As a child, I couldn't understand the excitement over a visitor. We had plenty of friends, and between my mother's club meetings and Daddy's "pop-in" guests, the iced tea pitcher and coffee serving set were rarely idle. But as I aged, I understood my parents' fuss and excitement.
We lived in a ranching and farming community. Dirt beneath the fingernails and hand calluses were badges of honor, each testimonies of the owner's hard work and determination for success. The people in our neighborhood didn't have time for self-indulgences--a visit to a neighbor's house was a treat. When they visited our home, my father made sure they enjoyed every minute.
Daddy extended the courtesy to four-legged friends too. Dogs, abandoned by their owners, left to feast on smashed insects embedded in the highway, were frequent visitors to our home.
"It's only for a short time, just till we find a new home for it," he'd say. "We'll make it comfortable until then."
Mama would sigh, roll her eyes, then search for a blanket for our new friend. She knew the dog would never leave, and it didn't.
Is it any wonder I adopted that same philosophy as a grown-up?
Dozens of animals have paraded through my adult life, each walking up the long driveway to my house on the hill. There were so many at one point, I began to think people were deliberately dumping pets at my driveway, knowing I'd take them in.
With each new arrival, I'd bat my eyes at my husband and say: "It's only for a short time, just till we find a new home for it. "We'll make it comfortable until then."
I could never find homes suitable, and each new friend came into my heart and "stayed awhile".
The other day a Pit Bull/Great Dane mix appeared in my yard. A wave of nausea washed over me when I saw the massive body was showing signs of starvation. Hope gleamed in the dog's eyes as I filled a bowl with dog food. It was half devoured before the pan touched the ground. We sat together, me stoking her giant head while she pushed it harder into my hand. My heart sank as I listened to her contented sighs. There was no way I could keep this dog. I'd had a Pit before, during my childhood, and the experience wasn't good--all my chickens were killed.
Now I had an outdoor cat, Chihuahua pup, rabbits, and baby calves in a nearby pasture; each fair game to a dog whose history I knew nothing of.
Later that afternoon, I saw her watching me through the screen door. I smiled, unable to resist the cocked head and soulful brown. "Wanna come in and stay for awhile," I joked, stepping onto the front porch.
There was nothing but the chirping of birds and a warm spot on the concrete. "Oh crap, no!" I shouted. With all the grace of an elephant on ice skates, I flung the door open and stumbled back inside.
There, sitting beside my younger son on our sectional sofa was the stray. We exchanged looks, and the chase was on--me running after the Dane on freshly-polished hardwood floors, the family Chihuahua pup in the rear, doing his best Doberman impersonation.
I ripped of my belt, and doing my best not to moon my puppy, looped it around the dog's neck and escorted her outside while hubby held the door open.
I made a phone call a little later, and a friend agreed to foster the Pit Bull/Great Dane until a "forever home" could be found.
"Don't ask her to 'Come in and stay awhile,'" I advised as they loaded the dog. "She'll take it literally!"