I've always had big dogs - German Shepherds when I was younger - and so it was when I got out of the Army and started my civilian life as a young man with my life before me. One of the first things I did when I settled in Freeport to start my new life was to get a puppy, a mostly black German Shepherd that I named Shaffner.
Shaffner was a good dog, affectionate, obedient (sort of), and intensely loyal, but because he spent long days by himself at home I sensed he was lonely. He needed company, another dog to be his companion while his people were away. So I began to consider what kind of dog would make a good companion for him.
As it happens there was at about this time a family gathering at my parents' house - I was there and so was my sister, who had brought her small dog - I forget his name or breed, but he won my heart with his small-dog personality and antics. A dog just like him would be the perfect companion to cure Shaffner's blues, I reasoned.
This is where the story gets a little weird - I started thinking about getting such a dog but for some reason I determined it should be a small poodle, preferably a female. I don't know why I decided this, but I even went so far as to pick out a name for her - she would be called "Phoebe". And so the search began.
One day I called the local dog shelter to see if they had any likely candidates available for adoption. They didn't have any suitable dogs available at the time, but they did have a dog that had just arrived that they were concerned about - it was a female poodle who had been hit by a car. Her injuries were fairly minor but she was a nervous wreck and they didn't think she could tolerate life at the shelter for very long. I could come to look at her, but I couldn't adopt her until the required waiting period was over.
I did go to meet her, of course, and there was the most pathetic looking animal I had ever seen - her hair was matted and dirty, her eyes were full of gunk, she limped due to her injury, and she shook all over. So of course I fell in love with her. This was a long time ago, so the shelter's rules and regulations were more relaxed then they are now, and they agreed that the dog would do better in an environment that was less stressful than a kennel full of barking dogs. They said I could take her home right away if I agreed to return her if an owner showed up to claim her. No problem, so into the car we went and headed home.
As soon as I got in the car with her she got on my lap, settled down and stopped shaking - we both knew she had found her "forever home". When we got home and she met Shaffner it was apparent that they would become fast friends - and so they did. Then came the revelation that made me realize that none of this had been an accident or pure chance.
One of the first things this dog needed to be comfortable and happy was a nice bath, which I set out to give her right away. She had a collar on, one of those inexpensive leather jobs with a small metal plate where the name can be engraved. I took it off her before putting her in the tub and something caught my eye, so I looked at the collar more closely. On the name plate there was some barely legible writing - not engraving, but scratches like someone might make with a nail or something. When I got it in the light and held it at just the right angle I could barely make out the name inscribed on it: "Phoebe".
Some things are just meant to be.