My girlfriend and I were looking to get a puppy. A baby pit bull, in fact. Well, as we were researching the various breeders in the area and comparing them to one another, we stumbled upon something else. Something…different.
The first thing that caught my eye was a smile. It wasn’t like the smiles we’d seen over the course of our research. This one was new. Unexpected. From the glow of the laptop screen, the wide, goofy smile of a Golden Retriever named Freckles bathed us in an atmosphere of unconditional love and limitless joy. I looked at my girlfriend, who was grinning at the screen. She turned and nodded at me.
The next day, we made our way to Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary, which is about 50 miles from our house. We met with the staff and told them our story: we’d been looking to get a puppy, but we’d fallen in love with Freckles.
We were asked about our home situation. The staff wanted to know if we would be the right match for Freckles. That made me feel at ease. It was obvious how badly they cared about the wellbeing of their furry tenants; they wanted to ensure they’d be going to a home that could meet the needs of an older dog.
As it turned out, our situation was close to ideal. We work from home and live in a quiet neighborhood. The vet who cares for my parents’ dog has an office less than a mile away. If we were lucky enough to adopt Freckles, she’d want for nothing.
The kind staff told us they appreciated our interest and would do the necessary checks to verify whether or not we’d be good foster parents. In the meantime, though, we were given a special opportunity – one that still makes my heart flutter.
We were asked to wait in the office. One of the staff left, saying she’d be back in a moment. I browsed the pictures of Freckles I’d saved on my phone, and my girlfriend put her head on my shoulder and smiled as I scrolled through each photo.
The faint clicking of toenails on linoleum caused us to straighten up. I put my hand to my mouth to stifle a gasp. A walking smile came around the corner; eyes bright against the white-kissed golden fur on her face.
“Say hi, Freckles,” the staff member instructed.
Tears were welling in my eyes as Freckles walked up to us. Her tail was wagging and she sniffed my outstretched hand. My girlfriend carefully scratched Freckles’ neck. Her smile broadened.
“You’re such a good girl,” I whispered to Freckles. Her serene gaze settled on my face and she placed her chin on my knee.
It turned out that would be her favorite resting place – one that, years later, she still visits whenever she needs some pats and scratches. Which is often. And that’s okay, because it gives me time to thank her for allowing us into her life.
Because of her, my girlfriend and I are no longer just a couple. We’re part of a family.