been a fluid concept for me. At the time, it was an old house with a gabled roof at the end of a quiet street, a couple of blocks from the elementary school I attended as a child. We’d only lived there a couple of months by the time The Dog of Destiny came along.

Springtime in Central NY. The Dog of Destiny lounging by her favorite tree.
Springtime in Central NY. The Dog of Destiny lounging by her favorite tree.

We spent two years living back in the quaint village beside the lake, where I grew up. Everyone in the neighborhood got to know The Dog of Destiny. She had a yard to romp and roam. She had her favorite hiking trail, the remnant of an old railroad line that ran along a creek. But, as ever, we had one foot out the door, and eventually it was time to go.

Dahlia took a job in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. It was a good opportunity, the next step up in her career. And I was writing. I was prepared to do that anywhere, preferably somewhere where I wasn’t shoveling snow in the dreary twilight for months on end.

We always knew our time in the States was limited. We bought a house knowing we would rent it someday. We adopted The Dog of Destiny knowing she was going with us, wherever in the world we decided to go.

Of course we were going to take her to Taiwan. It wasn’t a question. Though there was a long flight across an ocean. There was a quarantine. There was paperwork and various bureaucratic mountains to climb. There was considerable cost involved between the airline fees, the permits, the vet appointments, and the pet relocation service we employed to help us make it all happen.

And there was no small amount of worry and guilt.

It’s not like we could explain to her what was about to happen or where it was we were going, though I might have tried a time or two. We were asking a lot. We didn’t give her a vote. Though she likely would have voted to go with us wherever we went. I liked to think that anyway.

Dahlia and The Dog of Destiny, Cuesta Rock. Shitiping, Taiwan.
Dahlia and The Dog of Destiny, Cuesta Rock. Shitiping, Taiwan.

A week after we arrived in Taiwan, I picked up The Dog of Destiny from animal quarantine. She was happy and healthy and safe. It seemed like she had made friends with the people who worked there. They all came out say goodbye.

We’re getting to know the neighborhood where we live. We’re going for daily walks. The Dog of Destiny is making new friends in the park. She goes hiking and camping with us on weekends. She basically goes wherever we go. We only stay in dog-friendly hotels. Thankfully, there are quite a few here in Taiwan.

The Dog of Destiny is now an expatriate and a world traveller. She has already seen more of the world than most of the people I grew up with. More important, she’s with us. Our little family, that’s home wherever it is we happen to be in the world.

Then it was time to go

On Sunday, we said our final goodbyes, made a day of it. Then we did our final packing.

The cargo manifest: four 70 lb bags, five 50 lb bags, two carry ons, two backpacks, one large, airline-approved dog kennel, one airline-approved 65 lb dog, two eager travelers.

Then Dahlia and I went to bed early.

It was still light out. I watched it grow dark. I listened to the crickets, to Dahlia’s gentle, rhythmic breathing, to a neighbor coming home late. The air cooled. A gentle breeze ebbed and flowed through an open window, leaves rustled on swaying branches.

I patted the Dog of Destiny curled up between us, felt her warmth, scratched behind her ears, whispered to her, “Don’t worry girl. It will all be okay.”

The words were for me.

I felt guilty—about confining her to a kennel, about entrusting her care to strangers, about her long flight over the Pacific, about her quarantine upon arrival in Taipei, about everything we were about to put her through.

“She’ll think we abandoned her,” I had said.

“She would choose to be with us—you specifically,” Dahlia had replied.

I didn’t sleep that night. Dawn came slowly.

Then it was time to go.