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Four Years at the Mount

Senior Year

"A Little Ray of Sunshine"

Katelyn Phelan

(March, 2011) A few weeks ago I was driving to the Mount after a birthday celebration for a friend from home. It was late at night, around 11:30, and I was driving along listening to music. I was approaching a sharp turn in the road and slowed my speed considerably. As I made the turn, I noticed something moving in the beam of my headlights. I thought it was a dog, but wasn’t sure.

I drove on for about thirty seconds before I decided to turn around and see what the animal was. As I retraced my path, I didn’t see anything but darkness. "Oh well," I thought. I turned around to continue my trip to school when I saw the creature again. It was a dog. I pulled off on the shoulder, got out of the car, and slowly approached the animal, a golden retriever.

Fifty different thoughts flew through my head. Here I was on the side of the road in a deserted area walking toward an unknown dog in the middle of the night. Was this not the definition of stupidity? What if it bites me? I continued to approach the dog slowly, and as I did so, I spoke to her. She walked slowly toward me, but as we got closer, I saw that her tail was wagging. She stood contentedly as I pet her. "Well," I thought, "clearly she doesn’t have rabies." Now I had a new set of problems. The dog didn’t have a collar and I couldn’t go knocking on doors at that time of night. I couldn’t take it to school with me either, because we’re not allowed to keep animals in our rooms. I’m positive someone would notice me sneaking a big dog into my campus apartment. But I couldn’t leave her on the side of the road either; a car could hit her. So I did the only thing I could—I called my mom.

Fortunately my mom is a huge dog lover and golden retrievers are her favorites. Sometimes I think she loves our two dogs more than she loves her children. At any rate, she wasn’t too mad that I woke her up asking if it was ok to bring a dog home for the night. She reluctantly agreed. I was only about 20 minutes from my house, so I told her I would be there as quickly as possible.

In order to get the dog to my house, though, I first had to get her into the car. She wasn’t too eager to jump in, though I opened the door and encouraged her. Both my dogs love to ride and I didn’t have any food to coax her in, so I was at a loss about what to do. With some heavy encouragement and a few nudges, she climbed in the backseat. By the difficulty she had climbing onto the backseat I guessed she was older. But she settled right down and as I drove she stretched out and went to sleep.

When I got home my mom was downstairs in her pajamas and robe. Whoops. We hesitantly introduced this new "pet" to our two dogs. Everyone got along just fine, thankfully. In the light, I could see that the dog was very well cared for. It looked like she had just been groomed. My mom and I made a bed for her in the garage where she spent the night. I promised to come home after classes the next day to help my mom find the dog’s owners.

Meanwhile, my mom was secretly hoping we wouldn’t be able to find the owners and that we could keep her. I couldn’t really blame her. We found our first dog, a golden retriever named Sugar, on the side of the road, and she was a great pet. This dog that I found had the sweetest disposition and got along perfectly with our dogs. In spite of the hope of keeping her, my mom put up flyers near where I found our "new pet." Just a few hours later we got a call from the owner.

He said that he and his wife were outside gardening the day before when they looked up to find their dog, Sunshine, had wandered away. He spent hours looking for her that day and he and his wife spent a sleepless night worrying about her. He woke up early to continue his search when he found some of the flyers my mom had posted.

Shortly afterward the man and his wife arrived at my house. One of my golden retrievers, Chloe, came around the corner to greet the visitors first. Initially, the man thought that this was the dog we had found. My mom quickly showed him the dog we did find, which, happily, was his dog. He and his wife were practically in tears at the sight of their beloved pet. They said that Sunshine was eleven years old and that she meant the world to them.

The situation turned out perfectly despite a number of problems—stopping for a strange dog in the middle of the night, waking my mom up to bring it to my house, the dog’s nighttime introduction to my pets, and flyers left on telephone poles. Since I stopped to pick up Sunshine I’ve considered several times what could have happened to her had I not picked her up. Would someone else have picked her up? Would they have been able to find her owners? Would Sunshine have managed to wander home on her own? Would she have been hit by a car? Or been hurt by another animal? Anything could have happened to her.

Though it was a risk for me to approach Sunshine, it all worked out perfectly, like we were in a perfect world. It often seems as if nothing done with goodwill works out; that there are cautions against acting in kindness whether it’s to give a hitchhiker a ride or offer a homeless person cash. Not that these cautions are unwarranted; terrible things can and do happen. But things can also work out. My experience was a positive one, one where everyone benefitted and no one was hurt. It’s nice to hear stories where good things do happen, and even nicer to be part of them.

Read other articles by Katelyn Phelan