Chapter 1

   Thelma was working at the hair salon halfway through an overlay when her husband called. She couldn’t pick up, her hands full. When she listened to the voice mail later, Steve said he was sorry.

   “Honey, I’m really sorry,” he said. She could hear talking in the background, and somebody laughing.

   “What did you do?” she thought, sitting in the lunchroom, making a sandwich, waiting for it to heat up in the toaster oven. He went on for more than a minute. She took a bite of the ham on rye sandwich. It was raining cats and dogs outside.

   “Oh, my God, what did he do?” she thought to herself louder than before.

   “She was walking in the street,” he said. “She looked like she was trying to get hit by a car.”

   “Oh, he rescued another dog,” Thelma realized.

   He said the dog looked so bad that he pulled over, turned around, went back, and picked her up. “She was just looking for someone to hit her,” he told Thelma over dinner. “She just wanted to die.” But there she was alive at their feet.

   Steve found her on the east side, on Superior Avenue on the far side of downtown. No collar and no tags. She was a purebred German Shepherd, between six and eight years old. He called his brother about the dog and he wanted her right away. But, because Steve’s brother has such a nasty, hateful girlfriend, she said no, and that was that.

   He brought her back to their house.

   Thelma fell in love with her. “She’s so sweet I can’t stand it. I don’t know if I’m going to be able to give her to anybody.”

   She curled up on the sofa between them when they watched TV. If they got up at the same time, she didn’t know which one of them to follow. Wherever they went she was right behind them. She lay next to their claw tooth tub when Thelma bathed. She had to step over the dog, which was hard to do with Telly’s short legs.

   She was wondering what the dog’s tale was.

   Thelma was going up the stairs to take a bath, stripping as she went, when she found out. She was taking her belt off when the dog almost pooped herself. She could not get away from Thelma fast enough. She stumbled down a few steps before recovering her balance, and disappeared fast

   Telly muttered “son-of-a bitch” under her breath. All because I took my belt off. How about that?

   When they first got her, she was depressed and miserable. She wouldn’t eat for a week. At first, Thelma and the dog shared rice chips. She wouldn’t eat anything else, and she wouldn’t touch dog food, but then she got back in the swing of eating chow.

   She had a bad ear infection, but, luckily, Thelma had ear medication left over from other dogs they had rescued.

   Their vet came over to check her out because she had lumps on her chest. Tracy said they were probably fatty lumps and nothing to worry about. She ran the dog’s blood, just in case.

   Steve put a call in to the pound and left a description of the dog and his phone number with them, but no one ever called back. Thelma didn’t know if she was going to be able to give her to anybody, but thought she had to find her a home, even if it was only with another dog rescuer. Better than the one she ran away from.

   They put up found dog fliers with other rescuers, passing them to each other, by word of mouth and on Facebook. They found a fine home for her. The day after Steve found the German Shepherd, Thelma tagged her sister on to a Yorkie.  She had had to put her own Yorkie down.

   “I want the dog,” she said when she got hold of Telly.

   She called about the Yorkie.

   “When can I grab the dog?”

   She drove to Elyria that night and picked up the eleven-month dog. He was going to be Thelma’s sister and nephew’s Christmas present, but they had to fix him up first, in more ways than one.

   An elderly woman had bought the dog from a breeder, but she got sick and ended up in a nursing home. Her idiot kids locked the baby Yorkie in the garage for four weeks. They fed him, sure, throwing some food into the garage now and then, but they neglected it. He went from being spoiled rotten to having no one, no matter how rotten they were.

   Finally, a neighbor of the kids took the Yorkie, but decided the dog was vicious.

   “Oh, it’s vicious, vicious, it snarls at me, and lunges at me,” the lady said.

   “All seven pounds of it” Telly said.

   “Yes, he won’t let me pass out of the kitchen.”

   “Just give me the dog,” she said.

   People are so stupid, she thought. Sometimes I hate them. Dogs never bite me, only people. Honestly, I’d rather hang out with dogs.

   Most of the dog’s problem was that he had never been neutered. That was going to take a lot of his attitude out of him right there. The rest of it was they let him act like that. You don’t let a dog act like he wants to. You are the alpha dog. He learned quick who the alpha dog was in their house.

   When they’re aggressive you have to show them that you’re more dominant than they are.

   Thelma said no, and he growled, and went to bite, and she picked him right up and put him on his back. If it’s a little dog, you put them on their backs. If it’s a big dog, you press on their backs until you hear the sigh of release.

   “We don’t do that in this house,” she explained.

   She put him in a cage.

   “Ugh,” he said.

   But cage training is better than force. After that he was a delight, running around on the couch, playing with his rope and toy. When she gave him to her sister, she explained how to be with him, how to restrain him when he acts out, and to make sure she had a cage for him, just in case.

   The next day Steve came home with another Yorkie.

   “It’s for my cousin,” he said.

   Steve’s cousin Clint had been a heroin addict who had to have his legs amputated.

   “He isn’t still using, is he?” Thelma asked.

   “He needs a dog,” Steve said, and that was all he said.

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