Morgan: How a Chance Rescue Helped Heal Us All

By: Marilyn L. Davis

“May I tell you a wonderful truth about your dog? … You have been given stewardship of what you in your faith might call a holy soul.”  Dean Koontz, A Big Little Life: A Memoir of a Joyful Dog

 

Today is the first day in seventeen years that Morgan is not sleeping beside my bed when I get up. There’s no immediate rush to get her outside.

I’ve simply made the coffee and taken care of Jackson, satisfying his insistent purring demand that he get his wet food. Now he’s in his confiscated spot, the top of the letter tray, next to my computer.

morgan by the deskI don’t know that I realized how quiet it would be writing without Morgan. She’s not sleeping next to my desk and dreaming her dog dreams and making her sleep noises. She’s not barking to go outside. She’s not checking to see if I’m getting a treat for her when I refill my coffee mug.

I’m writing today to pay tribute to a dog who loved others and me with a fierce devotion and understanding of what humans need.

I moved to Dahlonega, GA .Its appeal was the quiet solitude. I’d opened a women’s recovery home in 1990 and drama, chaos, and acting out behaviors typified any given day. So when a friend told me about a little ramshackle cabin across the road from him, I quickly took advantage of the opportunity to remove myself at least for a few hours every day from the demands of others.

The cabin sat on 250 acres of woods, off the main road into Dahlonega. Deer, ducks, traveling to and from other climates, squirrels, and chipmunks seemed to accept the house as part of the landscape and frequented the yard. Eight miles up the side of the mountain was the town; the typical southern square with the courthouse in the middle, upscale and down-home eateries, and quaint smell-good fudge, candle, and bath product shops lining the side streets. There’s a college there, so bicycles are a common form of transportation. Since Dahlonega was the first source of gold in Georgia, there are the requisite festivals and leaf changing celebrations in October.

Then there was the Walmart, same as you’d find anywhere. Weekly groceries gotten,  I approached my truck, and heard crying. At first, I couldn’t identify where the sound was coming from; but as I walked around to the passenger’s side, there was a tiny puppy huddled under a cart in the return section. All caramel fur, shaking, eyes wide and afraid. When I knelt down to pick up the puppy, I did so because I thought it would get run over, and that there was probably some poor child looking for their lost dog. All I had to do was find them.

I walked the entire lot that night then finally put her in my truck and went in to see if anyone had come to the service desk about losing a puppy. No one had, but I left my phone number.

When I got home, I called a friend who volunteered at the animal shelter. I knew that she took rescues, and I would either give the puppy to her or, at least, find out what to do with her. Janet told me to bathe her, dry her and then let her sleep with me that night.

I never had a dog, except one when I was a small child and too young to appreciate the love and responsibility of a pet. She started chasing chickens when we moved to Tennessee and was promptly shipped back to Indiana. So, now, forty-five years later, I had this ball of fur, all clean, wrapped in a towel with brown eyes staring up at me.

Without thinking, I gave her the Eskimo greeting and rubbed my nose on her snout. She then licked my face, and I knew that I would not give her away. I can’t explain the bond that those simple gestures created that night.

The next day I made an appointment with the vet and was now officially a dog owner. Back to the Walmart for treats, rope pulls, balls, and squeaky toys. She didn’t like any of the toys, but she did like the treats.

What she liked was to be as close to me as possible. On the couch if I was reading or watching a movie, on the bed if I was sleeping, under my feet if I was cooking, or laying next to the tub if I was bathing.

I knew she needed a name, but I couldn’t come up with one, so I asked my granddaughter, Bailey if she had a name. She named her, Morgan, after her best friend. She was four and thought a puppy was just one more thing that made visiting me special.

Morgan started coming to work with me. Now she had playmates around the clock, people to walk her in the park, and she demonstrated that uncanny ability of dogs to sense when someone needs love and attention.

Each woman at the house was asked in process groups how she was doing. Whether from years of denial, inability to articulate a problem or shame, many women would just answer, “I’m all right.” Morgan had a sense of who was not all right, or who needed to talk even when they were hesitant. On more than one occasion, I took her chosen spot on the floor as an indication of who needed more time to share, or who would need extra encouragement to open up and talk about what was bothering them.

When some women perceived the question as threatening and gave a defensive answer, Morgan would sometimes get up and put her head on their knees as if to say, “I’m with you, go ahead and talk.” I can’t remember a time that the woman didn’t immediately pet her and then pour out their heart. Morgan didn’t err in her assessments.

I learned to share her love because I knew that no matter who Morgan paired up with that day or who she singled out for extra support, she would come home with me.

When the house closed in 2011, Morgan and I began a time where it was just the two of us. Again, she didn’t leave my side. I learned about living in the moment and enjoying the present from her.morgan 2 No matter that I’d seen her that morning, when I returned from a group or other work responsibilities, she would jump up and greet me and those eyes that let me know I was special to her.

At 17, that didn’t happen every time, but enough to let me know she was still glad to see me and her life was good.

That changed this week, she collapsed, couldn’t walk and overnight more of her face was white. Her eyes looked sad and tired, and then she wouldn’t eat or drink. Tests ruled out certain things, but not others. I felt guilty leaving her alone on Christmas to spend time with my family, so that night, I slept on the floor with her as she couldn’t make it to the bedroom without falling. At fifty pounds, she hadn’t slept in my bed for years, but always beside it.

I talked to her during the night to let her know how much she had enriched my life and how her loving spirit helped other women recover. She was too weak to roll over for her favorite belly rubs, so I moved to accommodate her, just as she had for countless others during her life.

I could not wish her well nor prolong her life; Morgan was tired and passed. Her grave is newly dug thanks to my two sons-in-laws and it’s at the edge of the woods that she liked to view.

like morgan

One of the last pictures I took of her was when she just stopped in the yard and looked into the woods. I know there’s a connection to it for her. Our nighttime bathroom breaks were extended if the owl was hooting, so I know Morgan rests near sounds and smells and creatures of interest.

I intend to get a marker to honor her. I’m crying as I write this, but it is important to pay tribute to that caramel puppy who brought me such joy over the years. Thank you, Morgan, for being you. Goodbye.

ribbon break

When I posted the news of Morgan’s passing on Facebook, many of the graduates of North House relayed their Morgan stories of how she helped them open up about their secrets, their shame, and suffering.

My daughter talked about Morgan crossing over the Rainbow Bridge. I was not familiar with that poem, nor calling our animals our fur babies, so if you have lost a fur baby, perhaps the Rainbow Bridge poem can help ease the pain of their passing.

 

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13 comments

  1. Oh my, it seems that Morgan and Raven passed just within a week of eachother. You are truly a wonderful person to take her in and give her the love she deserved. thank you for sharing your story. I cried a few tears reading this.

    Like

    • Hi, Julia. Both Raven and Morgan made our lives richer. I don’t know if people who don’t have a pet can completely relate to our loss, but I still miss her since she passed in 2015. While I love Jackson, my cat, there is something about a dog that has other relationship qualities, and when the dog is “different”, it forces us to be a better person. So, I’m eternally grateful for 17 years with her and the lessons she taught me.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Lydia; thank you for reblogging. Morgan was just such an exceptional dog. I miss her and keep thinking she’ll come around the corner, or make her dream noises as I write. Alas, that won’t happen.

      But through news of her passing, graduates are reconnecting on Facebook and we’re planning a memorial and reunion in the spring. We’ll hold it at the park where many of them walked her and she learned to be social with other dogs.

      Again, thank you, Lydia. Hope your new Trucker’s blog is doing well, and you’re a valuable asset to the writing community.

      Happy New Year.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Anything for you Marilyn! The memoir was truly special and touched my heart. I know you are hurt tight now. Just know that I love you and I’m here for you always. Thanks for the compliment.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I never met Morgan personally, at least, not that I remember; however, I knew her well because of my partnership as writers with Marilyn. Often when Marilyn and I would chat on the phone or do a problem solving, hour-long phone call, Marilyn would say, “There`s Morgan at the door, I gotta let her out.” I remember (laughing at myself now) in the beginning wondering who this kid Morgan was. It took me a while to understand that Marilyn was referring to her dog. Last week, I believe it was, Marilyn was on the phone with me telling me that Morgan wasn`t doing too good. I`m sorry that she has passed, but, much like my mother`s dog that I adopted when mom died, I think she was tired and ready to go to Heaven. Thanks to all of you that read this post and to those that shared and commented.

    P.S.: I love you, Marilyn. You`ve been one hell of a good friend and big sister

    Liked by 2 people

    • Good morning, Scott. Although Morgan was generous in her attention with the women at North House, there were times that she didn’t share me well. That was usually when she decided that I had been talking on the phone long enough. This behavior was most evident with you and Donna Ritter for some reason.

      You’re right; she was tired and ready to cross the Rainbow Bridge, and I found consolation in how many of the women reconnected when they found out that Morgan had passed. They were tagging each other in posts on Facebook and remembering their times together and with Morgan.

      Once again, Morgan’s influence helped the women support each other. She was an amazing dog.

      Love you, too, ‘Lil Brother’.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Good morning, Lisa; thank you. Morgan protected the women of North House, too. She was their guard dog as well as their therapy dog – all without training, just her own innate ability to love fiercely in whichever way was needed. I miss her.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Good afternoon, Stacy; thank you for commenting on Morgan. She loved, protected and watched over you women and me in such a singular way. These last years with her have been good, too. She’s safe, not in pain, and will live in our hearts.

        Liked by 1 person

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