Dorian Hargrove 8 p.m., Dec. 11
Katie was a senior dog that I adopted at the county animal shelter in Carlsbad in 2005. Police officers found the old Akita mix tied to a tree in a river bed and left for dead. She was considered a transient dog and was covered with fleas and tapeworms when officers brought her into the facility on Palomar Airport Road.
Her sweet, gentle nature captured my heart. When no one adopted her in four months, I took her home after paying her fee with my last $35. Thus, "Adopting Katie" was born. My essay appeared in the January 2007 issue of Good Housekeeping magazine, and was chosen by the editors for a gift book called, "Blessings," to be sold in stores beginning November 3.
Katie passed away in January of 2008, but her spirit is immortalized in the pages of the loveliest book ever published. I got my sample copy yesterday, and wept when I saw it. It is too precious to be held by human hands. Many times during the past two years, I've decided not to believe in God. But when I think about this wonderful dog, I can't help but be a believer. Sometimes, life is not a matter of what blessings we receive, but what we are willing to do to deserve them. I hope that like me, you'll find hope when you read "Adopting Katie."
From the Editors of Good Housekeeping
"Blessings -- Reflections on Gratitude, Love, and What Makes Us Happy"
Adopting Katie by M.S.
I'd endured breast cancer treatments for almost a year when I decided to volunteer at my local animal shelter. Dogs are my true passion, but the homeowners association where we live forbade them, and I longed to run my fingers through soft fur and to smile into the adoring eyes of puppies.
After two months at the shelter, I had seen many dogs come and go, but one senior dog remained unclaimed. An Akita mix named Katie, she was slow and cloudy-eyed. Shelter workers said she had "bossy old broad syndrome," because she'd lie down on her walks and refuse to budge; once she had even urinated on the face of another dog.
Her personality wasn't the most charismatic, but Katie exuded a sweetness that captured the hearts of both volunteers and staff members. When the kennel filled to capacity, the staff decided to put her in a pen with another dog, rather than put her down. Katie got along well with her kennel mate, and everyone was happy.
One day, I came home to find a notice that said the association rules had changed, and each family would now be allowed to keep one dog. My head quickly filled with the many possibilities. Like most people, I preferred to adopt a frolicking puppy or a gorgeous purebred. But then I thought about old, gentle Katie, and my mind was made up. I would bring her home the next day.
Staff members cried upon hearing that Katie was my choice. As I was leaving, a visitor glared at me in the shelter lobby but then apologized when she realized I was taking old Katie out, not bringing her in.
Katie rode home in the backseat of my car, resting her chin on the upraised armrest so that her face got the full blast of air-conditioning. It must have been heaven after months of sweltering heat at the shelter. When we got home, she sniffed around and kept her distance as I patted the couch beside me. Minutes later, when she finally leaped up, I knew she had made the decision to stay. A curtain of darkness lifted,and I experienced true joy for the first time since my cancer diagnosis.
At night, Katie slept on my feet or with a paw spread over my legs, as if to make sure I'd still be there when she woke up. I didn't buy a leash; she happily followed me anywhere. I considered her such a blessing that each night I kissed her on the head and said, "Thank God for you," before going to bed. Eventually, Katie's devotion inspired me to take a dog-training course, which proved to be a bigger challenge than I'd bargained for.
Late one night, I was lying on the couch, pouring over a textbook in preparation for a test, when Katie appeared beside me. When I turned my face toward her, she licked me on the forehead, then circled and plopped down on the bed. I'd been so consumed with studying, I'd forgotten about our ritual.
Katie has taught me that unconditional love doesn't have to come in the most appealing package. She may not be the dog I wanted, but I'm certain she's the dog God wanted me to have.