Reader's Digest (Canada) - - Cover Story -

While re­cov­er­ing from a rare cir­cu­la­tory dis­or­der that made it dif­fi­cult for me to walk even 10 min­utes at a time, I de­cided to foster a dog to dis­tract my­self. I’d never cared for a pup be­fore, so I asked a lo­cal res­cue to avoid match­ing me with a big, ag­gres­sive or very en­er­getic an­i­mal.

A few days later, Hero—a scruffy, 22-kilo­gram street dog from the Cay­man Is­lands—ar­rived at my front door. He tried to at­tack ev­ery­one and any­thing that made him feel vul­ner­a­ble. I was ter­ri­fied by this un­pre­dictable dog and thought many times about re­turn­ing him to the res­cue—but when­ever I did, he would let me in a lit­tle, as if to say, “Give me just a bit more time.”

Even­tu­ally, Hero’s trust in me grew and we learned to over­come our fears to­gether. Dur­ing my ill­ness, I never could have imag­ined I’d be walk­ing three hours a day, and his ag­gres­sion is now al­most en­tirely un­der con­trol.

It took two years be­fore Hero started com­ing to me for af­fec­tion. But all of the train­ing and tears were worth it. There is no­body in my world as cher­ished as my dog—he re­ally is my Hero. –Nikki Saltz

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