The St. Louis Senior Dog Project is a not-for-profit organization that rescues dogs and finds them new home. We take dogs of all ages but specialize in dogs 5 years of age and older. Visit our website to see pictures of adoptable dogs.
Until recently the thing I loved most about my neighborhood was that I could take my two dogs on walks through trails in the woods or along our quiet country road. They could run happily without leashes, splash through incidental ponds and streams, chase squirrels, roll in the grass and rub their shoulders in things too disgusting to mention. I could amble along with and usually behind them trying not to spill my coffee, marveling that I could enjoy all this every day.
Although we had three favorite trails through the woods, we most frequently walked along our rural road that usually saw no more than cautious local traffic. Sometimes other dogs joined us and our walk turned into a dog parade. Sometimes a neighbor out for a vigorous walk would pass us by with a greeting and a wave, and often, if someone was at the horse barn, we’d stop for a visit.
At the end of the driveway, we’d turn right and the dogs would race ahead for a quick romp in an empty field. Then we’d move on to the corner where a left turn would bring us past a stream that might be right for a splash. After a vigorous shake, they’d move ahead past the horse barn and field and then usually detour into a wooded area before spilling out into what we called “the meadow.” Here we’d stop again for play and then either move on or turn back towards home. Cloud Dancer was always in the lead. Ringo was more often by my side, but if The Cloud took off running, Ringo usually followed.
Cloud Dancer was a Pound dog, my first ever foster dog and one I adopted myself because she was too crazy for anyone else. Ringo was my miracle dog. By the time he’d settled in with me, he’d already survived 5 years in a puppymill and 8 months as a stray. On days when I felt overwhelmed with rescue woes, I’d look at him and know it was all worthwhile. He was a beautiful red Australian Shepherd and he was at last a happy dog. I thought I was the one who could keep him safe. I was wrong.
On our last walk, we’d just passed the stream and I was checking out the horses in the field to my left when I heard the rumbling of the school bus lurching around the curve. Within seconds, the bus had hit both dogs and moved on without stopping. Cloud Dancer yelped and I lost track of her for awhile. I didn’t see Ringo until the bus picked up speed and then I saw him lying in the middle of the road. When I got to him and stroked him, he lifted his head twice and then was gone. I would have given up a hundred dogs to keep this one.
Cloud Dancer now has a caste on one leg and is recovering. But when I close my eyes, I still see Ringo’s body on that beautiful country road. I tell myself that at least he didn’t die alone during those months when he was a stray. At least he lived to be loved and to love back. At least he slept on a bed and had plenty to eat. At least he knew what it was to be someone’s dog and to live what I thought any dog would think of as the good life. But all that sounds hollow even to me. I’m trying to replace that last image of him with a time when he decided to “rest” in a deep puddle in the woods. Looking up at me, submerged to his shoulders, he seemed to be smiling.
We’ve rescued more dogs this week. We’ve found homes for others. Life goes on, but it's not the same.
St. Louis Senior Dog Project