Emmy is the result of a doomed love affair between a Corgi and a Husky that spent one brief afternoon together before being torn apart forever. It was torrid, it was passionate, and it was in the front yard of the Baptist minister’s house. A few months after the minister turned the hose on the star-crossed lovers, it became apparent that the Corgi was going to have a litter. Among these precious little pups, Mark fell in love with a hairy bundle of energy that he named Emmy. I called her “Miss Emmy” because she was definitely the boss in Mark’s household.
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What can I say about Miss Emmy? She was sweet and loving. She rested when we wanted to rest and played when we wanted to play. She let me dress her wounds and hold her tight. She loved Mark with every fiber of her soul and withered visibly when he left her with us. She was a great dog.
About a year ago in April, Mark fell in love with a woman he met over the Internet. If history has proven anything, it has shown that Mark is a terrible judge of women. Although he is an intelligent businessman, when it comes to love, well, he’s a bit of a pushover. The woman that won Mark’s heart seemed to relish her role as the decision-maker as it was abundantly clear who was calling the shots in their relationship. I guess my opinion of her is pretty clear.
After a few months of dating, Mark proposed, she accepted, and Mark told us that nine-year-old Emmy had to find a new home. Apparently, as Mark attempted to explain, the situation was “complicated” and the reasons were varied. He mumbled something about the fiancé having allergies and some other excuses, none of which made sense. However, since it wasn’t up to us, all my husband and I could do was offer Emmy a home. And, so, Miss Emmy came to live with me, my husband, our two cats and two dogs.
My husband and I are considered eccentric, to say the least, by even our most dedicated animal-loving friends. Our two dogs, Daisy and Parker, and two cats, Kit-Kat and Little Skinny Pimpin’, or “Li’l Skinny” for short, can be quite a challenge when trying to balance work and school schedules, vacations, visits to relatives, and the various guests that grace our home. I am certain that God is an animal lover and that divine intervention is responsible for our ability to afford the vet bills, toys, treats, and rawhide bones that are required to qualify us as loving pet owners. Although money is always tight, financing our make-shift animal shelter has never really been the challenge for us. Our only real challenge has been raising Daisy.
Daisy is a mixed breed whose ancestry includes, but is certainly not limited to, Pit Bull, Chow Chow, and Boxer. For those of you that know dogs, or even for those that don’t, this particular mix of dogs would suggest that someone was acting as geneticist and trying to develop a new breed of tougher, meaner fighting dogs. Although we can’t be certain, we believe Daisy spent the first year or so of her life being beaten and starved regularly to train her for illegal dog fights. The signs are all there in her terror of gunshots on television, the way she hides when she sees someone pick up a flashlight or any baton-like object, and in her fear of men. Not surprisingly, she has some serious emotional issues. As a result of these earliest life experiences, she’s defensive, possessive, and the dominant personality in our pack of animals.
This dominant behavior works well with Parker, who lets Daisy eat first at each meal, surrenders his rawhide bones to her, and generally allows Daisy the upper hand, or rather “upper paw”. Parker is usually content to lay down a few feet from Daisy and watch her chew on both of their rawhide bones at the same time. As such, Daisy is used to calling the shots. If my husband dared to pet Parker, then Daisy would promptly bound over to him and demand some attention. After all, she is supposed to receive all the attention and Parker should receive whatever was left when she was done, or so she thought.
Enter Miss Emmy into our fold. As I mentioned earlier, Emmy had always been the dominant dog in Mark’s house. She had been in a few altercations with neighborhood dogs, but none that resulted in serious damage to either the challenger or the champion. She was not, I assure you, going to relinquish her title of “Dominant One” to any dog, even if she were living in that dog’s house.
For a handful of months, we managed to arrange the feeding, walking, and personal attention to suit the new situation. I never pet Emmy when Daisy was watching; we put a gate in the doorway between the kitchen and living room so that the dogs could eat separately; and we walked each dog separately. It was a guarded life, but we knew that the alternatives for Emmy were limited since nine-year-old dogs are seldom in demand. Consequently, we worked hard to make the situation a success. And we were successful, for a while.
During those first few months Emmy and Daisy occasionally played with each other, slept near each other, and lived quietly in the same house. They didn’t really like each other, but each tolerated the other’s presence. It wasn’t until the third month that we began to notice a change in Daisy. She seemed to watch Emmy with more interest. With increasing frequency and for no apparent reason, Daisy would hold her ears straight up, puff out her chest, and stare intently at Emmy in a way that reminded me of high school jocks trying to look tough and intimidate the smaller kids. It looked like Daisy was feeling the need to assert her supremacy over Emmy, so we watched her, just not closely enough.
One evening, my husband and I were just starting to develop an interest in the latest Blockbuster rental when Emmy stood up, shook herself, and began to whine softly. She walked over to my husband and then to me, nudging us both in the way that meant that she wanted some attention. On the couch beside me, Daisy once again perked up and stared intently at Emmy. Having learned to filter out all dog-related whines and barks, my husband and I remained focused on the movie and only in our periphery did we notice either dog’s behavior. Looking back on it now, a slow motion replay in my mind displays the ample opportunities we were given to intervene. How I wish that we had seen it. Emmy continued to whine, increasing the volume and pacing back and forth in front of the couch where Daisy lay watching and waiting. It was as if Emmy were saying something in Dog language that insulted Daisy in ways we couldn’t understand. I’m sure it was something to the effect of “I’m the dominant one”, but loosely translated could probably have been interpreted to be a “Yo mama” type of insult. Whatever it was, Daisy finally decided that she had had enough. Without a growl or any warning, Daisy lunged at Emmy with a ferociousness that frightens me even today. Emmy fought back, but was no match for Daisy, who clamped her jaws onto Emmy’s ear in a death grip that I was not sure we would be able to pry loose. My husband and I sprang into action, shouting excitedly at the dogs and each other as we tried to remove Daisy from her tick-like hold on Emmy. Finally, Daisy relented and my husband hauled her out into the back yard to “think about what she did”.
We nursed Emmy’s ear and contemplated various ways we could handle the situation, but after Daisy tried to take down Emmy again later that night, we decided that Emmy couldn’t live with us anymore. It was painful and I cried throughout the night as I stayed in the spare bedroom with Emmy, commiserating with her on the awful turn fate had taken for my little friend. The next day, my husband drove Miss Emmy to the vet to be boarded and we began the campaign to find her a new home.
Two months passed and while a few people had come by and looked at Emmy, none of them took her home. She became accustomed to her new domicile at the vet, slowly accepting her new position in life. She had gone from being the only dog in a big house to living with several other dogs in a room where she had her own concrete cell. I was too depressed to talk about it. I called every person I knew, we passed around pictures, posted signs, and told our family and friends about Emmy’s plight. Just as we suspected, no one was terribly interested in a nine-year-old dog. My husband’s relationship with Mark began to deteriorate as Mark began avoiding him, or really just avoiding any conversation that could lead to discussion of Emmy. I believe he was guilt-ridden at abandoning his dog who had been his only companion, loyal and loving, for so long. Or maybe he was just too busy adjusting to married life.
As part of a promotion at work, I won a trip to Arizona. We boarded our animals at the same vet where Emmy remained incarcerated and took off for a fun-filled four-day trip, returning late on a Saturday evening. Since the vet wasn’t open on Sundays, we had decided to pick up the dogs and cats on Monday, thus providing us with a pet-free day of rest on Sunday. To wind down after our activity-heavy vacation, we rented a movie, bought some popcorn, and settled down in the living room to enjoy a relaxing day.
Halfway through the movie, the phone rang. My husband answered and when I heard, “Where did they find her?” I immediately began to eavesdrop. After the call ended, he had barely moved the phone from his ear when I said, “What’s wrong?”
“That was Mark. Apparently some woman called and said that she found Emmy and,” he said.
”What do you mean ‘found Emmy’?!” I interrupted in a voice that betrayed the panic that was overtaking me.
“I don’t know any more than that,” he said as he began to put on his shoes. “Now, get some shoes on and you can ride over there with me to get her.”
“Did she escape from the vet? We should drive by there and see what happened. Maybe there was some sort of screw up and all the dogs are out,” I gasped. “What if our babies got out? Daisy, Parker, KitKat and Li’l could all be wandering the streets right now!”
Before I could work myself into an absolute frenzy, my husband encouraged me to remain calm. “We’ll go over and get Emmy and then we can stop by the office manager’s house and find out what’s going on at the vet’s office.” Still not appeased, I nevertheless agreed and we headed to pick up Emmy.
We took several wrong turns, but we finally arrived at a small house in an old section of the city. Two women, one young and one elderly, sat on the front porch of a house that looked like it had seen better days. They both rose and smiled as we drove up and, with pleasant conversation, directed us towards the backyard where Emmy was waiting. In typical Emmy fashion, she ran circles around us after being released from the fence and then, without further hesitation, she ran straight to the car and jumped into the driver’s seat. We thanked the rescuers and headed to the office manager’s house.
As luck would have it, the office manager, Katie, was sitting on her front porch when we drove up. My husband, usually a patient and kind man, abruptly told me to wait in the car and the force behind his voice prompted me to dismiss my instinct to argue. I watched as my husband began to calmly explain the situation, but I could tell that near the end of his recitation that he was getting upset. Katie appeared shaken and suggested that we drive over to the vet’s office and investigate.
As we parked and got out of the car, I almost expected to see cages flung open and dogs pouring out like a scene from some jail escape in a bad movie. Instead, Katie reported after heading straight to the back of the office, everything looked as it should. Reluctantly, I handed Emmy’s leash to Katie, rubbed Miss Emmy gently on the head, and Katie escorted her back to her cell.
“Why don’t I go to my office and call the vet assistants to find out what happened to Emmy?” Katie said, nervously shifting her weight from one foot to the other. “You can both wait here in the lobby and I’ll come right back when I find out what happened.” We had barely agreed when she disappeared through a door to the back.
We waited for what seemed like an eternity. My poor husband was stuck consoling me as I wept once again for poor Emmy. It tore me apart to see her so helpless and alone. As I blew my nose for the hundredth time and finally calmed down, the office manager appeared.
”I talked to Linda,” she said, still nervously shifting her weight and tapping her hands softly against her side. “You know, Linda’s new. She didn’t understand that you both wanted to meet anyone that wanted to adopt Emmy. So, on Saturday she gave Emmy to a man that came in asking to adopt her.”
My husband stood up slowly and I could tell he was angry. He managed not to curse or raise his voice, but very clearly and slowly he stated, “I gave very concise instructions that Emmy was not to be released to anyone under any circumstances until I had met them and approved of them.” Katie shook her head and began to reply when my husband interrupted her. “Once again, I expect that you will inform all of your staff members that Emmy is not to be released from anyone,” he paused for emphasis and looked intently into Katie’s eyes. “I mean anyone, until I have given my permission. Is that clear?”
Katie nodded and mumbled an apology, “I am so sorry and I promise to inform the staff first thing on Monday. This will not happen again.”
My husband frowned and I could tell he was thinking, ‘You’re damn right it won’t happen again.’ Before he could speak up, I said, “Who did she give Emmy to? We need their phone number and address so that we can let them know where she is. ”
Katie stumbled over continued to offer several awkward apologies as she searched the computer for Emmy’s new owner. Finally handing us the phone number and address, she led us to the door, apologizing profusely all the way there.
As we approached the car, my husband said, “What are we going to tell these new owners? That they can’t have Emmy until we interview them? That she’s at the vet?”
“We are going to tell them what happened and if they are good and loving dog people then they will understand why we need assurance that they are good and loving dog people.”
“I don’t want to go over there,” he stared straight ahead with his hands wrapped around the steering wheel. “It feels weird to go knock on some stranger’s door and say that we have their dog and we aren’t handing her over.”
“If they love her then they are going to be worried sick. Especially after only having her for one day and then losing her,” I sighed in exasperation. After several moments of silence, I finally offered a compromise. “We can call first and tell them we’d like to come by and meet them.”
My husband nodded and dialed the number on his cell phone. As I waited, I watched him hold the phone to his ear and I couldn’t help but giggle a little at him. It’s so cute how he loves to talk on the phone so much. As he held the phone to his ear, I was thinking that if they ever offered to attach his phone permanently to his ear, he’d do it in a heartbeat. He frowned, ended the call, and dialed again.
When he hung up the phone again, I asked, “What’s wrong?”
“Number’s disconnected,” he sighed and turned the key in the ignition. “Let’s roll.”
Emmy’s new owners lived on the same street where we had picked her up earlier and as we passed her rescuers, we waved at the women still sitting on the porch.
“They must think we’re crazy,” my husband winced as we passed their house.
“We’ll stop by on the way back and explain to them what happened,” I reassured him.
The house was exactly five doors down from Emmy’s rescuers and it did not look inviting. A washing machine stood in the middle of the driveway as the sole sentry in front of the boarded garage doors. A battered “For Rent” sign stood like a flag in the middle of the yard proclaiming the house’s independence from permanent residents. Posted in the window was a glaring “No Trespassing” sign that seemed to confirm my nagging doubts as I approached the open front door.
I knocked softly on the door and peered in where a middle aged man sat staring at the television. He looked up at me suspiciously and stood up slowly to stumble to the door. He was wearing an old golf shirt with stains all over it and his faded jeans were covered in dirt that didn’t seem out of place in the living room, which was strewn with beer cans and dirty laundry. He stumbled over to the door, a Natural Light beer in one hand and a remote control in the other, and said, “Whatcha want?”
I smiled and told the man that we had found his dog. He looked confused for a second and then smiled, showing off his remaining teeth.
“Oh! I didn’t know he was missin’,” he said, obviously believing Emmy to be a boy instead of a girl. “He looked like he was getting’ restless,” the man said, “so I opened the front door here and let him out. I figured he’d come back when he was ready.”
Not sure how to respond to a man who believed that a dog should just be allowed out the door and into the world without any supervision, I muttered something about how the people down the street had called us and that Emmy was at our vet’s office.
“Awright, I’ll tell Jeff.” At my confused look, he endeavored to explain. “See,” he said, “I live with the guy what’s adopted that dog. I’ll let him know where he is when he gets back.”
Feeling less happy about the situation with every passing word, I reluctantly asked, “Oh, where is your roommate? Did he go on vacation?”
This set him off into a short burst of laughter that ended in an emphysemic cough. “Naw, he ain’t on vacation. Him and the woman that lives here with us got in a fight last night and they was arrested. They both in the county jail for domestic disturbance.”
I was stunned. I felt like I was on an episode of some twisted television show, like a combination of “Candid Camera” and “Cops”. I just smiled politely, or impolitely if you consider that I was most likely staring at him like he was carrying the plague. I finally managed to say, “Okay, then. If you’ll just let him know where the dog is then I’d appreciate it.” He agreed and I walked quickly to the car.
“You just will not believe this!” I told my husband. “Before I tell you what happened, stop at the ladies’ house. I’d like to ask about Miss Emmy’s new ‘owners’.”
The two ladies were still sitting on the front porch drinking iced tea. I ran up to the steps and explained what had led to Emmy ending up in their front yard. Finally, I asked if they knew anything about Emmy’s new owners.
“Oh, Smitty?” the young woman said. “He’s a good guy. I really only met him once when my dad hired him to help do some work on his car. He rides his bicycle around here all the time.”
”What about the other people that live in that house? Smitty said that they were arrested last night?” I inquired; trying to appear only mildly interested.
“Yeah, that used to be a crack house. There have been several drug busts there; the last one was a couple months ago,” she looked thoughtfully down the road at the house. “I thought I saw the police hauling a man and woman away last night. I didn’t realize they lived with Smitty, though.”
“Drug busts, you say?” I tried not to reveal my growing horror at the single night Emmy had spent in the crack house.
She shook her head and took a sip from her tea before answering. “Yeah, heroin, coke, pot and crack. Whatever you need, they’ve got.” She looked as if it occurred to her how that sounded and she promptly followed with, “So I’ve heard. They’ve been busted a few times. I don’t know if Smitty was involved.”
I thanked her and walked back to the car. On the way home, I told my husband what had happened and, needless to say, we decided not to give Emmy to Smitty’s roommate. Later, we found out that dogs like Emmy who are old and are up for adoption at no charge are often used as “bait” in dog-fights. I thank God to this day that Smitty let Emmy out the front door or who knows what could have happened to her.
The next day, my husband asked to see Dr. Meg, our veterinarian. He spent an hour with her explaining Emmy’s crackhouse adventure and our concerns about what could have happened. Dr. Meg brought in Katie and the two of them apologized and promised to talk to all the employees and post a sign on Emmy’s cell to ensure that we were contacted before Emmy was allowed to leave with anyone. As he left, Linda, the main perpetrator, stopped him. “I am so sorry,” she said through teary eyes. “I promise I will take good care of Emmy and pay her lots of extra attention. I definitely won’t make the same mistake twice.” She broke down in tears and my soft-hearted husband assured her that he understood she didn’t do it out of malice and that he accepted her apology.
A month later, a trailer fire in our county claimed the home and sixteen year old Chihuahua of an elderly widower. The old man moved into a friend’s farmhouse and began to rebuild his life. After a few weeks, he picked up the local paper and saw a picture of a sweet little corgi husky mix that was “Free to a Good Home.” He drove his old Chevy pickup down to Dr. Meg’s office and visited Emmy at least three times before finally asking to adopt her. With the “Crack House Incident”, as it came to be known, still fresh in everyone’s mind, Katie diligently called my husband, who set up an informal interview with the widower. The man showed up wearing old overalls and a John Deere cap that looked older than him. He walked with a slight limp and his glasses looked a little too big for his thin face. My husband said that he was reminded of his grandfather when he first saw the old man walking toward him. After they talked for a while, my husband said that he could see the sincerity in the man’s eyes and he gladly handed over Miss Emmy to her new owner.
To this day, my husband won’t tell me where the new owner lives because he knows I’d drive by or, even worse, ring the doorbell to check on my sweet little Miss Emmy. I’m sure she’s chasing geese and living the high life out at the farmhouse with the old widower in his John Deere cap.