A few years ago, our neighbors gave their female dog to a friend of theirs. Some time later, this old man died and the dog journeyed to our street, but our neighbors no longer lived there. As time went by, the dog got scrawnier and more forlorn. Soon she dug a hole under our fence and started to eat what our two dogs left in their dishes or on the ground nearby.

When winter arrived, she started to sleep in our old dog house at night. One day, my teenage son said to me: “She is going to die in our yard!” By this time, she was only skin and bones and looked like she barely had the strength to walk around anymore. So I started feeding her twice a day along with my other dogs, and soon she regained her strength and was out and about.

We named her Chiquita and adopted her until we could find her another owner. When my older son came to visit, his wife gave her extra attention, and the next time she came, Chiquita welcomed her with so much excitement that I felt jealous. After all, I was the one who saved her and was feeding and bathing her and all the rest! But Chiquita’s pure joy at my daughter-in-law’s visit got me thinking.

Sure, I’d saved Chiquita from hunger, maybe out of duty or pity, but I hadn’t shown her much love. That lesson stuck with me and I started to include her in the daily playtime with my other dogs. Soon, I began looking forward to her welcoming little jumps and cuddles every time I got home.

Eventually, the municipal kennel found a new home for her, and I agreed to let her go, but my heart ached for the next three days. It felt similar to when my grandchildren come for a vacation and I get accustomed to the sound of their happy feet and joyful gurgles, but then school starts again, and off they go back home. That sweet sorrowful squeeze in the heart lasts for a few days.

I still think of Chiquita, pray for her, and wonder where she is now. I sometimes look at the yard and miss her funny antics and assurances of love.