Puppies grow up fast! . . .  This was true of Chanel—a mixed breed of a dog who loved to race around my front yard and cause Chipley plenty of grief! She came into our lives a few years ago when I would see her running through our Toccoa neighborhood. She was nothing more than a wild and crazy puppy and I wasn’t sure she belonged to anyone in the area.

There’s a tendency to “drop” unwanted dogs off on my quiet little dead end road. So I wondered if this is what had happened to Chanel. One day when I was quick enough to stop her, I discovered she had collar with a name tag attached. It simply said “Chanel.”

Often when I was working in my yard, she would race toward me at such a fast speed that all four paws would be off the ground at once. Then she would drop down perfectly beside me and push her body into mine. She was friendly, but I also knew she was lonely. That is when her story came to light.

Chanel always seemed to know when I was out walking Cocoa and Chip. I don’t know how she knew, but she did.  From a distance, I would see her climbing up a hill or charging through a line of cedar trees in an effort to get to us. Her short ears were always flapping in the wind, her tongue hanging out to one side, and she was always smiling. Dogs really do smile! Then there came a time when I didn’t see her as much.

I kept a steady lookout for her but the landscape around the house was quiet. There was no sign of Chanel. Finally one day, a neighbor walked by the house and Chanel was following close behind her. I noticed that her gate had changed. It was slower and not as lively. I wondered if she had been hurt or even hit by a passing car.

I asked about her and Ann, my neighbor, assured me that was not the case. She knew Chanel’s owner and told me she had recently passed away after a lengthy battle with cancer. All those months, Chanel had been her companion. I remember looking down at Chanel that morning and seeing her eyes dart away from mine. It was as if she was saying, “I don’t want to talk about this.” She was in mourning, and by now I had decided that if no one claimed her, I would take her. Chip loved her and Cocoa thought she was cool.

“But she still has an owner,” Ann was quick to say. “He lives in the white house on Highway 123 and is the husband of the woman who died.” Then Ann began to tell me the dog’s story. Chanel had been beside her owner until her death. Lost in her grief, she took flight into our neighborhood in search of someone, who would fill that empty place in her heart. Over the months, she had walked with all of us, met us, checked us out, and visited with us in our yards.

Needless to say my heart was breaking over the thought of her loss, but I found comfort in the fact that she was with someone who loved her. Over the coming months, almost everyone in the neighborhood took part in Chanel’s recovery and emotional healing—even Chipley cried out whenever he saw her coming. She was still fast and would zoom all over my yard teasing the dogs into running with her.

Then I received the word that I would be moving and among the many thoughts that filled my mind were thoughts about Chanel: Would she be okay? Would I see her again; and if I did, would she remember me? As we loaded the moving truck, I thought back to the night before and how I had to say goodbye to her. I begged her not to forget me or Cocoa or Chip. Did she understand even a little?

My house sat vacant for a while and then it was rented but that did not last long. Houses have a way of becoming homes and when they are homes, you keep them. I remember the weekend I began to move a few things back into the house. I had been gone for months, but some of my first thoughts after the lights and water were turned back on were on Chanel. Where was she? Would she catch me off guard and come racing up to me suddenly dropping at my feet and rolling over for me to rub her tummy?

Late one evening as I was out front surveying the winter damage on my lawn, it happened. I heard her coming before I actually saw her heading my way at a familiar top speed. But sadly she came and passed by me. No dropping at my feet. She was running in step with a lady, who usually jogged through my neighborhood.

That didn’t stop me from calling out to her, “Chanel! Chanel! Come girl!”

The second time I called, she stopped and turned and looked in my direction. “Come here, girl,” I shouted. Her eyes widened, and I saw the look on her face. It was one of memory and she came—running fast and familiar until she landed at my feet. I looked up and saw the woman who she was with. She was another part-time owner and she hesitated and then waved. Chanel rolled over and over and even let me give her a huge hug and then she was off—catching up with the woman who had jogged away.

Over the next few weekends whenever I was in Toccoa, I always watched for Chanel’s return and finally one morning I saw her jogging alongside the woman I had seen her with weeks before. I stopped them and asked if I could take Chanel’s photo. While I petted her and took her photo, the woman updated me about her current owner. He had suffered a severe stroke and probably would not recover. Once again Chanel is preparing for the worst.

The good news is this: her new mom, the woman who jogs with her, is taking care of her and she will come to live with her one day soon. So, whenever I’m in Toccoa and hopefully, that will be often, Chanel will be there to greet me!