It was sometime in the autumn of 2005. I was driving through my beloved Albuquerque when I was suddenly hit with a sense of knowing, about a dog. There is an adult female red dog at the East Side animal shelter. She is trained and good. Today you will save her life, and in return she will save yours.
I didn’t hear a voice in my head, nothing like that. I just…knew. Throughout my life this has happened to me, usually when I leave expect it. Until last week I didn’t know there was a word for it. Clairknowing. I didn’t ask to know things that I shouldn’t have been able to know, things that end up being true. And I cannot tell you how or why it happens.
What I can tell you is that the sense of urgency and knowing was so strong that I, having never owned a dog in my adult life and having only had two dogs as a very young child, turned my car in the direction of the animal shelter. I walked in and asked the woman behind the front desk if there were an adult female red dog there.
“Matter of fact, there is,” she said, giving me a quizzical look. She led me to the kennel, and there was Topaz, a beautiful orange mutt who looked like she was wearing black eyeliner. The form on the door of her kennel tried to convince me she was a “golden retriever”. Topaz looked up mournfully, and slapped her tail against the cold concrete a couple of times. The attendant told me the dog’s story.
Weeks before, a sobbing woman had come in to surrender Topaz. She told the attendant that she was living in her car and could no longer afford to feed her beloved dog. She’d been in an abusive marriage, the woman said, beaten to within an inch of her life. Topaz defended her, and was also beaten. Seeing him beat her dog, the woman finally had the courage to leave, and when she left him the man took everything she had. She had no money, no job, and please, please could they not kill this dog. She was an amazing dog, the woman said, and her best friend. By the time I got to Topaz, she was days away from being euthanized.
“I’ll take her,” I said. “Can you please contact the woman who surrendered her and let her know Topaz has a good home now?”
“Will do,” said the attendant.
I took Topaz home, and she has literally been the perfect dog ever since. She is well trained, intelligent, compassionate and kind — but also very protective. She is happy as a child at Christmas, every single day. She has brought me joy. On those rare occasions when I cry, Topaz comes to lay her head in my lap, puts her paw on my leg, and looks at me beseechingly, as if to say nothing is that bad, life is good, and she loves me. She has been a godsend.
Every weekend, when I make the 200-plus mile trek to the ranch, Topaz is with me, in the back seat, smiling all the way. She loves the ranch. She’s an old girl now, somewhere around 13 or 14, I’m not sure. She’s stiff sometimes, but when the ranch dogs go for their long runs, she runs with them. When they chase cows, she chases cows. She has no idea she’s not a Catahoula. She just knows she’s part of the pack. Our pack. Our family.
I love you, Topaz. I’m glad someone or something guided me to you. I’m sure you’ve saved my life more than once, in many different ways. You are the best friend a girl could want. Today, I am thankful for you.