…no one knows for sure what this dog’s first chance looked like. It probably wasn’t horrible, no excessive beatings or long-term neglect. Someone put time and effort into him, and it showed. For a youngster, he was well mannered.

Most likely, he’d been purchased as a cute puppy. That attraction wore off about the time his boredom and back-yard escapes began. After one-too-many escapades, his first owner…probably…just never bothered to pay his bail and reclaim him from the pound.

Makai walked in the animal shelter door, the dog sat quietly and watched.

“This is Cheetoh,” the assistant said.

‘What a silly name for a beautiful animal,’ Makai thought, while the dog continued watching him, barely blinking.

Many dogs, at this stage in their lives, are frantic for acceptance. They leap, bark, wag their tails and, often, make a nuisance of themselves. Seeing through that abundance of excitement is part of Makai’s job. He’s a facilitator for a program assisting juvenile offenders in gaining self confidence through the care, maintenance and training of a dog. When finished the dog is adopted to a waiting family.

Not every person or dog makes the cut to get into this program. Of those who do, most have never experienced unconditional acceptance. For them, canine or human, Makai is their second chance.

This dog in the shelter showed none of the usual excitement. He sat and watched. Makai took his lead and they walked to the shelter’s exercise yard. There, they played. For a young dog, he was calm, but bright and responsive.

‘Taking this dog into the program is a no-brainer,’ Makai thought and said to the shelter assistant, “Of course, we want him.”

He had a young man in mind who might be interested in training this animal.

“I’ve always wanted a dog like that,” the young man exclaimed, “but I want to change his name to Taz.”

That was Thursday, the day Cheetoh became Taz…

On Friday morning Makai went to work and headed for the dog kennels. He paused and said “Hello” to the newest canine trainee. Then he went about his day, but found himself repeatedly veering in the direction of the dog runs and inquiring of Taz’s new trainer about the animal’s care and paperwork.

Each time Taz wasn’t involved in training demands, he watched Makai’s every move. The kennel staff noticed. However, the object of Taz’s attention was remained oblivious.

At the end of the day Makai was ready to go home when a couple of volunteers pulled him aside. They explained they’d seen Taz watching his every move and told him it might be a good idea if he took the dog himself.

NAW! No way,”  he said, justifying his quick response with a lack of free time.

Makai was going through a rough patch in his life. Some months before, he’d put his favorite old dog down and split up with his wife, then his father died. He felt as though his heart had been pulled through his belly button. Inside, he was an open and bleeding wound, raw and painful.

Months later, pain slowly dimming, he decided, as a coping mechanism, his life would be easier just doing the ‘guy’ thing, alone and by himself. He’d be fine and if someone didn’t believe it, all they need do was ask him and he’d explain, “I’m good, thank you very much.”

Makai relaxed and changed his mind about the dog, he said, “Maybe, I’ll just take him for the weekend.”

The entire trip home, Taz watched as Makai drove. When they arrived, the dog walked into the house and immediately fit into the daily routine. His manners were excellent and he was completely house trained. His sons were thrilled with the addition…however temporary…to their home.

To be fair, there were some close calls when Taz got near the chicken coop. Makai let him know, right quick, that attacking any inhabitants of the house, including chickens, was unacceptable behavior.

For a couple days they weren’t sure the dog would understand they didn’t want him chasing chickens. However, for Makai this was non-negotiable. On the third day of Makai’s long weekend, Taz…’got it’…and, for the dog, the chickens no longer existed.

Conflicted, Makai returned to work knowing in his heart he wanted the dog, but his head told the story that it …might…work.

Arriving at the training center, he sought the young man who’d named Taz. Not knowing what reaction to expect, he explained the situation and how he thought Taz might work out as his dog.

The young man’s smile brightened the room. He said, “No problem, he’s a good dog. You keep him. I’m going to be in here serving a long sentence and can always get another dog. Besides, did you think I didn’t notice how he was always watching you?”

Makai smiled as he drove home that night while Taz watched every move he made from the passenger seat.

Sleep well, we’ll talk again…

Authors Note…

At this writing, Makai and Taz are best buddies. Their active lives…skiing, hiking, camping, swimming…revolve around each other. He says, ” I’ve never seen a dog who enjoys swimming completely submerged as much as he does…the first time he did it, I was really starting to worry before he came back to the surface.”

Months later, there’s news…

One day the duo were walking through a nearby community when Taz disobeyed a command and caught the attention of a bake shop owner. Apologizing for his dog, Makai met a single mother who also likes dogs. Their conversation continued.

“I can’t believe it,” he says. “She’s someone I can talk with for hours with pretense or effort.”

Makai doesn’t know where this budding relationship is going, He’s pretty excited, though.

And a year after that, more good news…

Makai and the bake shop lady are married now. They and their dogs, Ruby and Taz are doing just fine. So, please folks, give Makai a gentle and kind thought as he rebuilds his life…with Taz’s help…into his own second chance.


Hugging a Dog Paperback – 1

This is just one story from my book ‘Hugging a Dog.’ If you’d like to read more or share with your loved ones, it is available in these bookstores. Click the links for access.

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