Chapter 2 of “A Life Worth Living – The Story of Sassy”
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Chapter 2 – There is Goodness in the World
(Jan 31, 2001 and the following week)
Sassy rode on my lap on a baby blanket on the way home — Anne was too excited to hold her and couldn’t wait to get back to her mother so she drove. Despite the fact that Sassy hadn’t known us for more than a few minutes, she promptly fell asleep on my lap.
“You see this, honey?” I asked. “It’s like she doesn’t have a care in the world.”
Anne smiled, “I’m sure she’s happy to finally be away from all the other puppies. Now she can finally relax.”
In the end, we convinced Mrs. Robins to sell Sassy to us and we bought her at the ‘discounted’ price of $800. Included in that price were a few extra’s specific to Sassy – her blanket, a plastic chew toy, and some molasses syrup we were instructed to give her if she ever acted lethargic. The breeder also urged us to be sure to take Sassy back to the Sunshine Animal Hospital for her next scheduled visit so they could check her out one last time — the appointment was already set for next week.
Meanwhile, I was more than a little concerned that we just blew nearly a grand on a dog that potentially wouldn’t last a month, but the more I held Sassy on the way home — watching her little body rise and fall as she breathed with such contentment — the more I found myself falling for her. “She’s so tiny.” I couldn’t help stating the obvious.
“I know.” Anne replied. “That’s why I had to have her. I couldn’t let all those other puppies bully her around any more. When she came over to me that first time, I could see in her eyes that she was just begging to be rescued. There’s really no way we could have left her there.”
“So basically you were just amusing me by playing with the other pups I picked out? You really had no intention of getting either of them.”
“Sorry, honey, but you guessed right – it was Sassy all along.” And Anne reached a hand over to pet Sassy’s back — at which point, I felt Sassy purr like a cat. (Perhaps a manipulative little Cheshire Cat?)
When we arrived back at the apartment Anne shared with her mother Rose, Sassy woke up as we got out of the car — suddenly curious as to where we were. “Don’t worry, girl.” I said to her. “This is your new home.”
Anne could hardly contain her excitement as we walked in through the attached garage, “Let’s put her down and see what she does. Better yet, let’s see how my mom reacts!”
“Ok, but I hope she doesn’t have to go pee.” I laughed as I set Sassy free on the tile of the laundry room.
Amazingly — as if she had lived here for years — Sassy navigated her way directly into Anne’s mother’s bedroom, and then into the closet where Rose was sorting through some shoe boxes on the floor.
“Oh my, who is this?” Rose laughed when Sassy pawed her with her chicken leg.
“She’s your birthday present, Mom.” Anne knelt down beside her. “She’s a purebred Yorkie.”
“Oh, Anne and Michael. Thank you so much.” Rose hugged Sassy to her. “Why she is so beautiful. Look at that face – how precious.”
Now Anne and I had already decided on the drive home that, since Sassy was so young, and since she hadn’t had the best of experiences the first few months of her life, perhaps it would be good to give her a new name. So as we all sat in Rose’s bedroom with a now playful puppy, Anne asked, “Well, Mom, what would you like to name her?”
“Oh that’s easy.” Rose replied. “I knew that as soon as I saw her — I want to call her Sassy.'”
Anne and I looked at each other in amazement, our jaws practically hanging on the floor. “But…hah? wha–?” Was all I could stutter out.
Meanwhile Anne reached over to pick up Sassy and checked to see if we had somehow missed a name tag on her collar (we didn’t). “Mom, how did you know?”
“What are you talking about, dear?” Rose promptly took Sassy back, stroking her behind the ears.
“But Sassy is the name the breeder gave her.” I explained. “How in God’s green earth did you know that?”
“I didn’t.” Rose laughed. “She just looks like a Sassy to me.”
Sassy took to her new home like mashed potatoes takes to gravy — never once did she whimper at the loss of her mother or litter mates, she showed no signs of homesickness, and she scampered around the apartment completely care free.
Naturally Anne and Rose spoiled Sassy to every extreme. She had the best dog food they could find – a brand specifically made for Yorkie puppies. She was showered with every variety of toy and treat that fit her size. And of course they outfitted her sleeping crate with a heating pad to keep her comfortable. At the time, the world of doggie accessories was still pretty new, and Anne was one of the first on the puppy wearing bandwagon – pretty much carrying Sassy around in her purse wherever she went around town — and with Sassy being so small and not a barker, most people in public never even knew she was in there.
We told Rose the story behind Sassy’s shaved leg, but despite any concerns I might have had about buying a potentially sickly dog, Rose shared the same mindset as Anne and dismissed any notion but that Sassy would turn out completely healthy under their care. Sure there were a few times when Anne and Rose felt the need to give Sassy some of the molasses syrup Mrs. Robin’s gave us — rubbing the dark syrup on her gums to ensure she kept her sugar up, but on the whole Sassy acted completely healthy. Since I lived in the same apartment complex, I was pretty much at Anne’s place every evening – mainly because I wanted to see my girlfriend, but also because I couldn’t get enough of Sassy either — her personality of gentle playfulness was contagious and she had the cutest, most perfectly proportioned little puppy face I had ever seen.
How could I have ever doubted she was the right choice? I often pondered when I played with her. Thankfully Anne knew better.
In just a few days, it seemed to all of us that bright-eyed little Sassy had already gained a bit of weight. We all laughed to see her eat her food – she required one of us to pick out each individual kibble and place it on the ground in front of here so she could stalk it first before pouncing on it. Yes, this eating process took longer than it probably should have, since most pups might wolf down their meals in a jiffy, but we didn’t mind Sassy’s quirkiness. Besides the fun we had a mealtimes, each of us also took turns playing with her on the floor with her toys — amazed at how gentle her aggressive play was. And we hooted in delight as we watched her race along the floor and attempt to jump upon a giant throw pillow that was some four inches tall — despite her determination, Sassy couldn’t make that leap just yet and would inevitably end up taking a splat on the soft carpet — at which point, she would run back and try again — with the same result.
At night, Sassy wasn’t shy about letting Rose or Anne know when she was ready for bed — if she wasn’t in their lap already, either she would fall asleep amidst a pile of toys on the floor, or if she was really insistent, she’d lay in the hallway outside Rose’s bedroom — giving everybody an obvious signal that it was time to go to sleep. In addition, we had no trouble crate-training Sassy because she simply loved her crate — it was like her little refuge — a dark cave filled with warm blankets and a tiny bone. She slept contentedly in her crate without ever a whimper — highly unusual for such a young puppy, but as Anne continued to remind us, “Clearly she’s happy to be in a place of her own, away from her competitive litter mates.”
“The doctor will be with you shortly.” The receptionist at the Sunshine Animal Clinic told us.
Although Sassy had been with us for a week and by all indications was doing well, we didn’t want to take any chances with her health and so Anne and I kept the appointment the breeder had made for Sassy to be checked by the vet that saved her life.
The clinic was a small place on busy Nebraska Avenue. Besides being about 40 minutes from our apartment complex, it wasn’t a vet we would have chosen on our own, however the office itself was pleasant inside and the receptionist who greeted us was quite welcoming, so I couldn’t help but get a good feeling about the place.
In what would later become a running joke for our family whenever we visited any vet with Sassy, as soon as we entered the clinic Sassy perked up and acted as “bright and alert” as she could – clearly trying to let us know she didn’t need to be at the doctor’s office and that we could be on our way home at once. Anne and I shared a laugh at Sassy’s behavior, yet despite what Sassy wanted, we decided to wait and visit with the doctor just to be safe.
As we sat in the small waiting area by the front door of the clinic, I spied a humongous cat sitting atop an end table in the corner. “Good God, Anne, would you look at that!” It was the biggest tomcat I had ever seen – a mass of orange and grey hair that covered the entire top of the table. Its head was covered by its paws so I couldn’t tell if it was awake, but it had a tail well over a foot long that dangled lazily at its side. “I wonder what something like that eats?!?”
Instinctively, Anne clutched Sassy to her, holding her away from the cat, “Surely that can’t be real!
The receptionist had apparently overheard our remarks, “Oh that’s just Oliver. He’s real all right. Would you believe he weighs almost 40 pounds? He’s Dr. Avery’s special friend and he’s lived here for years.”
“But is that a cat or a bobcat or something else?” I asked. “I’ve never seen a tomcat grow so big? I mean, is that healthy for him to be so large?”
“He’s just an ordinary tomcat. And believe it or not, he’s actually not obese. Dr. Avery says he’s pretty healthy for his age – Oliver will be 15 next month.” And then after a call from the back, the receptionist added. “Sounds like the doc is ready for you. Y’all can go on back now.”
Dr. Avery was a tall, thin man with wispy grey hair and a large pair of spectacles that dominated his wrinkled face. Like Mrs. Robins, the vet appeared to be over seventy years old, yet his winsome smile belied his age. I liked him as soon as I saw him and for his part he made us feel welcome.
“Oh, my dear little Sassy.” Dr. Avery held out his hands, accepting Sassy from Anne. For her part, Sassy didn’t shy away. In fact, as soon as the doctor laid his gentle hands on her, Sassy tried to shower him with kisses — which the old man gladly accepted. “OK. OK. Let me get a look at you, girl.”
Dr. Avery told us more of the story about the emergency that brought Sassy to him – for the most part confirming what the breeder said about Sassy’s blood sugar running too low for too long – essentially putting her in a near coma-like condition. “Believe it or not, it was touch and go with her for quite a few days. There were a number of nights when I stayed right here with her all night — sleeping in that armchair there while Sassy slept on a heating pad in my lap or over in that laundry basket there on the table.” And he waved his hand to a side table which had a mini clothes basket on it. “Those are Sassy’s baby blankets in there – I couldn’t bear to get rid of them yet.”
By this point, Anne had tears in her eyes, “Oh, Dr. Avery, thank you for all you did for little Sassy.”
I was misty-eyed as well, “Doc, you truly went above and beyond the call of duty. I don’t know too many vets that would get involved like you did. After all, you must see tons of other animals come through here that are in dire straits too.”
“Ah, but none of those are Sassy. Just look at her,” the gentle old man replied. “Have you ever seen such a face? Who wouldn’t do anything for her?”
We stayed for nearly an hour while the doctor gave Sassy a thorough examination. The clinic was not busy and it was clear that Dr. Avery was enjoying his time with Sassy — for her part, Sassy too appeared happy to be around her friend again. All of which made we wonder why Dr. Avery hadn’t kept Sassy for his own when the breeder offered? To be honest, I felt a little like an adoptive parent who is around their child’s birth mother and is part happy to see their child united with their original parent, but also partly afraid that either the birth mom will want their child back or that the child will want to return to their birth mom.
Perhaps sensing our fear, Dr. Avery was kind enough to offer up, “I don’t know if Mrs. Robins told you or not, but she offered Sassy to me after I waived her bills for Sassy’s care.” And looking into Sassy’s eyes, he continued, “It was a precious gift – to be able to share this life with Sassy.” And he sighed, “But the timing is just not right. As you can see, I am no longer a young man. I couldn’t take the risk that something would happen to me causing Sassy left alone. No, no, I knew that Sassy needed younger parents – a couple who could focus on her and give her the attention and love she deserves. Although I knew it was a risk to let fate decide by letting Sassy be adopted by chance, I can see now that my faith was well served – for it’s clear by the look of happiness in her eyes that what Sassy needed was YOU.”
There wasn’t a dry eye in the room as we all laid hands on Sassy and said a quiet prayer asking God to bless Sassy with good health and a long life. (And silently I prayed the same for the good doctor as well).
Sassy’s Life Lesson #2 – There is Goodness in the World
Take a quick glance at the news pretty much any day of the week and you’ll see stories of violence, man’s inhumanity to man, and all the many ills that trouble our world. For that matter, you probably don’t have to look far in your everyday life to see what’s wrong with the world – from road rage, to impatience in the store checkout line, to arguments at the ball field, it’s clear we’ve got a lot of problems getting along with each other. So much so that it’s enough to make you feel like giving up on people, right?
However, Sassy’s story is just one example (of many) that show us that all is not lost. There is still goodness in the world. People DO care. From the unselfish and generous Dr. Avery’s of the world (who took the time to save a ‘lost cause’ patient like Sassy even though he never got paid for it), to Mrs. Robins the breeder (who, in spite of being overwhelmed with more puppies than she really could handle, still gave Sassy a chance to survive and did try to nurse her back to health), to Anne’s mother Rose who made an instant connection with Sassy and started the process of spoiling her with creature comforts, to Anne who went against the norm and took a chance on buying a sick puppy that very well might have died a few days after we brought her home. These good people took a chance on Sassy — and I’m eternally grateful to all of them because their efforts brought Sassy into my life.
Here I’m reminded of another biblical story which is also from Luke’s gospel — this one begins on Luke 5:18 and tells the story of a paralytic man who is confined to a mat. The friends of this man wanted to bring him to Jesus to be healed, however Jesus was inside a small house and there was an enormous crowd around him such that the men couldn’t get through. At this point, most people probably would have said “well, we tried, but it just was not meant to be’ and would likely have given up. But not these men — instead they persisted in their effort and found a way to help their friend. What did they do? They climbed up on the roof, tore off the tiles and lowered their paralyzed friend down through the roof in front of Jesus! Even the lord was amazed by their efforts and of course healed the man. Now that’s an example of goodness if there ever was one!
In the same way, people didn’t give up on Sassy. Throughout her entire life, Sassy could have been left for dead on many occasions because she was repeatedly ‘a lost cause’ by most standards — and yet, because there is goodness in this world, people continued to go out of their way to help her.
I find that inspiring, don’t you? It makes me want to go out and help others. It makes me want to share a message of hope that we can make a difference — if we just try.
Point to Ponder
What can you do today that would help bring a little goodness to our world?