There are so many benchmarks in our children’s lives: the first smile, the first wave, the first missing tooth, the first day of school. Another benchmark for many, is the first family pet. There is something special about a boy and his dog. It is a unique relationship that few will never forget. Someone once remarked, “Every boy should have two things: a dog, and a parent willing to let him have one.”
When my son, Quincy was about 6, he begged me for a dog. Finally caving in, I promised him I’d get him a dog by summer’s end. It was a promise that was not well thought out, but closer than, “we’ll see.” Frankly, I did not want a dog. I did not want to feed one, take care of one, let alone pay for any vet bills. When “Dog Day” finally approached, we went to the Jackson County Animal Shelter to have a look-see. My son took my hand as we walked a gauntlet of cages filled with barking canines, all begging for us to take them home. Near the end of the tour was a young, blond, border-collie mix. There was something special about the dog and both of us immediately stopped. A man dressed in an orange jumpsuit came up and asked if we wanted to take the dog outside for a walk. “Dad, can we please? Please?” I’ve always been a soft touch when it comes to my son, so, of course I nodded yes. Quincy and I were soon outside, throwing a tennis ball to the dog, so grateful and happy; he finally had someone to play with. All three of us knew that this was a perfect match. His name was Sunny.
The fellow in the orange jumpsuit turned out to be an inmate in a local work release program. I asked him if he could put a hold on the dog for a day so we could think things over. “Sure thing, boss! I’ll put a note on his cage right now.”
The next day, Quincy could not get out of school fast enough. As soon as we pulled up to the shelter, he jumped out of the car and ran toward the dog pens. He dashed down the line of barking hounds and then turned toward me. Tears were rolling down his face. “Sunny is gone!” Fearing the worst, I picked him up in my arms and bolted for the front office. A woman at the front office explained that Sunny had been adopted out that morning. I exploded, telling her how the guy in the orange jumpsuit had promised he’d put a hold on the dog for 24 hours. “Sir,” she explained calmly, “he’s not allowed to do that. We cannot put a hold on the pets.” I don’t remember much after that, but I do know, as Quincy cried, I cussed out the entire office, then stormed out, slamming the door behind me.
The next day, I woke up with a pit in my stomach, the kind you have after something really painful has happened to you and you’re franticly searching for solutions. I was unable to find any strategy that could ease my pain. Quincy went to school with the saddest face I’d ever seen. I plodded through my work day, refusing to give up, but still not knowing how to resolve the issue. As soon as school was out, Quincy and I drove to 3 other animal shelters in the rain, and looked at countless dogs, all with pleading looks on their faces. We wanted to take any of them, just to ease our pain. None came even close to being like Sunny.
The next day my cell phone rang. It was Colleen, the head of the Jackson County Animal Shelter. “I heard what happened the other day, when you came back for Sunny.” I immediately felt relieved that she had not been at work that day. I felt embarrassed by my meltdown. I could only imagine how it was described to her by the staff. “Sunny was adopted by a couple who took him home for the night. Apparently, the following morning, he jumped up on an elderly neighbor who became quite irate, even threatening to sue. Long story short, they brought Sunny back to the shelter.”
I wanted to drop to my knees. There was a God after all and she was looking down on my son! I broke several speeding laws on my way to the shelter, and then hugged each and every staff member there. (The guy in the orange jumpsuit was conspicuously missing.) With Sunny in the car, I called Quincy’s second grade teacher and explained what had happened and how I wanted to walk in her class and surprise my boy. Minutes later, wearing a long black wool winter coat, I buttoned Sunny inside of it, with just his head peeking out.
Quincy was seated at a small table taking to his buddy. He had just finishing telling him story about how he lost the best dog in the world, named Sunny. My son looked up at me with a look of both disbelief and joy. Sunny squirmed out of my coat and ran to Quincy. The entire class somehow knew what had just happened and erupted in applause. As Sunny licked my son’s happy face, I knew something amazing and wonderful had just occurred in my boy’s life. It was something that he and I will never forget.
– Christopher Briscoe, a proud dad, in Ashland, Oregon.