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Autumn first came to my notice in summer of 2001. She was a stray who kept showing up in the parking lot at my place of employment, a bank call center. Though they tried several times, animal control couldn’t trap her, because too many people were feeding her and she wouldn’t be lured in.
I became her friend and protector, providing her with food, water, and attention whenever I could. I gave her a name, and called to her each day. I spent my breaks looking for her, every day, rain and shine, snow and wind. I came to work on days off, on holidays, and vacations. It took three months just to get close enough to touch her. She eventually began to respond to her name and would come running when I called. She just wouldn’t get in the car or allow me to put a leash on her. The property was bordered on one side by a major highway, and by farmland and woods on the other sides. She often would sleep under the bushes on the property, but when she wasn’t on the property or the field across the street, I have no idea where she was.
Getting her out of that parking lot was a top priority for me, and that never changed. After four years, finally, I just took a chance one day as I was leaving work. I asked her, “Is today the day you come home with me?” No answer. I opened the door of my car, took a deep breath, and picked her up. She weighed about 65 pounds, so that was not an easy feat, but she just sat in the back seat like she had been doing it all her life. I closed the door, and closed that chapter of her life as a stray.
Now at the age of 13—I estimate—she is facing the difficulties of old age. She is often a little foggy, uncertain of where she is, and unsteady on her feet. But she has given me more than I could ever repay, and for that, and for all the shelter dogs that I love and receive love from, I am truly grateful.
When do you call it quits when you’re trying to rescue an animal? How long is too long when you’re trying to make a difference? That question is answered for me every day when she greets me at the door. You never quit, it’s never too long, too wet, too cold, too inconvenient. I spent four years courting this dog, and it was worth every minute.