We Are Not Alone
After my husband died suddenly from a heart attack on the tennis court, my world crashed around me. My six children were 10, nine, eight, six, three and 18 months, and I was overwhelmed with the responsibilities of earning a living, caring for the children and just plain keeping my head above water.
I was fortunate to find a wonderful housekeeper to care for the children during the week, but from Friday nights to Monday mornings, the children and I were alone, and frankly I was uneasy. Every creak of the house, every unusual noise, any late-night phone call-all filled me with dread. I felt incredibly alone.
One Friday evening I came home from work to find a big beautiful German shepherd on our doorstep. This wonderful strong animal gave every indication that he intended to enter the house and make it his home. I, however, was wary. Where did this obviously well-cared-for dog come from? Was it safe to let the children play with a strange dog? Even though he seemed gentle, he still was powerful and commanded respect. The children took an instant liking to "German" and begged me to let him in. I agreed to let him sleep in the basement until the next day, when we could inquire around the neighborhood for his owner. That night I slept peacefully for the first time in many weeks.
The following morning we made phone calls and checked lost-and-found ads for German's owner, but with no results. German, meanwhile, made himself part of the family and good-naturedly put up with hugs, wrestling and playing in the yard. Saturday night he was still with us, so again he was allowed to sleep in the basement.
On Sunday I had planned to take the children on a picnic. Since I thought it best to leave German behind in case his owner came by, we drove off without him. When we stopped to get gas at a local station, we were amazed to see German racing to the gas station after us. He not only raced to the car, he leaped onto the hood and put his nose on the windshield, looking directly into my eyes. No way was he going to be left behind. So into the station wagon he jumped and settled down in the back for the ride to the picnic. He stayed again Sunday.
Monday morning I let him out for a run while the children got ready for school. He didn't come back. As evening came and German didn't appear, we were all disappointed. We were convinced that he had gone home or been found by his owners, and that we would never see him again. We were wrong. The next Friday evening, German was back on our doorstep. Again we took him in, and again he stayed until Monday morning, when our housekeeper arrived.
This pattern repeated itself every weekend for almost 10 months. We grew more and more fond of German and we looked forward to his coming. We stopped thinking about where he belonged-he belonged to us. We took comfort in his strong, warm presence, and we felt safe with him near us. When we saw Germ
an come to attention and perk up his ears, and heard that low growl begin deep in his throat, we knew we were protected.
As German became part of the family he considered it his duty to check every bedroom to be sure each child was snug in bed. When he was satisfied that the last person was tucked in, he took up his position by the front door and remained there until the morning.
Each week, between German's visits, I grew a little stronger, a little braver and more able to cope; every weekend I enjoyed his company. Then one Monday morning we patted his head and let him out for what turned out to be the last time. He never came back. We never saw or heard from German again.
I think of him often. He came when I needed him the most and stayed until I was strong enough to go on alone. Maybe there is a perfectly natural explanation for German's visits to our house-maybe his owner went away on weekends-maybe. I believe German was sent because he was needed, and because no matter how abandoned and alone we feel, somehow, somewhere, someone knows and cares. We are never really alone.