On Friday, we celebrated Franny’s 4th birthday and our first year together. It was a happy day, and we showered her with love and cuddles and a long walk. The next day, we knew we were going to BFF’s mom’s for dinner and that Franny would get to run around with other dogs in a backyard, so we didn’t feel too bad about leaving her home while we ran to the Apple Store and then to the gym for a run. She’d get plenty of time to run around and play, or at least her version of playing which is really just her telling the other two dogs to stay away from her moms, dammit.
I didn’t feel bad when we volunteered to run to the store for a few ingredients that we needed for dinner. Franny would get to run around! She would miss us like mad but then we’d be home and she could relax! I didn’t feel bad about any of these things. And I still don’t, not really. Because what happened on Saturday afternoon was so very unexpected but in so many ways so very good.
See, as we were leaving the parking lot of the grocery store, we saw this scraggly slip of a dog trotting down the sidewalk. It was clear she was starving and it was clear she had been nursing puppies recently, or at the very least had given birth. It was also clear that she was desperate, as she darted into a busy street to gobble up the crushed, dirty remains of someone’s discarded snack. We didn’t think. She was darting into the street. What else can you do but stop the car and GRAB HER?
Except she was also terrified and confused and weak, so she took off down the sidewalk with BFF following behind, trying to coax her out of the street, away from danger and the bit of food just in the gutter. I parked the car, grabbed a discarded milk bone from the floor of the car, and took off after them. BFF was a bit down the sidewalk, coming toward me. She didn’t look defeated or frantic that she hadn’t been able to grab the dog. Nope. That sad little dog was curled up in her arms, her big brown eyes so weary and dejected. She was tiny, like a bird, the hair all down her neck worn almost completely off. Her upper body was covered in thin, baby fine hair that looks more like a balding man’s head than a dog. Her lower half, covered in coarse, thinning hair. She had dandruff (or to us, some unknown skin condition) and was still bleeding a little from whelping. Her hip bones were prominent, as were each of her little ribs. Her skin, loose from dehydration and malnutrition, sagged over her pointy elbows and around her neck, and her toenails were an inch long.
We took her to the car, fed her the milk bone, and started making calls. BFF’s mom set up one of her crates in the garage and had food and water ready when we arrived. The dog gobbled up the food, sucked down the water, and we gave her a little more while calling for a vet in the area so we could scan her for a chip. It was almost five-thirty, so there was a sense of urgency as we piled back in the car and took off, Franny barking her head off back at the house.
The vet tech scanned the dog for a chip and found nothing. She estimated the dog was a year old, maybe a year and a half. Just a baby herself and already a mom. The collar she wore bore no tags, only the frayed remains of a leash, which looked to be cut, said the vet, and not chewed. We took the dog outside and on the short walk to the car, decided to drive to the SPCA to turn her in. Or at least file a report. Whatever it is that you do with a starving dog who needs attention immediately.
They scanned her again at the SPCA while we filed a found dog report. The woman who helped us gave us a lot of information about what to do with her for the next 30 days while we look for her owners. I was suddenly terrified: we were responsible for this dog for the foreseeable future. Was she sick? Was she going to get Franny sick? How much was Franny going to hate us? What in the hell are we thinking? Where are her puppies?
Somehow, we named her Emerson on the ride back to BFF’s mom’s house. We tucked her into the crate while we ate dinner, and then we loaded everything – and everyone – into the car. Franny was strapped into the backseat as usual and BFF held Emerson (Em, Emmy). At home, Emmy got a bath, some more food and water, warm blankets and lots of encouragement. She was cautious and timid, but sweet and never really tried to get away. Franny was curious but not a bully. She stayed on the floor next to the crate when Emmy cried after we put her to bed.
Since Saturday night, Emmy has been scanned a third time and briefly examined by a vet. She’s been fed and watered and walked and loved. She has a little sweater now to keep her warm because she has no meat on her bones. We turned on the heat today for her, a real sacrifice for us. We like the cold here, the three of us. Yesterday, and today especially, Emmy has begun showing signs of the puppy she truly is. She chases your hand, crawls after your hand as you move it over the floor, bats at your fingers when you dangle them in front of her face. She loves to have her belly rubbed and she prefers to cuddle on her schedule. She loves going on walks and she loves anything Franny does. When she yawns, she makes the most adorable little noise I’ve ever heard.
We’ll be her family for the month of November, something of a trial for all of us. Franny has begun showing her displeasure with the situation, grumbling when Emmy gets a cuddle or flopping herself dejectedly onto another part of the couch because we invited Emmy up to join the rest of us. Regardless of what happens this month, I’m going to enjoy this time with Emmy. If this were Franny, if someone had rescued her off the streets, I would hope they’d do the same for her while we looked for each other. I would want them to love her, to give her all the things she’d been missing.
Say hello to Emerson.