When I was a little girl, my mom mentioned to me that once, when she was a little girl herself and a sick one at that, her mother read her the story of Black Beauty.
Ahh. Those facts created lush poetry in my mind. I longed for my mom to one day place a cool washcloth on my fevered head, stroke my hair against the pillow, and read this book to me. Eventually, I told her of this dream.
"Oh, that's a terrible story," my mom dismissed. "You wouldn't enjoy it at all."
Hmm. I knew this was a book about a horse. And while I was not one of those girls with a seemingly inbred passion for horses, my early childhood bestie was. As she was three years older than me and infinitely more worldly and accomplished, I thought it in my best interest to learn more about this mysterious world of horses.
Despite my pleadings, my mom stuck to her no-Black Beauty guns, so eventually I checked the book out of the library and read it to myself.
As my mother predicted, the story terrified me. This poor horse, passed from one miserable owner to the next, suffered what my childish mind deemed the worst fate imaginable, and my childish heart overflowed with anguish and compassion.
* * * * *
My new dog began her life in Florida. On January 12, 2015, she was born to a litter with at least two other girls, and lived, I presume, a happy puppy infancy.
At an appropriate age, she and one of her sisters sailed off across the country to Oregon where they began their new lives on a Portland-area horse farm.
There must have been some lovely days there, with these two gleaming redheads romping around the horse paddocks and dozing in the golden sunshine. But trouble soon stirred.
Seems my baby developed a fondness for humans and wanted more time with her owner. But an older farm dog, a female German Shepherd, considered herself the alpha when it came to human contact, and she did not welcome my child's advances in this department.
So it was determined that my little girl needed a new home. At the ripe old age of eighteen months, she parted ways with her sister Lily and the horses, and headed north to Everett, Washington.
For the next twelve months, she lived just a few miles away from me with an older man named Jeremy. While he drove overnight rounds for the post office, she rode shotgun and learned to keep new hours. She also apparently learned to eat new foods because my girl gained thirty pounds in a year. Oops.
Sadly, Jeremy was diagnosed with cancer and accepted the reality that he could no longer care for this big red pup. Through the Seattle-area Irish Setter grapevine - yes, there truly is such a thing - my baby came to find me.
* * * * *
After those first few awful pages, I put down Black Beauty and never picked it up again. Decades later, I can still think of few things more terrifying than what an animal must feel when it passes from one owner to the next.
My mind reels to think what my poor dog has suffered in her short little life; my heart breaks every time I see the traces of her abanondments as she whines for me or races to follow me through the house.
I can't change the Black Beauty days of her life. But I do promise my new little girl this:
Never again. You will never be handed off again.
You have found your forever family and we will be with you to the end.