I’ve always wanted to have the kind of house where stray animals just showed up. Like they recognized it as a beacon of safety and love, and knew that no matter how bad their life had gotten, they could come here and be taken care of.

Alas, that’s never happened to me, even growing up.

I’ve known people who have helped numerous dogs and cats over the years, because a stray or abandoned animal just showed up at their house. It’s one thing when it’s in the middle of the country, on a cold autumn night. But these are people in the city, where the animals had literally hundreds of houses to choose from, and yet, they all chose the same one over and over.

Until last night. Last night was almost my moment. Almost.

My son and I are putting the garbage cans out for the morning’s pickup, when we see a dog, hobbling down the street. I call to her, and walk over. She doesn’t run away, doesn’t shy away. She’s about 20 pounds, tail tucked between her legs. She lets me pet her, and I talk to her. She doesn’t act afraid, but I can tell she’s in pain.

She’s not wearing a tag, so I don’t know who to call. I’m debating whether to bring her into the garage, when a neighbor, Melissa, and her daughter, Monica, come over. They heard about the dog from Melissa’s husband, and came to help.

Pretty soon, my wife and daughters come out, plus two other girls from across the street. We’re all around the dog, petting her, talking to her. Monica brings a blanket from home, and my daughter, Emma, brings some dog food. The dog eats it all, so Emma gets some more.

We start wondering where the dog is from. She doesn’t have any tags, is she abandoned or lost? She’s in pain, but doesn’t have any injuries, and she doesn’t act afraid of anyone. But her muzzle is really gray, so she’s clearly older. Toni is sitting next to the dog, who has a blanket around her by now, and she leans against Toni.

Melissa volunteers to take the dog home, while Toni contacts her friend, Jodi, who runs an animal rescue organization. As Toni goes back and forth between Jodi and Melissa making arrangements, there’s breaking news: the dog’s owner has been found.

Melissa was taking the dog outside for a pee, when a guy walks up and says that’s his dog. It turns out it’s my neighbor, Ramon, who lives two houses away. I met him earlier that day. The dog got out while he had some people over, and he was out looking for her.

We learn the dog is 14 years old, and has arthritis in her hips, hence the hobbling. And she’s well-loved, which is why she didn’t mind eight strangers clustering around and speaking sweetly to her. And what dog doesn’t want more food?

The dog returned home with happy endings all around.

Except me. I still haven’t properly rescued a dog.

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