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Harley-Dec-2002I remember the first day I met him in November of 2002. Nick and I sat at his foster mom’s kitchen table when he padded into the room, a stunning red Doberman with tail and ears intact. He bee-lined towards us, and after a good sniff, leaned heavily against our legs.

While Nick began stroking his neck, I held back – afraid.

Observing my hesitancy, his foster mom walked over to her charge and slapped his marred side. “It’s okay, you can touch it. It’s all scar tissue now.”

I cautiously reached out to run my hand over the pink, saddle shaped marking on his side, taken aback by the odd sensation of the scarred, hairless flesh under my fingers. I swallowed back my grief, appalled at humans’ capacity for cruelty.

Harley had been set on fire.

Harley1.5When we agreed to adopt him that day, we assumed we could offer him a perfect home and help him overcome his brutal past.

Instead, we inadvertently made him worse.

We gave him all the attention he could desire, until he could not bear the thought of being apart from us, wailing and destroying things in our absence.

We fed him table scraps and ice cream and then tried to fix the subsequent sickness by feeding him a prescription diet that consisted of peanut husks, because a veterinarian said it was ‘healthy.’

We foolishly followed a dog trainer’s appalling advice to ‘cure’ his dominance issues and dog aggression, even when our hearts told us it was wrong.

Her advice made him worse.

Each mistake was eventually set right, but not until his time here had nearly concluded. Harley died tragically in November of 2003, and although I believe he found peace before he left, he never fully lived.


Etched into my psyche, Harley’s lessons dictate every decision I make with my subsequent dogs, and are woven into every word that I write.