Saving a Small Life

The Community Chronicle, January 2020

A sad little dog with soulful brown eyes ran into my yard and begged to be picked up. From the innocent look of him, I doubted that he was vicious. Not with an old man’s face like his, etched with sorrow and a slight glimmer of hope.

Turned out that a friend of my neighbor gave her the scruffy little dog. My neighbor didn’t want him and boy, did he know it. Every day he snuck out of her yard and roamed the neighborhood looking for someone who would love him. He found me on his first foray. Though he was adorable I knew I couldn’t take him because I was pretty sure that my indoor cat would never tolerate a dog. I felt so bad for him. He had been owned by an older lady who was put into a nursing home. She asked a friend to find a good home for him. The man dumped him at my reluctant neighbor’s.

Discovering how often he visited me, my neighbor asked me twice to take him and twice I declined. Nevertheless, the little dog kept coming around. When he saw me, he would run toward me like a scene out of the movie “Ten” and whether I was ready or not, he would leap up to me from several feet away, confident that I would catch him. The moment I did he would shower me with doggie kisses. He made me laugh which made him grin and slap me with his wagging tail. 

As the months rolled by the little dog grew thinner and thinner, his fur a mess. When the warm weather hit fleas took up residence on every inch of his little body, even his face and around his eyes. Still, all he wanted was love, until the day he showed up on my porch, his eyes imploring me for help. I picked him up; his ribs protruded and his dry tongue hung out of his mouth. I ran into the house and brought out a big bowl of water. He slurped every bit and looked up at me for more. I returned with more water and a plate of cat food. When he finished, I put out a cat bed on the porch. He curled up in it and slept the rest of the day and night.

My sister brought over a bag of dog grooming tools she used on her own pups and topical flea medicine. We applied the flea medicine and the next day we began shaving and clipping away at his tangled fur. The more we shaved the more we marveled at the little being that emerged. We bathed him repeatedly and underneath the dirty gray and brown fur, we found a mostly white and silver dog. By the time we finished that dog was smiling. He wasn’t just happy; he was grateful and at that moment I decided he was staying with me.

I took him to the vet for a checkup and shots, where I found out he was about two years old and a Shnorkie (half mini schnauzer and half yorkie.) A few days later I walked him over to my neighbor and told her I was keeping him. She seemed glad to be rid of him. I asked if she knew his original name.

“Mitch,” she said.

“Mitch? Who names a dog Mitch?” I asked.

He was so sweet, my husband suggested we call him Mensch, the Yiddish word for someone who is good. We also thought that he might respond to Mensch because it sounded like Mitch. He knew his name the first time we said it.

Since then the cat has accepted him into the household and we built a fence around the backyard to keep him from running all over the neighborhood. He plays with his toys, sleeps in his little cat bed and warns us if the boogey man approaches our door.

I have never seen a dog grin as much as Mensch, and indeed, he does grin. It’s contagious. Every time I look at him, I smile too, and feel my heart race a little faster. It didn’t take long before we fell in love with one another, though I suspect that our mutual love affair began the day he found me. I knew that I had to save this little dog. He deserved a better life and everything in my being told me that I was the one to do it. Though initially, I thought that I was saving him, eventually I realized that it was he who saved me.