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I was visiting my friend the other day. She has done well for herself, divorced, hard-working, just bought a nice 3 bedroom home at a good price. She moved from a place that had a small yard to a sizeable back yard for Nikki, her Chow mix. Nikki, who wiggles when you pet her is in heaven.

Nikki and I go way back. I was managing a thrift store about ten years ago. In spite of the tremendous amount of physical work, it was a great deal of fun. The volunteers were “pitch in” types, but with wicked senses of humor, especially when opening mysterious bags or boxes of donated items. I could always hear their howls of laughter up at the register.

The thrift store was located next to an apartment building that was a pay by the week set up. There were a number of transient folks living there and many of them used our merchandize as their primary source of shopping. Quite a number of day laborers lived there and if one of them would help move a sofa, he got some free jeans or a toaster. It worked for all of us.

One young man, Carl, came frequently. He was only 19 and struggling to make ends meet. He had a girlfriend that he was planning to marry if he could just get a stable job. He worked hard, and I really appreciated his help. We talked a bit, as much as a 19-year-old male will allow and I started to care about what happened to him.

One day Carl asked me to come outside. He wanted to ask me something. I turned the register over to a volunteer and followed him into the bright sunlight. There, hooked to a railing was this young golden fur ball with a black muzzle and a black tongue that showed when she smiled.

“I’m leaving,” Carl told me. He had heard about a job in another state. He and his girlfriend were leaving that afternoon. “I want you to take Nikki” he simply added.

He wanted to leave before he cried so he quickly handed me her leash and disappeared. Nikki wagged her tail. She was young, maybe six or eight months old. As I stood there, all I could think was, “my husband’s going to kill me.” We already had one dog and three cats. What would I do with another one?

One the way home, Nikki jumping around in the back seat, I tried to formulate a plan. I would post her picture at headquarters, and get people networking to find Nikki a home. I started to feel better as I pulled into the driveway. It would work out, I told myself.

As Nikki settled in that evening, I called my friend and told her Nikki’s story. She came over out of curiosity to see the live item I had brought home from the shop. As she stepped into the living room, Nikki got up and ran to her, wiggling and bouncing happily. It was love at first sight.

I didn’t need the flyers, I didn’t need to network, I didn’t need to do a darn thing. It really did work out. Nikki is now 10 and I see her all the time. She is the happy queen of her domain, with a cat and a parakeet for company. And now she has the big yard to chase squirrels and birds and the occasional prowling cat.

I often wonder what happened to Carl. I wish he could see that Nikki got a great home, is loved and cared for in the way he had hoped as he handed me that leash so long ago. You did the right thing, Carl, although we didn’t know it at the time. All we had at that moment was shared hope and a wonder dog named Nikki.