dog’s eyes will speak to you, and if you pay close enough attention,
it’s possible for you to read a dog’s heart.
I want to tell you about Taz,
our big black chow, who is mentioned in my book series In
Front of God and Everybody: Confessions of April Grace as Mr.
One hot, cloudless Saturday
morning in August, my husband and I decided go to the Ozark Empire Fair
in Springfield, Missouri. It was more than fifty miles from our house,
but the trip is always worth it.
We stopped at a pet store to get
something for our cat, but we were side-tracked from our task because
that day a local no-kill animal shelter had brought in a variety of
dogs and cats for adoption. Who can resist looking at all those
adorable puppies and kittens?
In the very last cage was a
small black ball that quietly watched the world from two beautiful
shining brown eyes. He did not paw on the cage door, or yap and yip and
whine, or in any way draw attention to himself.
Our eyes met. We looked into
each other’s eyes for the longest time, and something warm and sweet
filled my heart.
“Oh, Brett,” I said to my
husband as I opened the cage. “Look at this.”
I brought out that soft little
sweetheart and snuggled him to me. The puppy didn’t get excited or
“He’s been here a while,” the
shelter volunteer told me. “No one wants a chow puppy.”
Chows have a reputation. They
are loyal and protective, and usually love only their families. Because
they are so protective and standoffish, many people are afraid of them.
But the breed reputation did not concern me. My husband and I believe
dogs want only to love and be loved, and the best place to start good
behavior is when they are small.
I put the little guy on the
floor. He immediately sat down and looked up at me. He did not follow
me or anyone else. He sat placidly, as if he knew that soon he’d be put
back in his cage and left behind again. I picked him up and kissed his
fuzzy little face.
“He’s mine,” I said to my
husband. “And his name is Taz.”
Brett nodded. “All right. But we
brought only enough money to get into the fair. We don’t have his
I don’t give up or give in
easily. Some might even say I’m stubborn.
“In that case,” I said, “let’s
give the shelter our fair admission money as a down payment, while we
go back home and get our checkbook.”
Ever the agreeable spouse, my
husband said, “All right. Let’s do it.”
Reluctantly leaving Taz at the
pet store, we backtracked those fifty miles. I ran into our house,
grabbed my checkbook, and we hurried back to the city. I kept telling
Brett, “Drive faster, can’t you? I want my Taz!”
By the time we returned to the
store, Taz was ready for us, his little adoption scarf around his neck,
and his paperwork was ready for us to sign. The shelter people were so
glad he’d found a home, but they weren’t nearly as happy as I was.
took Taz to the fair with us to get him used to lots of people. He did
not want to walk. In fact, if I put him on the
ground, he’d immediately
sit down and look up at me with a question in his eyes. It was as if he
was saying, “What do you want me to do?”
I carried Taz all around the
fairgrounds, from the sheep barn to the quilt exhibits, through the
carnival and rides, and past the funnel cake booths.
We were stopped every few steps.
I let people touch him and pet him so he would learn that it was okay
for others to touch him.
Everybody wanted him. They said
things like, “Where’d you get him? Do they have more? Where can we find
a puppy like that? Would you sell him to us?”
Of course, we answered those
same questions over and over, and when someone said, “I want him; will
you sell him to me?” I hugged that sweet baby close to me and said,
“Sorry. No way.”
I’ve had good dogs in my life,
but Taz was by far the best puppy in the world. He never chewed up
anything in the house. He had only one “accident,” and that was because
I didn’t take him outside soon enough. From the first night on, he
slept without the yipping and yelping so many pups do when they first
go to a new home. As he grew, he loved our cats and other dogs. He
greeted visitors with a polite tail wag, without any jumping up and
knocking them over. Taz is everybody’s friend.
I think a dog should let his
family know when strangers arrive, but Taz did not do this. One day
someone drove up to our house. Taz stood at the front window, looking
at the car, smiling and wagging his tail. I stood behind him and, in my
best dog imitation, “barked” twice at the car.
Taz turned those intelligent
brown eyes to me with a questioning look in them. I tensed my body and
barked one more time. He looked at that car and barked. Only a couple
of barks, as I had done. I praised him, and petted him, and now he
knows to let me know when someone arrives. He grew up to be a big boy.
He’s shaggy and fierce looking, and most people are afraid of him, even
when I tell them, “He won’t hurt you.”
Taz is now eleven years old, and
he’s showing his age. I can’t take him on long walks anymore because
it’s too hard on his old joints. But he still runs to meet me, and if
I’m not giving him enough attention, he asks for it by placing his big
paw on my arm. He still has that utter sweet love in his eyes when he
looks at me, and I still feel that warm tenderness when I look at him.
If I could wish something for
everyone in the world, it would be that we all have a dog just like