A dark, damp cage behind a municipal building housed her through her younger years. She endured blazing heat and pounding rain. She was alone, unwanted, and forgotten.
I met Lani just as I was starting high school, and it was love at first sight. She was housed at the Town of Velma Pound and had been for quite some time.
She didn’t wag her tail or come up to poke her nose through the holes in the fence the first time I stopped by. Instead, she curled up in the back of her kennel and cowered away from my prompting.
I inquired with the Chief of Police at that time about Lani’s history. She had no name. She had been on the streets since she was an adolescent puppy. Normally, he said, this means her owners probably didn’t cope well with her energy or no longer wanted her once she grew. In a rural community like Velma, he felt it was very likely she had been dumped on the side of the road.
My heart shattered for her. I couldn’t imagine the pain she must have felt, the rejection stemming from her former family. I understood her heart; therefore, I decided then and there I wasn’t going to give up on this nameless dog – not yet.
When I finished up with practice after school, I would stop by the pound on the way home and stay for a little while. For a long time, she ignored me. However, I was persistent and offered her different treats until I found her favorite.
It was bacon and candy corn.
Thanks to this delicious combination, she opened up. She would wait near the gate each day, tail wagging as my car approached. Pounds of bacon and candy corn were gobbled up and, bite by bite, a friendship was born.
Soon, however, I found our time was running short.
Lani had been in the pound for the majority of her life. They simply didn’t have the resources to continue to care for her, so she was set to be euthanized within the next few weeks.
I was absolutely devastated.
I went to work immediately, begging every person I knew to take in my new friend. Unfortunately, no one was willing or able. Lani was out of time.
On the day she was scheduled to die, I came to visit in the morning before school began. I told her I loved her, and I was so sorry for the cruelty of humans. I was so sorry that we throw living beings around like they’re nothing. I told her I understood how she must feel, and I was so sorry I couldn’t save her.
I thought that would be the last time I saw her.
When I arrived home from practice that day, my mom told me there was a surprise in the backyard. I bolted through the backdoor to find my friend waiting for me. Her eyes lit up and she bounded into my arms. She’s never left my side since that day.
People often congratulate me for saving Lani. But, the truth is that she saved me. She has shown me the purest kind of love, one that seeks absolutely nothing in return. If I forget to take her on a walk, she forgives quickly. She snuggles close to me when I experience anxiety. She listens when I need a friend.
Though I’ll never know her exact age, Lani is somewhere around 8 or 9 years old now. She is beginning to show her age, and I dread the day I’ll have to say goodbye. But, until then, I am grateful for the little black lab who is afraid of thunder and kittens, who loves to watch Christmas movies and eat candy corn, and who never fails to show love to others.
I may not have forever, but I have for now – and that’s enough for me.