The true story of the shelter pup that saved my life. I wrote Dom’s story as a way of thanking him. At Face Value is published in two of the Chicken Soup series books, Leap of Faith and Dog Lover’s Soul. The Dog Writers Society of America nominated At Face Value as a story that exemplifies the human animal bond.
At Face Value by Linda Saraco
I had a reoccurring dream. The message was clear and precise, directing me to go to the specified shelter and adopt a particular dog. The dream told me I would know the dog by something unusual about its face. Upon awakening, I just could not recall what unique facial feature. I could only remember it was important to identifying the right dog.
I was so curious and compelled to follow the instructions in the dream. So, early on the next Saturday morning, I was at the shelter to carefully check available canine adoptees. After checking all the dogs, I was disappointed that not one dog had anything unusual about its’ face. There were lots of cute puppies and just as many appealing older dogs, but I did not feel a connection to any of them.
On my way out of the shelter, I noticed a box of puppies just outside of view from the main area. My attention was drawn to one puppy in particular, and I decided to take a closer look. One of the puppies appeared to not have fur on his face, while the rest of the litter were all black with spots of white. They where a mix of black Lab and Chesapeake Bay Retriever and so they were called Chesapeake Labs. Each pup was named after a type of pasta. The one that captured my interest was Fettuccini.
My heart felt sad for the pup, and I hoped he had not been injured. As, I lifted him from the box, his large and clumsy paws reached over my shoulders to cling tightly to my back. On closer inspection, I realized he did have fur on his face, but it was a very odd shade of gray that caused it to have the appearance of skin. Satisfied he was okay; I placed him back with his litter mates to continue my exit from the shelter.
And then it hit me, my thoughts blared with the words, “THE FACE, IT’S THE DOG WITH THE UNUSUAL FACE!” Immediately, I returned to the puppy and held him. We bonded instantly, and I headed for the adoption desk. I could not leave without him. I knew we belonged together.
Within that short span of time, the gray-faced pup had wrapped his paws around my heart. In meeting with the adoption counselor, I was informed a family had already selected him. There was, however, still a slight chance since the family had not made their final decision. It was between Fettuccini, the gray-faced pup, and his litter mate, a female named Penne. It was worth waiting for the decision.
After an anxiety-filled hour, I saw the family leaving the shelter carrying Fettuccini. I began to cry inside. Then I realized a member of the family, the mother, was walking straight towards me. They knew I was awaiting their decision and I prepared for the worst. My heart pounded as I stood frozen in place as she approached. For a moment, she did not say a word or give any indication of her decision. Then, with a broad grin, she said, “Here’s your dog!” I was speechless and grateful and tears gushed from my eyes. I embraced him and again felt those big front paws securely hugging my back.
Although I was thankful to have him, little did I know I was not nearly as thankful as I would later come to be.
I took the gray-faced pup home and named him Dominic. Fettuccini was his middle name.
From the start, he was not at all a typical rambunctious puppy. He was very calm, serious and didn’t play much. However, he was obedient, intelligent and very attentive to me. For two years, we lived a happy existence together as Dom grew into a healthy, robust dog and my valued companion. Then I developed a serious illness.
As Dominic was turning two years old, I was diagnosed with a seizure disorder. I was having full seizures called Grand Mal and other partial, milder types. These seizures caused me to collapse into unconsciousness. Upon awakening, I would always find Dom on top of me. At first, I was not at all happy to have a 90 pound dog on me until I came to realize he was preventing me from hurting myself by restricting thrashing movements, and limiting my injuries.
During mild seizures Dom stood rock solid so I could just hold on to his front legs until it passed. As I would start to regain consciousness, I was aware of his voice. I would follow his barking as a means to revive me into complete consciousness.
Dom was my four-legged medical assistant. Without Dominic’s forewarning, I could have experienced much more physical damage. During my worst period, I would have five Grand Mal seizures a day. Hitting without a warning, the force of these seizures was minimized as the vigilant Dom would spring into action.
For about a year, I had seizures every day and then they gradually started to subside. I had come to rely on Dom to warn me before a seizure would take hold, and we’d work through it together, each of us knowing what we had to do till the crisis passed.
Dominic is a natural born Seizure Assistance Dog. He is literally a one in million dog. His instincts are astounding. He is an outstanding companion, and I am honored to be the most important person in his world. I can’t begin to express the amount of admiration, appreciate and love I have for Dominic. He saved my life; he’s a hero.
I am now well, and there are no more seizures. He has returned to his previous daily doggie activities, though still watchful of me and ready to be of assistance. He finds way to help out around the house – and I indulge his sense of duty.
My little gray-faced puppy has become a dream come true.