There are people out there who abuse animals. I suppose from a psychological standpoint there are a finite number of reasons why. From a case study standpoint, there are probably nearly as many specific reasons as there are specific abusers. Many animals don't survive. Of the ones that do, however, the lucky ones either escape and show up at a caring person's house as a stray, or end up in a shelter.


I had seen the heart-wrenching commercials put on by animal service organizations with the terribly abused animals and seen the occasional news story about the animals who didn't make it out alive. But apart from that, I hadn't given it too much thought. That is, until over eleven years ago, when Reggie entered our lives.


A co-worker and I were in a storage room one day. I was making copies and she was filing, when she asked if I knew anyone who wanted to a dog. I'm not the best person to ask that: I always want a dog. However, my husband is more practical and I wasn't sure if he would agree. Although our front yard was fenced, our house was small and pretty full. We had talked some about getting a dog, but pretty much felt we should wait until we had more room.


"My dad felt sorry for him and fed him one night, and now he won't leave. We'd keep him if we could, but our Akita doesn't like him. He seems pretty nice."


I could feel my heartstrings being tugged. She had her back to me, and didn't know me well enough to know how much I love dogs. "Can you tell what kind he is?" I asked.


"He's a yellow Lab, I think." I felt a slight twinge of hope. Another co-worker, who was aware of my feeling for dogs had gotten me a birthday card with the picture of a yellow Lab on it and my husband did comment he'd like to have a dog like that.


That weekend, we went to meet the dog. He was pretty wild and your could see all of his ribs and vertebrae. His coat was coarse and tight. He was trying to mate with every living thing in sight (I later learned this was as a sign of dominance). But his eyes were bright and I could tell there was a good dog in there. Somewhere. We took him home.


The dog had no collar so we had no idea what his name had been. We tried as many things as we could think of to see if we could get a reaction. We never did. We named him "Reggie."


We figured he'd been on his own for a long time, and that was why he was so scrawny. We realized immediately that he wouldn't eat if we were in sight, so we'd leave the room and he'd just inhale his food. We thought that, too, was the result of being on his own. If we were very careful, he would let us pet him on the head maybe three times before moved away. Again, we thought all of this was because of his time alone.


We'd had him about two weeks when I was digging in the cupboard for a skillet I seldom used. Reggie had ventured into the kitchen to get a drink and was watching me. He was still extremely skittish, so my husband and I decided to just go on about our business pretty much and almost ignore Reggie unless he came over to us. The noise of the cookware didn't seem to bother him. But as I brought the skillet out, the sun glistened off the stainless steel and Reggie took off like a shot. I set the skillet down and walked out to find him. He had his tail between his legs and was trembling by the front door, obviously scared to death. I tried to approach him, but he just smashed himself closer to the door. I spoke to him softly for a few minutes, then went back to fixing dinner.


After that, we started paying closer attention. Reggie was afraid of brooms, cookware, and closed rooms. He was afraid of the dark, unless he could be near us. He still ate only when he was alone and as fast as he could. He had definitely been abused.


We kept to our routines. Despite the time on his own, he was remarkably well-behaved. On the rare occasions he did do something we didn't like, he'd stop immediately with a sharp "Reggie!" He slowly came to know and trust us, and turned out to be a wonderful dog.


As he relaxed, he ate more, gained weight, and his coat grew back. He had the most amazing coat. He was part something else -- perhaps Chow; perhaps Husky -- but he had a soft coat with a big ruff of fur around his neck, feathers on his legs, and a fluffy tail.


He turned out to be one of, if not the, best dogs I ever had. He was friendly, obedient, and fiercely loyal to us. He was protective -- but not overly so.


We had to put our beloved Reggie down recently. He had developed arthritis, and getting around in our tri-level home was too much for him. I was with him at the end, holding his head and telling him that we loved him and that he was a good dog. I don't know that he could hear me at that point, but I wanted those to be the last words he heard.


Adopting an abused dog takes patience, a kind heart, and the ability to keep your cool when the dog's around until he's rehabilitated. But if you are up for the challenge, you will have a friend who knows what a good life he has, who will strive to please you every moment, and will be the most loyal dog you could hope to own.