“Free to a good home”.
Those words are never promising. Why is the dog free? Is he laden with fleas and infectious diseases? Does he chew up every piece of fabric he can fit in his mouth? Is he incontinent by choice and loves to mark up every inch of the house? So many reasons floated around in my head. However, I couldn’t stop staring at the beautiful black puppy on my computer screen.
My friend and co-worker, Tanner, sent out a company-wide email asking for interest in her black lab-mix puppy she needed to re-home due to personal reasons. She said “Kobe” was a healthy and well-behaved two-year-old lab/pit/pug mix. She bragged on his manners and sweet disposition. He was great with other animals and kids. He sounded pretty perfect. So, what was the catch? Certainly there had to be one. I was very intrigued by this pup with the soulful brown eyes and the ears that didn’t quite match his head.
Steve and I had been looking at local shelter websites and the Atlanta Humane Society. Our home was a little too quiet when Keegan wasn’t with us, and we both enjoyed the company of a small dog. Still, I was cautious because I knew he didn’t want us to get too far over our heads with an expensive or time-consuming animal. I took a chance and sent Steve the black puppy with the soulful brown eyes. I was anticipating him to say I was crazy for wanting a dog and we just couldn’t afford it time or money-wise.
Within about two minutes my email queue “dinged” with his reply.
“We can look at him tonight if you want.”
It was 4 p.m., and I got off work at 5:30 p.m. This was going to be a painfully slow 90 minutes! My stomach started to get butterflies. Steve’s simple but affirmative response made me giddy. Oh my, how I wanted the companionship of a sweet little dog to fill our life and home!
BUT, Kobe had to be a good fit for us AND us for him.
We stop for dinner after work and discuss the pros and cons about pet ownership. IF Kobe was a good match, he would be the first pet we adopted together. Would our work schedules realistically accommodate an animal? Would he be ok alone at home for 8 hours or more? Were there any behavioral problems? Would my allergies and asthma stay irritated all of the time? So many things to think about. Still, those eyes danced in my mind. Those Kobe eyes.
We arrived at Tanner’s and were greeted by her other dog, a collie mix named Suki. Suki was up for rehoming as well but already had several inquiries. Steve sat on the floor in his work suit and played with him. Kobe, on the other hand, was wagging his tail with shy curiosity.
“Kobe, come!” Tanner called to him. He immediately bounded over to her and put his little paws on her knees.
“He’s such a great dog. I really hate to let him go.” Tears welled up in Tanner’s eyes. She had such a tender heart. I knew this was hard for her.
“What’s his story, Tanner?” Steve asked while rubbing Suki’s ears.
“He’s a rescue from Fulton County Animal Control. Literally, a rescue from death row.”
Kobe was in the very last kennel in the back row of kennels. He had been passed up for adoption for several days. He wasn’t fluffy, fancy, or attention-seeking. He didn’t do special tricks. He was just a black dog who sat patient and quiet. He even held his pee for hours and hours. He refused to make a mess.
And those eyes…
A friend of Tanner’s who worked at the shelter called her with tearful desperation in his voice one Saturday.
“Tanner, please PLEASE come get this dog. I beg of you,” Her friend pleaded.
“I already have one. Why do you want me to get this particular dog?”
“Tanner, you’ve GOT to see this sweet boy. His name is Kobe. He’s the BEST DOG I’ve seen here. He’s got these eyes. They stare right through you. He’s got the most gentle spirit. He’s just special.”
He paused, wiping away tears before he continued.
“I have to put him down today if you don’t get him. Please Tanner. Just get here.”
Tanner DID save precious Kobe’s life, thank God. One look at those eyes, one soft touch of that trusting head and those velvet ears and she was in love. But life was changing for her quickly as a young professional woman, and she wanted to make sure Kobe had all the love he deserved if she couldn’t give it to him.
“Hi Kobe! Hi buddy!” Kobe trotted excitedly over to Steve and put his cheek next to Steve’s hand. We both gently played with him and the bond was so instantaneous that it was almost spooky.
“Wow, those eyes for sure.” Steve knew we’d found our new four-legged companion.
Kobe is 13 now, and we wish we could freeze time. He’s our mascot in many ways. He’s traveled the country going to Steve’s shifter kart races. He gets the first bite of hot dog off the grill. He loves the smell of sweet Southern pines. A favorite destination is the Blue Ridge Parkway with Mommy and Daddy. He loves a good car ride. He also loves to come home. He will wake up from a deep sleep and almost anticipate every turn when he smells our Georgia neighborhood.
He’s my companion when Steve is out of town. He’s Steve’s constant little teddy bear when he’s home. He loves to cuddle on Steve while we watch TV, watch the snow fall on a winter day, or while quietly reading a book.
He’s an ambassador of sorts. He knows when you’ve had a long and frustrating day. He gives you the most special cuddles then. He also can tell when other animals need a little extra TLC. He refused to leave the side of our sick cat during a thunderstorm one spring night. The next day our cat passed away. Kobe knew. He also would stay near and look terribly concerned when our other dear rescue dog was struggling in his last days. Kobe knew then, too.
He loves everyone he meets. He wins over the crustiest of curmudgeons with his soft brown eyes. There’s a common phrase we hear that will indeed follow him into the lap of Jesus. We say all the time,
“Everybody loves Kobe.”
Probably most memorable, we adopted Kobe during a time when Steve really missed his little boy. Keegan was in elementary school at the time, a very tender age. We wanted more time with Keegan, but life and the court system are cruel dictators of when many men can see their kids. An animal can’t replace a child by any stretch of the imagination, but Kobe helped ease the sting of the pain a bit. It’s as if…Kobe knew.
Actually, it was all part of a divine plan.