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No Better Friends

By Christopher Briscoe

There are so many benchmarks in our childrens' lives to photograph: 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 ever forget. Someone once remarked, “Every boy should have two things: a dog, and a parent willing to let him have one.”

Sunny

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 a bit 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 vet bills. When “D Day” finally approached, we went to the Jackson County Animal Shelter to have a look-see.

There was something special about this dog...

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 line was a young, blond border-collie mix. There was something special about this 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. Quincy and I were soon outside, throwing a tennis ball to a dog who was 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 to find his new buddy my son dashed down the line of barking hounds and then turned toward me. Tears were rolling down his face. “Sunny is gone," he sniffled. Fearing the worst, I picked him up in my arms and bolted for the front office. A woman at the front office explained the Sunny had been adopted out that morning. I exploded, telling her how the guy in orange 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 cussed out the entire office.

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 but unable to find anything that can ease the pain.

Quincy went to school wearing the saddest face I’d ever seen. I plodded through my work day, refusing to give up, but still not knowing how to fix things for my boy. As soon as school was out, Quincy and I drove to three other animal shelters in the rain, and looked at scores of 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.

I could only imagine...

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 the day of our visit, embarrassed by my meltdown. I could only imagine how it was described to her by her staff.

“Sunny was adopted by a couple who took him home for the night. Apparently, the following morning, he jumped up on a elderly neighbor who became quite irate, even threatening a lawsuit. Long-story-short, they brought Sunny back to the shelter.”

I wanted to drop to my knees. There was a God after all and He was surely looking down on my son. I broke several speeding laws on my way to the shelter, then hugged each and every staff member there. (The guy in the orange jumpsuit was conspicuously absent.) 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 son. 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 Talen, his buddy, just finishing up the 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; something that he and I will never forget.

Created By
Christopher Briscoe
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