“It is just a practice run, Mum,” I said. “I have rung and they have three small ones. We should go so we know the ropes, when the time is right. We can have an ice cream on the way home.”
At the rescue home, there was only one small dog ready for viewing. “It’s just a practice run,” I reminded her. “We’re here to find out how the process works.”
We were shown into a small area with a high fence and a small dog with wavy white hair was brought and put in the cage with us.
Her hair is just the same colour and texture as Mum’s, I thought. Her name was Betty we were told.
Betty looked at me and then looked at Mum. She turned and turned about and then ran across and leaped into her lap. “Good choice,” I thought. About 30 minutes of cuddles followed. When the attendant returned, Mum excitedly said: “I’ll take her!” It was love at first sight.
“You can’t have her,” said the attendant. “This dog has special needs and we will be asking for three expressions of interest over the next two weeks for people who want to own her and we will be vetting the applicants.”
Oh no, I thought. Only a one-in-three chance that Betty will come home with us, and every other dog we see from now on will be less cute, less cuddly, older and less loveable than Betty.
“It’s just a practice run,” I reminded Mum again. We resolved to fill in that expression-ofinterest form.
Our family had moved house, city, state or country on average every two years, chasing worthwhile work, and it had not been possible to have animals. But Mum had wonderful memories of a childhood full of cats and dogs. We filled out the form as best we could, selling our credentials hard and hoping for the best.
An anxious three weeks passed, with Mum ringing regularly to see if a decision had been made. After about 20 days, an official came to check out the house, garden, gates and fencing and Mum in situ. Result: we could come and collect the dog the next day.
Mum said Betty was no name for a dog. She would call her Betsey Trotwood, from Charles Dickens’s David Copperfield.
And so Miss Betsey Trotwood came to stay. Every day the neighbourhood can see Mum and Betsey strolling down to the park and back.
It seems such a poor exchange — a small fluffy dog as substitute for Mum’s friend and husband of 70 years.
But it has been five years now and Betsey has been a much-loved ball of fluff, a lively presence in the house, and a constant companion for Mum. Truly, a gift from the universe.
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