When I first met Rhea, I was lying on indoor-outdoor carpet under a table at the Lucky Dog Retreat, trying to coax the scared little girl and her puppy sister Asa to have something—anything!—to do with me.
Thing were not going well.
Robin, the proprietor of Lucky Dog Retreat, accompanies Indianapolis’ animal control officers into what are gingerly described as ‘bad situations’ in an effort to keep some of our city’s hapless animals from being destroyed. A dark look came across Robin’s face as I asked her about Rhea’s and Asa’s origins. ‘There were too many human beings and too many dogs in that apartment’, she responded, clearly not wanting to go any deeper into her description. Rhea and Asa, alone among a tribe of dogs, were to be saved. Their fear of this big stranger lying on the floor suddenly sounded entirely reasonable, at least as far as Puppy Logic goes.
Rhea was improbable from the start, one of just two survivors out of ‘too many dogs’.
Rhea’s tough beginnings—she was clearly not treated well in her first, chaotic home—haunt her still.
My fiancée was half a country away. I described Rhea on the phone, the scared little monster with wan hope of a future. It was impossible to make Rhea sound like the Ideal Dog. Nothing about this waif’s life has ever come close to ideal. Karen was not absolutely opposed to adding a dog with a past to our collection of two Rhodesian Ridgebacks in the new life we would soon share. If we went through with this, Rhea would join a sister who had been the runt of her own boiling, brown tribe back in Costa Rica and a blind and badly abused brother Ridgeback from northern Indiana. Yet Karen’s assent could not be described as enthusiastic.
I was to marry an adventurous bride amid a pack of rejected dogs.
After a few more visits to Lucky Dog, Rhea came home. Improbably. We would live to regret our decision. And then, eventually, to celebrate it. And her.