DEAR JOAN: On Dec. 22, I was standing in my kitchen when a small dog on my neighbor's front porch got my attention. It looked like it was trying to get in. Then it ran next door and tried there before it took off.
I went out and called it to me. It came to me immediately. I'd never seen it before. She was small, long-haired, extremely thin and soaking wet. I gathered her up, took her in my house and wrapped her in a towel.
It was then I could see her fur was extremely matted in big clumps and she had large patches of pink and black skin with no hair at all. She was sweet, affectionate and good-natured. We dried her off and fed her.
My husband and I took her to our vet. She was microchipped. Her name was Lily. She was 3 years old and she had been reported missing in April. Good news, or so we thought. The phone numbers on record didn't work but there was an address in Santa Clara, about seven miles away. We drove over to the house but found out that the owners didn't live there anymore.
We added on to her name and started calling her Lily Bell Chewbacca because of her resemblance to the "Star Wars" character. We then had to make a decision. Take her to the Humane Society or keep her. We decided to keep her for now, maybe for good, but she needed medical attention.
We drove back to our vet and they did a preliminary checkup. They clipped her matted fur and gave us special shampoo and creme rinse along with antibiotics. We took her home, cleaned her up and fed her some more. Her skin had been damaged somehow; maybe burned. It was actually flaking and peeling off her back.
Home Again, the microchip company, kept trying to find her rightful owner and eventually they did. The owners were contacted and given our phone number. They lived just on the next block from us. We spoke on the phone. They said they didn't want her back.
What? They said they hadn't seen her in eight months and couldn't take care of her anyway. The owner even came over to our house Dec. 26 to give us her vaccination records. Lily Bell was a Yorkshire terrier/shih tzu mix and a beautiful golden brown color. I made an appointment with a groomer for the following week. I bought her a new harness and crate and special treats.
My other two dogs didn't mind her a bit.
After the holidays, I took Lily back to the vet. She wasn't eating. They suspected she got into something she wasn't supposed to. They wanted to keep her, take some X-rays and see if they could see something. They did. She had a cancerous tumor in her small intestine. It wasn't a good option for surgery or chemotherapy, they said. What did I want them to do? I was paralyzed. The decision had to be made.
Lily was adorable, fluffy, affectionate and smart. She was with us just 10 days and she stole my heart, as they so easily do. People, including my husband, think I'm a little crazy for taking in a stray and spending a substantial amount of money that we can't afford. Maybe I'm not very practical, but when you look out your window and see a small wet dog in the rain by itself, what do you do?
DEAR DONNA: I would hope everyone would do what you did, but too often, for whatever reason, we turn away from animals in need. You may not have had her for long, but she will live in your heart forever.
Lily is now memorialized on my "In memoriam" board, created to honor loved pets. Find it at Pinterest.com/gardenjoan.
Contact Joan Morris at firstname.lastname@example.org; or P.O. Box 8099, Walnut Creek, CA 94596.