By Diane DeVaughn Stokes


It’s been one year since Cagney came into our lives. Her previous owner was a man Chuck and I knew all of our lives, but when he had a stroke and had to go to a nursing home, Cagney was headed to the animal shelter in Florence. Having been in her company on many occasions, I knew she was a perfectly behaved dog, with the sweetest disposition. So after forty years of owning multiple cats, off I went to rescue her.

Cagney’s gentle spirit and presence in our lives has been a Godsend. She goes everywhere with us, even to work. She is not a barker or a jumper, never bothers our two cats and simply wants to be petted and loved.

As a guardian for an elderly memory care friend at Brightwater, I thought it would be neat to take Cagney there for a visit. Sylvia, and her husband, Harry, who is now deceased, had lots of pets over the years, and even though Sylvia cannot tell you what she ate for breakfast or what day it is, she tells me all about her pets and their names whenever Cagney is there for a visit. She even told me that Cagney resembled a little deer that she use to love as a child that she would sneak into her house at night when her parents were asleep. Before I knew it, all the residents wanted to spend some time with Cagney. So, I got this wild idea about getting Cagney trained to be a therapy/service dog. With papers from her vet, and a few lessons from a trainer, she is “official.” The trainer actually told me he thinks she was a therapy dog in a previous life because she qualified in every way with very little prompting. Or maybe she is just plain brilliant!

Weekly I take her to Brightwater Memory Care, and the residents love her. BJ, a feisty woman in her nineties actually lies on the floor with Cagney and puts her arm around her saying how nice it is to feel a warm body next to hers once again. Mae, another resident, says Cagney reminds her of all the dogs she used to have when she was young child in Ireland. She then tells me all about the country she left behind when she married an American many moons ago. And Tommie, who really can’t communicate well any more, just likes to hold Cagney’s leash and keeps saying the word “horse.” I figured she was just mixing up the word dog and horse. But one afternoon Tommie’s daughter came to visit while I was there with Cagney, and she told me that Tommie was an avid horse rider right up into her seventies and holding the leash must remind her of holding her horse’s reins.

I have seen these residents come alive and fill with joy when Cagney and I come to visit. And dare I visit without her; they all want to know, “Where is the dog?” She produces instant smiles wherever we go.  Yesterday, we visited the rehab area, and every single person wanted to touch her and have her lick their faces with doggie kisses. And when I take Cagney to preschools, the little ones adore her and listen intently as I tell them how to behave around a dog, and how to slowly approach each dog with gentleness because they differ just like people.

My mom lives at Covenant Towers, and the residents there all love Cagney, too. Mom babysits for her when we are out of town and that forces her to walk Cagney several times a day, getting exercise Mom does not normally get. Bingo. Another perk for owning a dog.

And recently I received some therapy myself from Cagney. You see, she loves to go to the office with Chuck every morning, but when I was home sick last month with a staph infection in my nose, she knew I was under the weather and did not leave the foot of our bed all day. Is it possible that we have the smartest dog in the world? Is it possible that not having children has made us completely obsessed over this dog? Is it possible that all our friends are sick of hearing Cagney stories and seeing her photos on Chuck’s Facebook page? Yes to all of the above. But please bear with us. When people told us there is nothing like owning a dog, we would say we have cats, and we understand.  But we did not. Yet, now we know just how precious doggie love can be. When Cagney looks at us with those big brown eyes, we both just melt. Now I am positive that I did not rescue her, she rescued us from missing out on something really big in our lives that we did not even know we were missing.

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3 Responses to “Rescued”

  1. Marsha tennant says:

    This touched my heart for several reasons. First, animal rescue is one of my passions through my children’s book, MARGARET, PIRATE QUEEN.
    AND…I know BJ from Eagle Crest. She and my mom were buddies. They sat out front together and held court. Two sassy ladies. I could hear BJ’s sassy response to you and it made me smile. Thank you.

  2. Cagney is a provider of warmth, love and companionship. Strange isn’t it how our fur babies own us? This was heartwarming.

  3. Erika Hoffman says:

    I love that last sentence as it captures what so many of us dog owners know. Dogs give us more satisfaction than we most likely provide them.

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