“My god, this dog has either never seen stairs or is so afraid of climbing them that I’ll have to carry her.” I pointed at the golden-brown pit-bull mix.
“She’s got to be pushing a hundred pounds.” Tina urged the dog upstairs.
“This is the first overweight abused dog I’ve seen.”
Tina pointed at the bruises on her back, “We see well fed, but perennially shackled dogs all the time. She’s been hit repeatedly.” She rubbed the dog’s ear. “Don’t worry little girl, we’ll smother you with love.”
After we cajoled her upstairs and into my apartment she dashed under my bed. All the coaxing couldn’t get her out from under there. Well into the night, the dog’s water bowl and food remained untouched.
Then in the middle of the night I heard her creep out and go to the food bowl. Poor girl, she couldn’t take the hunger anymore. No sooner had she finished eating, she was back under my bed.
Tina called me next morning. “How did it go last night? Do you think you can socialize her enough to help her get adopted?”
I knelt by my bed. The dog’s empty scared eyes darted away from mine. “It’s not possible for me. She’s scared of everything. She cowers and doesn’t respond to anything. Somebody sure has done a number on her.”
“Maybe I should take her.” Tina started. “She’d do better around my handicapped dog.”
“You’re the expert. I’ve never seen a dog this scared in my two years in dog rescue.” I laid out my palm flat.
“What should we name her on her adoption papers?” Tina was in her adoption and fostering supervisor mode.
“I have the perfect name for her. There were a bunch of C grade stunt movies made in India in the 1950’s they all had a female lead stunt woman by the name of Fearless Nadia.”
Tina guffawed. “Nadia then?”
“No. Fearless Nadia.”
Tina choked on her laughter. “You might be new at our shelter but you are the most optimistic guy.”
Thus began the tale of Fearless Nadia. The endless hours Tina spent showering love and affection on her; the back breaking sit-ins with under Tina’s bed to help her come out from under there. Several times during the process I lost faith, but Tina’s dogged determination made her go on and on…and on.
Then one day I walked into Tina’s house and Fearless Nadia greeted me in all her glory; a wild wagging tail, an eager-to- kiss- tongue and an eagerness to be pet. In five months we’d just evened the playing field between her and the other rescue dogs and it still seemed like a long way away from finding a home. Both of us were concerned with how she would react to people she didn’t know.
I was at work one day when Tina showed up un-announced at my office door. “Somebody’s interested in adopting Nadia.”
My heart nearly leaped out of my chest.
“Only problem is they’re in Utah and can’t get her.” Tina cupped her mouth.
“We’ll drive her there.”
“Inder, I knew you’d say this.” Her eyes smiled.
“You’ve done so much. We can’t let a few hundred miles snatch the only chance she might ever get at having a family.”
The landscape changed a few times from Phoenix to Salt Lake City. She lounged on the back seat; waiting, anticipating, hoping- enacting all the rituals of expectation that a migrant like me felt when I had moved to the US.
Her new family loved her instantly. A little boy to play with, an adolescent girl that would care for her, a mother, waiting to dole unconditional love to the new family member. She couldn’t have asked for more.
Tina stared out the window with her palm covering her face. Six months of loving Fearless Nadia had drained her. Her tears had not stopped for an hour. Every adoption tests a rescue workers heart. The joy and the sorrow, the elation and the loneliness push their heart to fluctuations my heart was not equipped to endure.
My trance was broken by the sound of a police siren. I hit the brakes and pulled over.
“Do you know how fast you were going?” The burly officer pulled up his pants
by the belt buckle. “Where are you driving from?”
When we explained the situation to him his scowl softened. “Thank you for caring
for dogs the way you do. What do you think makes Fearless Nadia so fearful?”
Tina wiped her cheek. “I think she was abused so badly that she forgot what it feels like to be a dog.”
The officer squinted. “And you suppose she remembers now?”
Tina sniffed. “Yes she does officer. Love changes everything, she’s joyful now and her new family will cherish her.”
“I’m going to let you get away with a warning this time just because my partner Sgt. Scott asked me to.” The officer touched the brim of his hat. “Now you two be careful and drive slow.”
I started the engine and eased past his parked cruiser parked by the freeway. The red decal on the white door read ‘Utah State Trooper- K-9 Unit.’ And staring out the window with his tongue hanging out his mouth was Sgt. Scott.