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Have you seen the movie, "Roger Rabbit"? Does Sarah not look like a "'Toon"? I mean, just look at those eyes!

I adopted Sarah in the wake of the deaths of two of my dogs and one of my horses (all unrelated causes) within the course of a few months. The only remaining canine, Pearl, an aged lab, had become very sedentary after the other dogs passed, and I felt it important for her to have a canine companion to bring her back into life. So I adopted Sarah ... and it was a mistake. Don't misunderstand. I love Sarah, and I'm very glad she's a member of our family, but it was far too soon for me to try to extend my heart to another animal after the great losses I'd suffered. I brought Sarah into my family, but I never let her into my heart.

It didn't stop Sarah from attaching herself to me from our first moment together. This poor girl had been locked in a wretched pen in a filthy "humane shelter" for months. When I arrived at the "shelter", the din of the dogs begging for human contact, for food, for water, for exercise, for deliverance from their confinement in their own waste, for relief from the fleas, ear mites, and other assorted ailments from which they were clearly suffering, was deafening. I could barely stand to walk through that horrendous building myself. I couldn't imagine what it must do to an animal to have to endure such a prison for months.

I walked down the row of pens several times, far too distracted by the misery surrounding me as well as the deadening sadness of my own recent losses to be able to make a rational choice. There was nothing joyful or loving here, only desperation. And the most desperate of all was Sarah. Each time I passed her enclosure, she would spring into the air repeatedly with all four legs off the ground (yet another of her rabbit-like qualities). So unrelenting and dramatic was her plea for salvation, I finally opened the pen and rescued her from that horrid place.

After a trip to the vet, Sarah and I arrived home. So overwhelmed was she with the reality of her new found freedom, she couldn't stop moving. She must have run from one end of the thirty-acre open area of the farm to the other hundreds of times over the course of those first couple weeks. It was difficult to coax her inside the house, though. The idea of entering any sort of enclosure seemed to make her very uncomfortable (gee, can't imagine why). But she didn't want to be left alone, either, and eventually, reluctantly followed me through the door. She stayed as close to me as possible, and for weeks, I couldn't so much as tap my toe on the floor or pick up a magazine without Sarah springing to her feet for fear of my getting away.

But for all her time spent under my feet in the house, when outside, Sarah worked her magic on old Pearl. Unfortunately, the magic worked so well, Pearl started taking Sarah out on nature walks in the woods surrounding the farm. It was from one such walk that the old lab never returned. I searched and searched but never found her. She had been in congestive heart failure for some time, and I'm sure she happily walked right out of her earthly body that day.

Over the years, three more canine kids have joined the family, and Sarah has graciously accepted each one. Unfortunately, she has never been allowed the pleasure of close relationships with the other dogs, or, in fact, with anyone else. Moonie sees to that. Though Sarah showed tremendous kindness to Moonie when we brought her home as a small puppy, Moonie has never been anything but nasty and intolerant toward Sarah since reaching adulthood. Anytime poor, oppressed Sarah tries to play with one of the other dogs or seek affection from Joe or myself, Moonie will instantly drive her away with ferocious growls and body slams. Sarah's only carefree moments are those during which Moonie is occupied elsewhere.

Sarah and the Moon Puppy

Sarah and The Moon Puppy

Perhaps due to the circumstances of her life prior to landing at the "shelter", or perhaps due to her prolonged incarceration in that facility, and certainly made no better by her treatment at the fangs of the Moondog, Sarah is a very skittish animal. She loves people and makes every attempt to do as she's told, but her nerves fail her often. Everything she does is frantic. She will attempt to run in and out of the house everytime the door opens (a near-constant occurrence around here), whether she wants to or not. She tends to sleep lightly and moves away from any animal, canine or feline, who gets too close. She craves love and attention, but accepts it anxiously with uncontrollable licking and occasional nervous yelps.

In the odd event that Moonie is off her guard, Sarah may enjoy a bit of play. Her preferred game with me is foot-attack. I'll tap my feet on the floor, and she'll repeatedly pounce and nip at them. Joe, however, is often favored with Sarah's butt-dance. This is a most interesting activity in which Sarah backs up to Joe's leg or the chair in which he's sitting and repeatedly bounces her rump up and down against it. Only rarely will she honor me with this particular ritual, and neither Joe nor I have the slightest idea what it means.

True, Sarah could easily be the poster-dog for "How to Live With a Neurotic Dog", but we wouldn't give her up for the world. She has a wonderfully kind heart and an unending need for our love and understanding. She takes her commitment to us very seriously and is always the first to chase monsters from our farm. We would be lost without our 'Toon Dog to keep us safe.

Sarah passed away on January 26, 2002, at the approximate age of 18. She had suffered from Canine Cognitive Disorder for a year or more - a very difficult disease for a dog as innately timid as Sarah. Her unquestioning devotion to our family helped build the bonds that continue to strengthen us today.

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