May, 2014

AllyPillow2 I was sunning in a cage on the sidewalk when I heard the voice of a young lady in the distance.

“What’ll this puppy look like when he grows up?”

“Well, his mother is over there if you want to take a look at her.”

The lady walked over to me and knelt down. I was on. I sat up straight and crossed my two front paws. I tried to look as dignified as possible. This could be my only chance. Most shoppers overlook me and go straight for the puppies and who could blame them? I lifted my head. And boy was she impressed.

“Well, what’d you think ‘mam? Do you want that puppy?”

“Now why in the world would I want that puppy when I can have her?”

“Yes, she is pretty and good natured too.”

The lady looked deep into my eyes and talked to me.

“My goodness you are a pretty girl! Savannah, you’re mine – I hope you know that. Oh how I wish James was here to see you!”

As a couple moved in closer to take a look at me the lady became defensive.

“She’s mine; I just need to finish the paper work.”

They moved on and the sweet lady smiled and winked at me.

“You are mine, you beautiful girl!”

The lady’s voice was sweet and her touch sweeter. Who was she? And why did she pick me? I don’t know, but I sure was happy! I am going to have a home, a real home. I had lived most of my life as a guard dog – whatever that’s supposed to be. Apparently I was not a very good one. My master tried to teach me words like:

“Get ‘em girl! Sic ‘em!  Come on! Bite it, bite my arm girl!“

I wondered…what kind of language did that man speak? And why in the world would I want to bite a blue thing on a man’s arm?

 I stayed at home in an apartment all day guarding it, and then all night in a bicycle shop guarding it. I rarely had human contact and that made me sad. My heart told me that I was a people dog not a fierce guard dog. I tried hard to please my owner, but even he knew I was a mistake and that is how I wound up here at PetSmart, along with a few of my puppies.

“So it’s the mother you want! Good choice. I was worried about her; it’s the puppies most people want. I’ll get the paper work so you can take Savannah with you!”

But it was not to be and the lady left in tears. She promised me she would return because I belonged to her. She said she would not give up until she had me. The lady ran away crying.

I thought of her for the next few weeks. I dreamed of her sweet voice. Who was she? I know, she must have been an angel sent to rescue me; yes, my angel. I looked for her to return, but soon gave up when I was moved to another store for more exposure, and then another and another. She would never find me now.

On the weekends I was placed in a cage alongside many other four legged creatures, much like me. Many were “adopted” but I was left unnoticed, that is until that young lady bent down to speak to me. She was a pretty gal with blonde hair, and oh what a sweet voice she had. I had never in all my life felt such kindness. I will never forget her words that day.

“They won’t let me have you. I live in an apartment and don’t have a fenced in yard. Oh, Savannah, I hate to leave you,” she said to me as she fought back tears. And so away she went. I called out for her to return, after all I was used to apartment living. But she kept running. I was so close to having a real home.

Then one Sunday afternoon, I heard a familiar voice.

“James! There she is!”

Yes, it was the pretty blonde – my angel – and she found me!

“Look at her James. Yes, this is my dog! I told you! Just look at her! Oh my goodness! I can’t believe we found her!”

The big guy laughed as he opened the door to my cage and let me out. The two bent down and loved on me.

“So you’re the one I’ve been driving all over Georgia looking for? Do you have any idea how hard it was to find you, Savannah? Jillian, she is perfect, except for that name. She doesn’t look like a Savannah. Let’s call her Ally.”

With that “Jillian” snapped a leash to my collar and said, “Let’s keep Ally with us. I don’t want to lose her again.”

They took me inside PetSmart and gave the manager a notarized statement from J.B., Jillian’s father, stating that Jillian a responsible person and that he would see that I got plenty of exercise. The manager looked skeptical and was about to say something when the assistant manager walked by.

“Are you that woman who has been calling every PetSmart in Georgia looking for a black lab?”

“Yes, I’m the one and here she is! I found her!”

With that the manager smiled.

“So, you’re the one? In that case, I will accept your father’s recommendation. Savannah is yours!”

I went home to a small apartment and lots of walks through the woods and a special place called Stone Mountain Park. We eventually moved to a house in the Tucker-Decatur area. The house had gigantic trees in the yard and a creek in the back and a fenced in yard. Best of all, there were squirrels in those trees just waiting to be chased. We spent many years together in that home. I even learned how to open closed doors. That James and Jillian could not lock me out of a room. And when I found them we laughed and laughed.

And J.B. made good his promise of seeing that I got exercise. I ran around in his tennis court playing ball with Charlotte; Charlotte and I became best friends. His parents up in North Carolina, made me a special running place. Papa Roy used to smile at me and say, “Whenever something happens to you, they’d better dig two holes. My granddaughter’s not likely to ever give you up.”

I got to know Gramma-Di by spending the weekend with her, and boy was she a basket case trying to “baby-sit” me. She just knew I was going to disappear into thin air. She figured her son would forgive her, but what about Jillian? She kept me on a tight leash when we went for a walk. One day I spotted the handsome border collie who lived next door. I took off running; just wanted to say “Hello.” Gramma-Di screamed and held on for dear life. Unfortunately she fell down and could not get up. A moving company man drove by and asked her if she needed some help. She said, “Just get that dog! The black one!” The nice man put me in the house and allowed Gramma-Di to use him as a crutch. From that day forward, Gramma-Di allowed me to go outside alone while she stayed behind the closed door holding the leash.

At Christmas time, we decorated the house. I liked all that, but I could not help but be a little jealous of the attention they gave to that tree. When I could not take it any longer, I moved in and pushed them away from the tree. Hey, it’s me you dote on, remember?

James traveled and left me sometimes for days. When he returned, the big guy looked stressed and worn out. I greeted him each and every time. I was so glad to see him. He smiled and loved on me and spoke tenderly to me, actually he talked baby talk to me and I loved it. I noticed that after a few minutes of playing ball with him, he loosened up and was his old self again. James really needed me to keep him healthy.

Jillian spent every night with me, though she left me regularly during the day to teach the kids at school. I always came first, but the kids came in at a close second. We did spend every weekend together grading papers, clipping coupons and drinking coffee. Well, Jillian drank the coffee and I enjoyed my “good girl”snacks.

One night, Jillian dressed up in a fancy dress and James wore a suit, tie and all. They celebrated that night at an award dinner; DeKalb County honored Jillian as Teacher of the Year for her school.

James went through a time of non-stop traveling; seeing twenty-two states. Twenty-two states! That was too much!  

I could not help myself; I sank into a depression and could not eat; my hair fell out. I could only look for James, until one day I could not lift my head. I heard her on the telephone.

“I think she is pining for you. I think she is dying. I’m going to take her to the hospital.”

The very next day, James walked in. I was so happy to see him, but could not make myself stand to greet him. He knelt down before me and spoke.

“What’s the matter with my good girl? My Ally girl, what’s wrong baby?”

I weighed close to eighty pounds, but the big guy scooped me up in his arms as though I was light as a feather. They took me to the hospital where the doctors gave me fluids. I stayed for a few days and then I perked up. James and Jillian took me home and he carried me around like a baby for days. They were both attentive and best of all, James stayed; he quit that foolish job. He never left again, except for short business trips now and then. And then there was the day I really got sick and had to have surgery; my old pancreas was acting up. The doctor discussed my options. Yes, I was gonna be a goner without that surgery. No one spoke for a moment. Then James asked, “Do you take Visa?”

One day while alone at home, someone broke a window in the basement and walked up the stairs and broke open the door. The intruder entered our home. It frightened me and I was reminded of my training as a guard dog. I was lying on the sofa in the living-room when the crime took place. So, what was I to do? I started to bark and put up a fuss when I realized it was an older woman who seemed harmless. And anyway, it was nap time.

The woman went into the kitchen and made herself a sandwich with James and Jillian’s ham and pickles.  She did take some things including family jewelry and a computer. She left and later we found out that she was a homeless person.

James and Jillian were not upset at all, because the woman did not harm me.

“Yes, my Ally-good-baby, you’re all right now girl. We won’t let anybody get you! You’re our good girl!”

I was not good at being a guard dog, but I had that “good girl” nailed down.

They both loved on me overtime that night and they thanked God for keeping me safe. They never mentioned the family jewelry or the computer to God, just me.

The years passed and there was another celebration. Yes, they both dressed up in their fancy clothes and Jillian was again DeKalb County Teacher of the Year for her school. I know that if she cared for her students half as much as she did for me, she was the best teacher in the whole wide world. But she did more than teach them, she cared for them.

Jillian and her sister camps out all night for “black Friday.” Jillian says they can buy more on that big sale day and they had to be first to get the best bargains; gifts for needy children. Jillian wanted all children to have a “good Christmas.”

The three of us were happy for so many years. They were good years of walking in our Decatur neighborhood saying hello to other neighbors walking their loved ones; lots of nurses, teachers, Cocker spaniels and boxers there. When we approached a neighbor, I tried to lift my head a little higher so that James and Jillian would be proud of me. I also tried to be on my best behavior, but that was not always easy. It was the squirrels I tell you; always taunting me. When I got the chance, I chased those rascals!

I could run for hours on end. My black coat was thick and shiny. I was bathed and brushed. They even cleaned my teeth and slipped meds in little pieces of cheese to me. Yes, we enjoyed each other’s company. But the day came when I wanted to chase those squirrels and my legs did not want to cooperate. When we went for a drive, I had a hard time climbing into the car. James gave me a little push and I was able to get by with that little bit of help for a while, until finally he had to pick me up and put me in the car. James never complained.

“That’s okay Ally, I don’t mind helping you. You deserve it! Ally-good-baby!”

Yes, I slowed down with my old legs giving out. Then a strange thing happened; everything was getting dark. It got darker and darker until one day I could not see at all. I sometimes managed to hobble across the living-room only to get stuck in the corner. My old legs could not back up and I could not see a thing. I stood there patiently until I was noticed. No need to bark. I was not abandoned, just stuck in the corner. And yes, James or Jillian always came to my rescue and gently guided me out of the corner.

“That’s alright my Ally girl! That’s all right. You’re a good girl, my Ally-good-baby!”

Home alone, I tried to wait as I always do, but I could not hold it. I did a “no-no.” For sure, they would be mad at me today. But when James and Jillian found my “no-no,” it was cleaned up without a word of admonishment.

“What’s the matter Ally? Are you sick or tired? That’s all right. You couldn’t help it. It’s okay girl, it’s okay.”

I tried hard to please, but from then on, I could not control myself. They took me to the doctor again and they got more pills to hide in little pieces of cheese. That helped for a while, but to tell you the truth, I could not control myself. I was so ashamed and tried to hide, but the big guy always found me.

“It’s okay my Ally-good-baby. It’s okay, you are a good girl!”

He loved on me and Jillian loved on me. As time went on, they gave me most all of their attention. I was thankful because I really needed care now. I could not see. I could barely walk and my hearing was leaving me.

Oh how I enjoyed going to Gramma-Di’s home where I could survey her backyard secret garden. But now when at the bottom of the sloping yard, I can no longer make it back up to her house. I waited until James missed me and then as always, he came to my rescue. He picked me up in his arms and carried me back to the house.

“That’s okay my Ally-good-baby. You are a good girl! I can carry you. You deserve it!”

Keeping watch over Jillian as we traveled to North Carolina to visit with her grandparents was becoming a faraway memory. I can still occasionally remember how the air felt on my face as we drove down the highways.

Not too long ago, I stayed with Pop for a week so James and Jillian could go on a much needed vacation. I’m afraid I was too much for Pop, though he never complained. The truth of the matter is – I have become old and sickly. And my hair is falling out all over the place. And forget going to Jillian’s father’s home; too many steps. I wish I could tell them how tired I am, but I don’t want to complain, nor do I want to worry them. I know they all love me.

A day came when I sensed sadness in James and Jillian, although they kept their voices happy when speaking to me. I knew when they entered the room although I could not see them. I tried my best to hide the tiredness I felt inside. I really tried to lift my head and smile at them, but that was getting harder and harder to accomplish.

One day I did not realize James was in the room. Unfortunately I allowed him to see how I really felt. I know he saw me because his voice was different. When he tried to speak to me, his words were cut short.

I heard Jillian say, “It’s time.”

“I’m going to see if we have any mail. Jill, please stay with Ally.”

James walked to the mailbox and when he returned he spoke to Jillian.

“Tonight at seven, it will be over.”

They loved on me as they laid down beside me and rubbed my coat. James carried me in his arms to the car. Jillian sat with me in the backseat. That car ride to the vet’s office was of great comfort to me, eventhough I was so sick. I cannot explain it, but I knew things were going to be okay.

When we arrived, straight away they took me to a room and put me on a table. James and Jillian told me how much they loved me and that I had made them the happiest two people in the world. Then there was a long silence until James finally spoke.

“Jill, do you mind if I step out for a minute?”

“No go ahead James. I’m with her.”

With that, Jillian and I were alone. I could not see her, but I could feel her hands gently touching me. My heart beat slowed down and I could feel myself slipping away.

 I felt a face next to mine.

Who was it? I don’t have to have eyes to know – she’s the angel who found and rescued me. I wish I could say to her: “I’m ever yours.”

I was left that night lifeless on that table.

“I don’t want to go home yet, James. I can’t bear the thought of going into an empty house — without Ally.”

“I don’t want to go home either. I have an idea. Let’s drive around to our favorite places for a while. We could both use a drink.”

“Yes,” said Jillian as she wiped away the endless stream of tears from her face. “Let’s get a drink.”

James and Jillian drove straight away to the Varsity and got their usual: Diet Coke and Frosty Orange. They then drove by the Fox Theater to see what was playing. For a brief moment their grief was relieved as their attention went to the marquee and rush of theatre goers.

 And then it was on to Ponce de Leon where they took their short cut to Stone Mountain.

James and Jillian first noticed the fire flies as they drove through the West Gate of Stone Mountain Park. They turned right and drove slowly around the mountain all the while admiring the trees and lake through the moonlight. The steadfast solidarity of the mountain hiding in the dark shadows somehow comforted them. They pulled over and stopped at the Covered Bridge where they rolled the windows down and listened to the croaking of the frogs. Occasionally they heard a quiet plop in the water; no doubt a turtle in search of a better resting place. They slowed to an almost stop at the Grist Mill to hear the water gently splashing over the big mill wheel; they slowly left the park.

And then it was on to Hugh Howell where James parked the car at their church, Mountain West, another place where Jillian teaches the children. After checking out the building progress of the new sanctuary, they continued up Hugh Howell and found themselves on Main Street – Tucker. As they drove past Matthew’s Cafeteria, they acknowledged it as the place of the best fried chicken in Georgia.

 From Main Street they took a left and drove down LaVista past the Browning Courthouse and made a right which took them to Morgan Road; Nanny’s house. James stopped and admired his grandmother’s house for a moment, watching a squirrel run across the yard. He tried to ignore the squirrel as it made him think of Ally.

“Helen Story lived here for sixty years.”

James spoke of his grandmother in order to ignore his painful thoughts, only to burst into tears. Jillian rubbed his shoulder to comfort him.

“I think I’m ready to go home now; how about you, Jill?”

“Yes, I’m ready James. Let’s go home.”

They drove across the Tucker train tracks near Lawrenceville Highway where James slowed down at Sherry’s Produce Market.

“Nanny used to buy her vegetables there when her legs hurt too bad to walk. Sherry handed whatever Nanny wanted through the car window so she didn’t have to get out of her car.”

“That was kind of Miss Sherry to care for your grandmother like that.”

“Yes, it was.”

They drove past the school where Jillian taught.They looked at each other and smiled. He drove onto Highway 78 as they finished their Diet Coke and Frosty Orange.

Yes, it was time to go home. Tonight would be the first time in fifteen years that Ally would not be home to greet them. Though James and Jillian could never again embrace their good girl, she remained in their hearts – ever yours.