They found her on the street in Littlestown, PA. How she got there, or how long she had been trying to make it on her own, no one knows. But it is not hard to imagine a pickup truck pulling over at the edge of town, the driver getting out to lower the tailgate and shove a puppy out onto the road. The pickup rolls away in a scattering of dust and gravel.
Littlestown, 10 miles south of Gettysburg, is a borough of approximately 4,000 people. Many of its residents are descendants of the thrifty, hard working German settlers who laid out the town in 1765. It has the characteristic features of small town America—restaurants, a shaved ice stand, grocery store, gas stations and churches. It is probably no more, and no less, hospitable to a lost or stray puppy than any other town of its size.
The puppy wandered, eating whatever garbage she could find. Dogs who had homes barked her away from their doors. She hung out and approached people. She had assets: a tail-wagging approach to life, a gentle nature, beautiful red-brown coat and golden brown eyes. But no one said, “Come home with me.”
Men—her original owner or others she met on the street, or both—must have treated her badly. She remembers. She warms up quickly to women, but barks and backs away when men approach her. Someone who was cruel to her must have worn a hoodie. When she sees a person she doesn’t know wearing a sweatshirt with the hood pulled up, she may back away, whimpering or barking.
Fall was coming on when she came to the attention of the county Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. She was lucky. Winter, even in southern Pennsylvania, is not kind to a lone dog. The SPCA staff has neither record nor recollection of how they learned about her, but in October, 2006, the SPCA van picked her up and transported her to the animal shelter in Gettysburg.
There, her personality saved her life. The SPCA tested her. In the Stare test, she averted her eyes, wagged her tail and kept her ears back; Sensitivity test, she leaned into the handler, wagging her tail; Tag test, she stood with her tail low and wagging and approached the tester when he stood still; Food Aggression test, she lifted her head and stopped eating when food was moved. The puppy aced the tests, winning a recommendation, “Appropriate for any house. Well-mannered.”
She was nine months old, and she was adoptable.
The shelter staff gave her a name, Greta, an identity as a Labrador retriever mix, shots and a flea treatment. Then, there was nothing for her to do but wait for a home and a pack of her own.
© 2010 by Donna R. Engle