She was mine for a few weeks. Then she went home.
A man and his dog are on their way home.
The man’s looking forward to dinner and the dog’s tired after a long run. She trots along by her dad’s heels panting gently, her lolling tongue making her look like she’s smiling.
They turn into their road and the dog pulls at the leash, eager for a cool drink of water and a cuddle from mum.
A stray cat appears, adding a burst of power to the dog’s lunge.
A car, speeding too close to the pavement, nicks the dog’s head.
Little Tilly dies instantly. Aged two and a half.
The man crumples to his knees.
I fostered Tilly when she still had her baby teeth.
I’d rescued her from a family who were going to have her put down because they didn’t want the size of dog they thought she’d grow to.
In their defence, they’d rescued her from someone trying to sell her out of a plastic bag at the fruit & vegetable market.
Tilly was vulnerable with a boisterous side that showed itself in the moments she forgot to be shy. Her confidence grew as she explored her new world and it wasn’t long before she made my 4 year old dog, Max, her underling.
She took over his cushion and his toys, would have taken over his dinner too if I hadn’t staggered their mealtimes. She was a minxy typhoon my soft little Max had no idea how to handle.
I remember having a word with him once when he slunk over after another losing encounter with her authority.
“Maxi, you can’t let her push you around like that. Stick up for yourself, man.”
Max looked at me as if he pitied my ignorance.
I had Tilly vaccinated and groomed and took her to the doggy play centre for socializing.
She was nervous at first and huddled next to Max for protection. Max seized his chance for revenge and zoomed around playing with all his other dog friends, leaving her tiny and overwhelmed in the corner.
The staff adored her. Where Max has always been a fluffy happy bundle confident in everyone’s love, Tilly came with an air of vulnerability that made people want to look out for her.
They introduced her to the group and coaxed her out of her shell. Soon, she was part of the group. Playful and friendly with a high level of energy.
Over the next few days, I discovered she was terrified of children in a way that suggested some spawn of evil had done something horrible to her.
I promised to find her a home where nobody would hurt her and she’d be loved.
Lots of people offered to take her but I found myself unable to let her go to just anyone.
People often complain that dog rescue organizations impose too many hurdles for adopters to jump through. But if they could see some of the people who put themselves forward to home a dog, they’d understand why they have to.
I always met people in their home environment and ended up turning down everyone I saw. This included the woman who wanted me to tie up Tilly outside because she didn’t want dogs in the house, and a family who tried to hide their child when I told them Tilly needed to be in a child-free home.
Some people saved me a home visit by telling me up-front that they’d “return her” if she got sick.
After several weeks of looking, I had one couple left to see. My husband and I agreed that if it didn’t work out, then we would stop our search and adopt Tilly ourselves.
We went to visit the couple and as soon as I walked in, I knew this was it. Tilly was home.
The couple were perfect. It was like someone had reached into my head and created the exact replica of the home and family I wanted for Tilly.
It was just the two of them and they were looking for a companion for their own rescue dog.
Tilly bonded immediately with their dog. I’ve never seen anything like it — it was like two pieces of a broken heart slotting together. The two became sisters on that first visit, chasing each other around and collapsing in a heap to recover, one’s head on top of the other.
Poor Max sat forgotten by my feet.
I wanted a few more days with Tilly to say good-bye before handing her over. As we drove home, I wondered if I was making a mistake. After all, if the couple hadn’t worked out then I’d have adopted Tilly myself.
But Tilly’s connection with her new sister was undeniable. Deep in my heart, I knew Tilly had found her real home.
I found out about Tilly’s death quite by chance. I’d logged into Facebook after more than a year of not using it. The couple came up as a friend suggestion. I clicked on their profile hoping to see pictures of Tilly growing up.
Instead, I saw a memorial with her name on it and messages of sympathy from their friends.
Something fluttered in my heart but my brain was slow to understand.
I scrolled and saw photos of Tilly curled up with her sister on the sofa and on the grass and in the car. They’d been inseparable. In each photo, they lay with their front legs intertwined.
The thought hit me that the sisters couldn’t cuddle anymore.
My brain caught up and I cried.
I contacted the couple who told me what had happened. They blamed themselves.
They sent me some photos of Tilly and I could see I’d been right. Tilly had found her home. Her life had been idyllic.
For some reason, the universe had seen fit to create a moment that brought together a stray cat, a speeding car, and Tilly.
Didn’t the universe know that life was looking out for Tilly? It’s why she’d been rescued so many times already.
Funny how we never question good things coming together, only the ones that hurt.
A voice speaks in my head from time to time: If you’d kept her, she’d still be alive.
But you can’t run your life on “if.”
Originally posted on Medium in 2019 and 2022