After our older dogs, Jake, a black Labrador, and Sydney, our first Australian shepherd; passed on to doggie heaven, we adopted an eight-week-old, Aussie, we named Donovan. He was a beautiful, puppy with lots of splotches of white and copper and loving, amber eyes.
It didn’t take long to pick up on his strengths and weaknesses. Sydney, our first Aussie, learned every word we spoke. My husband and I had started spelling. Sydney picked up on our spelling and we laughed when he recognized our words. We no longer had secrets.
Donavan didn’t have the ability to learn as fast as we expected. We loved his sweet temperament, but his hyper-activity kept us on our toes. He didn’t learn his limitations and would leave our front yard to go visit with the neighborhood children.
We decided Donavan needed a playmate. A friend sent us a brief email brief–“This male dog needs to be rescued.”
The photo of a stunning, tri-colored Australian shepherd with one pastel, Carolina-sky, blue eye and other dark amber filled my screen. The markings on his face looked as if they had been hand-painted.
Straight through the computer screen, the Aussie’s eyes connected to mine. Curiosity defeated my reservations. I inhaled, requested information, and hit ‘send.’ What could a few questions hurt?
Two days later, we arrived at the owners’ home. A teen girl eventually caught the terrified dog and dumped him on their front yard. He shuddered being touched, but Murphy held him. We agreed he needed immediate help.
Driving home, Murphy grinned. “There’s a term, “Mulligan,” golfers use when they take a, ‘Do Over.’ What about naming him, Mulligan?”
I cradled Mulligan. “Perfect! He’s getting a second chance.”
My husband added an electric fence to our large backyard and I trained the dogs to stay in our yard. Mulligan understood but Donavan was resistant. As I worked upstairs in my office, writing, Donavan crept across the fence, and Mulligan followed. I went outside to check on the dogs and they were gone. I caught my breath and my heart trembled.
Friends helped Murphy and me look for our dogs. We lived out in the country, with lots of open land. Murphy started searching close to home. My friends walked and drove around different streets, calling them by name. As the evening grew dark, we knew there was no more time to look. Terrified, we hoped they’d come home for dinner. But that didn’t happen.
In the morning, our wonderful friends started looking again. We walked the empty fields and in the woods around the neighborhood. A few hours later my phone dinged. Murphy called and I nervously jabbered about all of our friends looking for the dogs.
He caught his breath and added. “I found Donavan miles away on a very busy street.” He paused and I heard him inhale. “He was hit by a truck and is dead on the side of the road. I’m bringing him home. I have no idea where Mulligan is.” And he hung up.
I stood on the driveway and waited for him to return. We both cried while Murphy buried Donavan.
“I’m going to look for Mulligan.” I drove up our long street and noticed a black dog curled-up in a grassy front yard. I pulled onto the drive way and got out of the car. I called “Mulligan.” His head lifted. He was so exhausted from running he didn’t move.
I sat next to Mulligan and poured my bottle of water into a bowl I’d brought. He slurped happily and after a few minutes he stood. Before we adopted Mulligan, we had learned he had been hit by a man with a stick. It didn’t take long to understand his fear of Murphy.
Two weeks later, Murphy said, “Mulligan is probably going to be your dog and I am going to need a puppy.”
My heart sank. “Okay. I understand.”
Murphy researched a litter of Aussie puppies and we drove to Georgia. Mulligan rode with us in the car and he played with the other dogs while Murphy chose his new puppy. He picked a black and white-merle Aussie. I drove home and Murphy held Slater, who looked like a piece of marble slate.
At home, Murphy sat on the den floor, and played tug with Slater. Silently, Mulligan left his safe place under our dining room table. He stood at the opening to the kitchen, spying on Murphy and Slater interacting. A couple of minutes passed. Mulligan slinked through the kitchen, sloth-like, and slipped into the den. His eyes never shifted from Murphy. I sat in my chair holding my breath. I didn’t say a word. My hand covered my racing heart.
Mulligan sauntered up to Murphy, plopped his bottom on the floor, inches from Murphy’s torso. Mulligan’s eyes focused on Slater and then back to Murphy. His head tilted with each of their playful movements. Seconds later, Mulligan leaned over Murphy and licked his forehead, ears and cheek.
Murphy stopped playing with Slater and his eyes filled with emotion, as did mine.
This had to have been a present from above. An episode Murphy nor I could ever have imagined. Murphy had broken through Mulligan’s fear with Slater’s help.
These two dogs have been brothers for eleven years. Our days with these two special dogs are counting down. Mulligan turned into a very loving and secure dog. Slater had cancer and has totally recovered.
We are enjoying every moment with these guys and will forever cherish our memories.
by Sheri Levy