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Dog in cage | Source: Shutterstock
Dog in cage | Source: Shutterstock

Poor Dad Saves Stray Dog from Euthanasia, Soon It Leads Him to a Cave Holding a Treasure of Gold – Story of the Day

Roshanak Hannani
Oct 13, 2023
07:40 A.M.

Owen went to the shelter and rescued an older dog, Rufus, on the verge of being euthanized. During a happy hike, the dog led them to a treasure, allowing Owen to teach his children that God can see everything. And then, Rufus led him to a real prize.

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"Hello, sir," the 20-something-year-old woman smiled brightly at him. "How can I help you?"

"I want to adopt a dog," Owen said nervously, licking his lips. "Is it expensive?"

"Well, there's a process first," she responded brightly, tilting her head. "There's an adoption fee, too."

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

"Listen," Owen shook his head and placed his hands on her desk counter. "I'm a single dad. I work all the time, and my kids, who are 11 and 13, always stay alone. Their mother died two years ago, and I work like crazy to support us. They've wanted a dog forever, and I know they can care for one. They're good kids, but I don't have much money to spend on fees."

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He took a deep breath.

"So, is there any chance you have a dog that maybe no one wants? Or I heard that other people pay the adoption fee so dogs don't get euthanized or something. Is that possible? Please, I just want to make them happy," Owen continued, pleading.

The woman looked around, undecided, but she nodded. "Yeah, come with me," she said, waving him over. He followed her to the back.

They walked into a room full of kennels, and it was awful how many dogs were still waiting for homes. But the girl led him to the very end and pointed at one. Its bright, big eyes opened but didn't move from its bed.

"This is Rufus," she started. "He's been here a long time. He's such a good boy. Very calm. But people discriminate due to the breed, and I'm afraid he's scheduled for euthanasia tomorrow. No one is interested. If you're willing to give him a chance, we can forgo the fees, and I can expedite things."

Owen smiled slightly and crouched. "Hey, buddy," he said, his voice turning tender as his hand stretched through the cage. The dog's ears perked, and it finally stood, approaching slowly. The dog sat and looked at him, and the single dad could almost hear its thoughts.

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For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

The look in Rufus's eyes broke Owen's heart. It was almost like it knew that his time on this earth was up unless a miracle happened. So, Owen didn't have to think much further. "Let's do it, please," he told the young woman.

She smiled, clapping her hands in delight, and ran to the front desk again.

***

"Dad! I'm making mac and cheese from scratch!" his youngest child, Nathan, said when Owen walked in. He saw the kid stirring something on a pot on the stove.

"Don't worry, Dad," his daughter, Claire, added from the kitchen table where she seemed to be doing her homework. "I've been supervising."

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Owen chuckled, seeing his kids focused on their task. None of them even noticed when Rufus started sniffing the shoes next to the front door. He waited for a second to see who would look up first. But it was useless.

"Guys, stop what you're doing right this second and look at me," he said, adding a little suspense to his voice. Claire's head turned first, and her eyes bulged. Nathan stepped away from the stove, the spoon full of cheesy gooeyness still in his hand.

Both seemed to be completely frozen in shock for a few seconds… until Rufus let out a happy bark.

"OH MY GOD!" Claire yelled, throwing the kitchen chair to the floor in her haste to stand and run to them.

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

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"YOU GOT US A DOG?" Nathan exclaimed, running with the wooden kitchen spoon still in his hand.

"Yeah, guys. This is Rufus!" Owen grinned, kneeling as they both started petting their new dog.

"He's awesome!" Claire said, getting closer and laughing at the tongue lick Rufus gave her.

"I love him!" Nathan continued, his arms flailing excitedly until Rufus noticed and began to reach for the mac-and-cheese-covered ladle. "Ew, no!"

They all laughed, but Owen said it was fine. They let Rufus clean the utensil off as they gushed and petted it. Owen felt like they hadn't had such a tender and happy moment since their mother, Annie's death.

They were pre-teens now, but two years ago, they were still young kids. They were smart, kind, and playful but retained that innocence most parents never want their children to lose. Although he should've been proud, Owen was distraught when Claire took on the role of the female head of the house.

She started doing chores that Annie or Owen would do, like laundry, cleaning the bathrooms, and cooking their dinner, all while still mourning her mom's loss. Nathan saw his sister's maturing right before his eyes and followed along.

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He asked for more responsibilities, like taking out the trash, mowing the lawn — which he was still too young to do alone — and ensuring all the light bulbs were working. Unfortunately, Owen couldn't stop it.

His grief was crippling, but he had to support them on his own. So, he went to work like a zombie, came home, ate, and slept. It took a few months before he actually noticed the incredible change in his house, and he didn't know how to stop it.

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

Claire put up a fuss when Owen tried taking back some of the household work. Nathan told him to watch some television and brought him a beer so he could relax. It was unbearable to see his children acting like adults when they never should've.

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And after a long time of thinking, he finally decided to get them a dog. They were more prepared than other kids their age for the task, and the light in their faces as they laughed at Rufus was worth a million bucks.

Still, Owen had to remind them of some things. "Nathan, go put the spoon on the sink, check the food, and then come help with Rufus's things in the car. Claire, you keep Rufus inside," he commanded, and the kids rushed to obey.

Nathan hugged him on their way to his old beat-up car. "I can't believe it," the kid said, taking the cheap food Owen got and the second-hand plates the young woman at the shelter had offered him.

Once inside, Claire got their attention. "He knows how to sit already!" she said, and Owen saw the cookies she was using as an incentive for the dog.

"Roll!" his daughter said, and Rufus surprisingly did it. Owen was pleasantly surprised. Perhaps they wouldn't even need to potty train him.

"OK, guys. I have a few more things to say before we get so distracted with Rufus," he began, ushering them to the living room couch. "Listen, having a dog is a huge responsibility, and I know you guys already do a lot around here."

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"It's cool, Dad! We'll do it all!" Nathan volunteered immediately while Claire nodded.

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

"Wait, wait," Owen cautioned them, smiling. "I know you guys will. But you have to be careful. He's an older dog, so respecting his boundaries is important. We're gonna study up on his breed and handle him with care. He was at the shelter for a long time, so he may not be used to a home yet. You guys are gonna have to walk him, pick up his poop, clean him if he gets dirty, and feed him."

"Yes, Dad!" they said in unison.

"Well," Owen chuckled. "I just wanted to remind you. Because I still have long hours at work. I wanted to ensure you were up to the task. Otherwise, I'll have to take him back."

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"NO!" Claire shouted, frowning, while Nathan ran to hug Rufus.

The boy shook his head. "He's our dog. We're never giving him back."

"OK, OK!" Owen finished, raising his hands. "Now, let's get him settled. Where do we put his food bowl?"

They spent the rest of the night fussing over the dog, but it was exciting. Owen showed them how to put the leash on, and Rufus luckily pooped outside. He cautioned the kids about walking him several times a day.

"Twice would be good. But don't do it so late, OK? If it's too late, stay in front of the house and wait for him to poop and pee in the grass," Owen explained, and his children nodded. "Hmm, we can't let him off the leash to play fetch or something outside yet because he's still unfamiliar with us. We don't know if he'll run away, so you can play with him a little inside. Just be careful."

After all the instructions, Owen went to shower while the kids continued their night. When he came out, he saw that Rufus had fallen asleep on top of the old blanket he had set up in the living room. Claire would sneak peeks at their dog while finishing her homework, and Nathan secretly gave it some mac and cheese.

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For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

***

The days that followed Rufus's adoption were the best they've had in a long time. Nathan and Claire were much chipper, but it was genuine. Despite having to mature quicker than other kids, they always tried to be optimistic.

Still, it was hard to leave them alone and watch how other kids were more playful and guileless than them.

They took the responsibility of the dog in stride and easily divided their duties accordingly. It was like they were always meant to have it, and Rufus was the perfect dog for their home. It wasn't a puppy, so most of the time, it just wanted to sleep.

But the dog played with the kids and even seemed to smile at Owen when he arrived at night. Rufus wagged his tail frequently and never showed any signs of aggression. But Owen had sat down with the kids to discuss the breed and why they're discriminated against so easily.

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Surprisingly, Owen started to feel better. Life wasn't so lonely anymore. The only issue was that Rufus only slept on his old blanket that first night. Afterward, he started sleeping in his kids' room, either on their beds or the floor.

Owen thought it wasn't right initially, but he let it go. Somehow, Rufus protected the children, making him feel much better. Even his coworkers noticed a change in him.

"You seem happier. Are you seeing someone new?" his buddy, Frank, commented.

"What? I don't have any time to date," Owen dismissed him but caught himself smiling in the bathroom mirror later. Hmm, maybe I am happier.

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

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He hadn't thought about dating at all after Annie's death. Aside from being too busy trying to provide for his kids, Owen simply didn't have the inclination.

Being with his wife was as easy as breathing. He didn't think about marriage at all while dating women before her, but with Annie, it was just natural. They went to the courthouse and ate burgers afterward. No muss, no fuss.

It was the happiest day of his life until his children were born. The economy began to change afterward, and they were getting by at first. But once the kids got older, Annie took a part-time job, and their finances were a little better.

After her passing, they returned to a one-income household, which was even worse. The factory where Owen worked had changed management. They fired many people, and the rest were left to pick the scraps with no raise in sight.

Owen refused to complain because his family needed the money, but the hours only got worse while he watched as his children lost all their innocence and became little adults. Annie wouldn't have allowed that.

Some nights, while in bed, he wondered if he should try to date or get married so the children would have another woman in their lives. They were all so alone and missing something in their lives. But Owen would dismiss that thought and sleep, knowing no one could take Annie's place.

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She was the love of life, and I don't want anyone else, Owen would think on those days. Still, it was nice that his coworker had noticed a change in him. Maybe the kids felt it, too, and they were all that mattered anymore.

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

So, Owen decided to take the kids on an adventure on his rare day off. He and Annie had loved hiking, mainly because it was a cheap outing they could do whenever the weather was nice. The kids had joined them at some point but obviously hadn't hiked since she passed.

"We can take Rufus with us!" Claire sang excitedly when Owen told them his plans for that Sunday.

"Yay!" Nathan cheered.

"As long as we're careful. Other people may not like dogs," he warned.

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"Rufus is nice to everyone! He doesn't bark, and he's always gentle," Claire commented, raising her eyebrows. "A bunch of little kids ran to him the other day, and the moms got scared, but Rufus just laid down and let them pet him. He even went belly up."

"Well, that's good, then," Owen nodded thoughtfully. "Let's go to bed so we can be up bright and early for the hike!"

***

"Guys," Owen chuckled, breathless. "I think we should head back now. We've gone way too far from the car."

"No! Let's keep going!" Nathan whined and jumped over a rock excitedly. Claire agreed with her brother, but she was calmer, holding onto Rufus's leash.

"OK, but only a few minutes, or you'll have to carry me back!" he joked and continued.

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

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"Rufus, slow down," Claire commented a few minutes later. Owen looked at the dog and saw him sniffing the ground, but not like most dogs do when they want to pee. Rufus seemed to have found something, or he was looking for something.

The dog started pulling on the leash harder, and Claire had to use both hands to hold him back. "Rufus! Rufus! Stop!" she started yelling, and Owen finally got concerned.

"Give me," Owen grabbed the leash and put on a commanding voice. "Rufus!"

But the dog was strong and wouldn't listen. It was mindless in its pursuit of whatever scent it had caught. Owen and his kids continued trying to calm it down, not noticing how one of the links in the metal chain of the leash had loosened. The link snapped off, and Rufus took off on a sprint.

"RUFUS!" his kids screamed and followed. Owen did so, too, worried. Rufus hadn't behaved like that ever. Maybe it caught an animal scent and wanted to hunt. That worried him.

However, the dog reached a rock formation Owen had never seen before because he and Annie never got so far during their hikes. Suddenly, the dog disappeared in between some fronds. Claire and Nathan tried to follow, but Owen stopped them.

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"Hey! Be careful. You don't know where that goes," he scolded gently. "You may hurt yourselves."

"I think it's a cave!" Nathan said, using his hands to reveal a tiny entrance. "Let me go in, Dad. I'll get Rufus out."

"I don't know," Owen shook his head slightly. The entrance was too small. He wouldn't be able to follow. "You don't know what's inside. It's too dangerous."

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

"I'll be careful. I swear," Nathan promised.

"Grab the flashlight," Claire said, getting one from her backpack. It was pink and barely lit anything, but it was better than nothing.

"Cool," Nathan agreed, smiling. His bright, excited eyes pleaded with Owen, who finally nodded. He was worried for Rufus. Their dog could've gotten stuck inside. So, his kid went into the tiny cave.

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"Keep talking to us. OK?" Owen said nervously. They could hear Nathan clearly as the boy called for Rufus.

"There you are," Owen heard Nathan say. "What is that, boy?"

"What is it, Nathan?" Owen asked, scared. "Don't touch anything strange. Just try to get Rufus out."

"Dad!" Nathan said, his voice getting closer. Finally, he came out of the cave, smiling, with a panting Rufus by his side. "Look!" His hands held a canvas bag.

"What is that?" Claire wondered, frowning.

"It's a treasure!" Nathan said, bouncing on his feet. "I think."

"Put that down for a second," Owen said, and his hands reached for his son, patting his arms and legs. "You're not hurt?"

"No, Dad. It's fine," the kid assured him.

"What about Rufus?" Owen continued, reaching for their dog to check for anything strange.

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

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"I think he's fine. He was just sniffing the bag, so I grabbed it, and he followed," Nathan explained.

Owen frowned as his eyes turned back to the strange canvas bag. He noted how heavy it was and finally opened it. "This is strange," he muttered as his hands reached for the contents and produced several gold bars.

"Is that real?" Claire asked, her mouth twitching in delight.

"Yes! We're rich! We found a treasure!" Nathan replied, laughing. "Well, Rufus did."

"No, Nathan," Owen shook his head, still eyeing the interior. There was precious jewelry, too. "I mean, these are real things. But we're not rich. Remember, guys. God sees all! We have to give these back."

"But surely, God wanted us to keep them since he guided Rufus toward the treasure," Nathan countered with pursed lips.

Owen rolled his eyes and grinned. "Come here, guys," he urged, and his kids got closer. "Life is full of tests that you'll have to pass to prove that you're a good person. You remember how Claire stood up to her bullies a few years ago?"

"Yeah," they both said, remembering.

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"Remember how Mom told her that she had to use her words and kindly tell that bully to stop?"

The kids nodded again.

"Well, the bully stopped, and Claire came out of that experience a much better person," Owen looked tenderly at his daughter. "We were so proud. And Nate, remember how Mom told you never to use violence in a fight?"

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

His boy nodded. "I've never even lifted a finger!"

"Exactly. And I'm so proud of you. Mom is looking down at you two with pride, too," Owen continued and sighed. "This is a little like that. If we take this, we're bad people. It doesn't belong to us."

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"So, what do we do?" Claire wondered. "We don't know who the owner is to return it."

"Yes, so we go to the police," he told her, grumbling playfully. "Oh, boy. We're hiked way too far. Never again."

His children laughed. Fortunately, Rufus didn't find anything else. Instead, the dog followed even without the leash, so they started trekking all the way back to the car.

***

At the police station, Owen and his family discovered that a local businessman and his wife had recently been robbed. The couple reported the missing items, not expecting to find them.

"We caught the robbers but couldn't find anything with them or in their houses. This is fantastic," an officer said and leaned down to thank Owen's kids. "You two are great citizens of our town. I wish we had more people like you."

Nathan smiled. "Really?"

"Yes," the female cop added. "Not everyone would've returned this so easily. It's worth a lot. Mr. Lincoln was a very wealthy man, but he wanted these items returned for some reason."

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

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"Mr. Lincoln?" Owen asked, surprised. There was only one person with that last name in their town. "The owner of the sporting goods store?"

"More like a sporting goods franchise," the officer said, nodding.

"Wow," he commented. "I wondered who in town would have gold bars and such things instead of putting everything in the bank. Well, it's good to know we helped. Say goodbye, kids."

"Bye!"

The female cop smiled kindly, and they made their way out of the station.

"I feel really bad about giving the bag back," Claire said once they got home. "I hope God remembers that we're good people."

She released Rufus, who went straight for its water bowl.

"He knows, Claire," Owen assured her.

"Good. But I wonder how Rufus found that stuff in the first place. We weren't near the cave at all," Nathan commented, taking off his hiking boots.

"You're right," his big sister commented.

Owen frowned and stared at the dog, who had splashed water everywhere and plopped down on the living floor for a nap. He shrugged at his kids, and they did the same.

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For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

"I guess we'll never know," Owen commented. "Go get cleaned up, guys. I'm going to check if I can find a better leash for Rufus online. Maybe someone's donating one, and then I'll start dinner. How about homemade pizza?"

"Yes!" Nathan agreed and ran to the bathroom. "Dibs on the shower!"

"No fair! I'm the girl!" Claire followed, complaining. But Owen smiled because they were acting like children, just like they were supposed to do at their age.

He pulled up his phone and plopped on his couch while the children cleaned up. Rufus started snoring loudly, but it had become a comforting sound in their house.

Owen had just opened the browser, as he was planning to get on eBay or Craigslist to find a used leash that could work on such a strong dog. But a phone call interrupted his search.

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"Hello! Is this Mr. Harrison?" a man asked.

"Yes," Owen responded. "Who's this?"

"I'm Mr. Lincoln, but you can call me Alexander," the man replied. "I believe you found my things today."

"Oh, yes," Owen chuckled. "Did the police return them safely?"

"Yes, of course. I just asked for your number to thank you personally," Alexander continued.

"Not necessary, sir. My dog was the one who found the bag."

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

"Where?"

"Oh," Owen muttered, surprised for a second. "My kids and I were hiking, and our dog just broke off his leash and found a small cave between some bushes. Honestly, I wouldn't have seen it. My son went in after our dog and came out with the bag."

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"I see."

"I told the police about it in case anything is missing in the bag," Owen added, getting a bit more nervous. "The cave was too small for me to check myself."

"Interesting," Mr. Lincoln commented pensively.

"The hiking trail is by the river…"

Owen explained exactly where they were and how long they had to walk to reach it.

"Mr. Harrison," the man on the phone stopped him. "I'm not calling to interrogate you. I know the police caught the burglars, but the stolen items hadn't been found until you discovered them and brought them in. I was just curious. The gold bars don't mean much to me, but the jewelry box contained my late grandmother's pearl earrings, which she gave to my wife when we married. I could replace almost anything else but that. Thank you. And also…I wanted to reward you."

"What? No, no," Owen shook his head, although the man couldn't see him. "Not necessary either, sir."

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

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"Please, let me do something for you," the businessman insisted. "Do you want or need anything?"

Owen was about to refuse again, but he hesitated.

"Hmm, you own the Lincoln stores in town, correct?"

"Yes, I do," the man responded, a smile in his voice. "Do you need any gear? Anything you want, on the house!"

"No, that's not," Owen hesitated, gulping. "I was wondering if you had any open positions. My current job has terrible hours, and I feel like I'm missing my children's lives. I also need more time to return to school and start a new career."

"Well, what kind of experience do you have?"

Owen explained his current job at a factor, supervising production. He had been in retail for a while.

"You don't make much as a supervisor?"

"Not enough now that we're a single-income household," Owen explained. "I didn't go to college but want to take online classes and do better for my children."

"Well, Mr. Harrison, I'm looking for a new manager at a new location," Mr. Lincoln said. "How about you come down here — it's still under construction — and we conduct a better interview?"

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"Oh my. Yes, Mr. Lincoln! I'll be there," Owen promised, trying to rain in his excitement.

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

The new location was actually closer to Owen's house than Mr. Lincoln's other stores. The entrepreneur asked him about his goals and what he hoped to study. He asked about his children and family. When Owen told him about Annie, the businessman gave him a sympathetic look.

"Losing a loved one is the worst thing that can happen to a person," Mr. Lincoln muttered.

"Yes, it is. My kids have had to mature way beyond their years, and it killed me," Owen revealed, hoping that wasn't too personal.

Mr. Lincoln offered his hand and said, "You're hired. I need someone to supervise the remodeling here…"

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They spent hours talking about everything Mr. Lincoln wanted for the new location. He also mentioned his salary and hours, which were much better. The new store opened two months later, and Owen managed it incredibly.

He had already enrolled in night classes online and was studying business, inspired by Mr. Lincoln, who had already met his kids and Rufus.

"Owen!" Mr. Lincoln called him out of the blue one day. "What are you doing tomorrow?"

"Sir? Well, my kids and I were going hiking," Owen replied but quickly offered his time. "But I can come here and man the store. No problem."

"No, man! You asked for this job to have more time for your kids," the businessman scoffed, chuckling. "I was calling you because my wife is organizing a free vaccination and vet consult event at the park. I don't know if Rufus is up to date on such things, but I thought I would tell you."

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

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"Oh, that's really nice, Mr. Lincoln," Owen said.

"Please, it's Alexander. How many times do I have to tell you?"

"Ah, yes. Thank you, Alexander. We'll go with Rufus before our hike. The shelter said everything was great, and he was perfectly healthy, but it can't hurt to check," Owen laughed. Besides, it's free.

"Excellent. I'll tell my wife to watch you for you, guys."

***

"What is this, Dad?" Claire muttered, frowning. They had reached the park and walked towards the big crowd of people and tents. "Is this an adoption event? Are you giving Rufus away?"

"What?" Nathan asked, outraged.

Bark! Rufus added and sat down.

"NO! Guys!" Owen laughed loudly. "I would never give my good boy away." But his voice went low. "There's free vet consults and vaccination."

Rufus barked again as if it didn't like that idea either.

"Oh, OK," Claire breathed, relieved. They continued walking and checked in with some ladies. Owen greeted Mrs. Lincoln, a soft, warm woman. He also introduced his kids, and she gushed over them.

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For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

"God, they're so well-behaved," Mrs. Lincoln muttered. "Let's get you in line for a vet consult." She guided them towards the line, and they followed happily.

"Wow, this is our first vet visit with Rufus," Claire commented, looking excitedly at all the other dogs.

"I don't see any dog like Rufus, though," Nathan added. "Will the doctor know what to do?"

"Of course he will, Nate," Owen said, ruffling his hair. "Veterinarians are trained to care for all kinds of dogs and many other animals, too."

"What kind of animals?" Nathan asked, his big eyes alight with curiosity.

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And Owen started telling them an old story about his childhood friend who had a lizard and a tarantula. The kids hummed and smiled in appreciation, although Claire thought it was crazy for anyone to have a pet spider.

But their cheery conversation was interrupted by Rufus, who started to get agitated. "Give me the leash, Claire," Owen said.

"He's scared. Maybe we should go," the girl said, concerned.

"No," he shook his head. "He has to see the doctor. It's for his own good. You guys don't like needles, but you tolerate them, right? It's the same for him."

"OK," Claire said, biting her lip.

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For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

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But a sudden pull from the dog ripped the leash right out of Owen's hand. They had just called them next, and it was like the dog had no intention of getting examined.

"Rufus!" the three of them bolted behind the dog. Owen had a strange sense of deja vu for a second and knew they couldn't take Rufus hiking after this latest escape attempt.

"He's heading for the car, Dad," Nathan pointed out, and at least they knew their dog would be safe.

"Wait! No, he isn't!" Claire said, breathing heavily as they all ran behind their dog. "He just passed the car."

"Jesus," Owen muttered, picking up his speed. He was worried that Rufus would get to the street with open traffic and resolved that they would have to train him. Also, they now had more money, so a better leash was in order.

This one might not have broken, but the grip was not solid enough. He wondered if they should get Rufus some training classes when the dog's real direction finally became clear.

"Rufus!" Owen called out, appalled. Their dog was going right for a distracted woman rummaging through the trunk of her car.

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Until now, Rufus had shown no sign of aggression toward anyone or anything. Other dogs in their neighborhood barked at cats and squirrels, but Rufus merely looked at them, sniffed a little, and moved on.

Owen thought it was odd, but it was much better than worrying about his kids walking him around their house. He would've liked to start taking him out without a leash, but this latest stunt put that idea off.

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

"Ma'am! Look out!" Claire yelled as Rufus got too close to the woman. It seemed like their dog wanted to jump in her arms, and it was too heavy for the small, petite lady.

However, she lifted her head at Claire's shout, and Rufus stopped. They could almost hear the cartoon-character brake sounds. Suddenly, he sat in front of the lady with a lolling tongue and wagging tail.

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"Hello, there!" the woman leaned forward, grinning widely at Rufus. Owen and his kids finally stopped running. "Is this your dog?"

"Yes," Claire answered, breathless.

Owen was frowning at Rufus, who had the most adoring eyes in the world for the woman. He couldn't exactly fault the dog for it. She was lovely.

"Well, he's adorable," the lady said and got even close to pet Rufus behind its ears. "You're a good boy, right?"

"Not exactly," Owen muttered. "He just ran away from us. I don't think he likes the vet."

Bark! Bark! Bark!

The barking surprised them because it wasn't coming from Rufus. "Well, I can understand what that's like. This girl right here doesn't like the vet either," the lady said, laughing and reaching for her car's backseat door.

"Oh my God!" Claire gushed as a pitbull got out. "Is she friendly?"

"Yes, and she loves getting pets," the woman said, her eye crinkling with delight. "Her name is Aranza."

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

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Although the kids were petting the female dog, it only had eyes for Rufus. The animals sniffed each other, wagging their tails.

"This is odd," Owen commented.

"What is?" the woman asked.

"It's just…" he paused, thinking. "I thought Rufus was running because of the vet. He seemed to be going for our car, but we quickly noticed him heading straight for you."

"Really?" the woman continued, her voice adopting that tone most people used for babies. "You came to find me, boy?"

Rufus wagged his tail at the woman while Aranza continued to sniff him.

"He came to find his girlfriend!" Nathan exclaimed out of the blue.

Owen spluttered briefly, but the woman put one finger to her mouth. "Maybe he did," she said. "Oh, I'm Amanda."

"I'm Owen, and this are Claire and Nathan…and Rufus," he made the introductions. "Well, I don't think Rufus will need a girlfriend. We adopted him from the shelter. He's fixed."

"Aranza is fixed, too," Amanda said, putting her hands on her hips. "That doesn't mean they can't be friends."

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Owen chuckled. "Right," he said, suddenly nervous. "Well, we have to go back to the vet line."

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

"I'll go with you," Amanda said, putting the alarm on her car. They all started walking back.

"I must say, it's nice to see another pitbull here," she commented as they reached the tents.

"We talked about that before," Claire added. "No one else has one. Except you!"

"Yeah," the woman said, frowning a bit. "This breed is so misunderstood. Look at that tiny dog barking at everyone." They all turned to see an old lady holding a thrashing little rat-looking dog in her arms.

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"He's ugly," Nathan muttered.

"I bet you anything that dog would attack others here if allowed," Amanda said, lowering her voice and speaking to the kids directly. "But, of course, it's small and can't do much damage. So, it doesn't matter. Aranza gets scared if a bird so much as lands nearby. She wouldn't hurt a fly."

"Rufus is so docile, too," Owen said. "Not even a hint of aggression. He only ever barks to call out attention."

"Right?" Amanda nodded, then shook her head. "But they'll always have that reputation. Horrible people mistreat them, use them for dog fights, or neglect them to such an extent that violence is the only way they know how to live. So, now, there's a stigma."

"It's terrible," Owen said, staring at the beautiful woman in wonder. Wait, beautiful?

"Mr. Harrison! Where did you go?" Mrs. Lincoln said. "Come on!"

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

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"Rufus is next," Owen said apologetically and went to the table to get their dog checked. Their dog acted like nothing was wrong in the world. It let the doctor poke and prod every nook and cranny without so much as a flinch.

Owen could only frown at him.

"Good boy, Rufus," Claire said once the vet said everything was perfect and let them go. "I don't know why he escaped before."

"It was like our hike!" Nathan commented, expressing the thought Owen had had while watching the vet go through the examination.

"What?" his daughter asked, looking at her little brother like he was crazy.

"Yeah, he was focused on one place," the boy said, nodding eagerly. "He wanted us to meet Amanda and Aranza."

For a second, it seemed like Claire would scoff at her brother, but her brow furrowed deeper. "Wow, yeah," she commented. "But why?"

Owen had no idea what to say when they both stared up. He only shrugged and looked around, hoping to see Amanda again.

A tap on his shoulder made him jump. There she is. "Hey," he said weakly.

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"Hey, there. Are you done with the vet consult?" Amanda asked brightly.

"Yeah. Rufus didn't seem scared at all," Nathan said.

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

"That's good," Amanda nodded and gulped as she looked at Owen. "Can I talk to you for a second?"

"Sure," he nodded. "Kids, watch the dogs."

Claire grabbed Aranza's leash, and they got distracted while the adults walked away.

"Yes?" Owen asked when they were out of earshot.

Amanda cleared her throat. "Well… I was wondering if… I don't see a ring on your finger… and well, I was wondering if you wanted to go to dinner with me? Sometime?"

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Owen had to work hard to contain his expression. His jaw felt like it wanted to fall to the floor. But he couldn't remain quiet. "Hmmm," he said, gulping. "Yes." The answer shocked him.

"Really?" Amanda asked, delighted. "Oh, great. Let's exchange numbers…"

***

Three years later, Owen smiled as Claire and Nathan took the microphone for a joint bridesmaid and groomsman speech. They spoke about Owen and Amanda's relationship and how great she had been for their family.

But their final words moved Owen the most.

"During our first hike after our mom died, Rufus found a treasure after running away from us, which we gave back to the police. It belonged to Mr. Lincoln, our dad's boss. But during another outing, Rufus ran off and found something even better: Amanda," Claire read.

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

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There wasn't a dry tear in the crowd.

"She honors our mom and loves us like her own," Nathan took over. "And we wouldn't have met her without Rufus. So, we ask for a toast — although we can't drink — for our new stepmother, Rufus, and Aranza, who have made our family bigger and better."

A big picture on the projector showed their whole family, accompanied by their dogs. The cheers from the crowd were deafening, and Owen had to breathe deeply.

Amanda was full-on crying. "Oh, my makeup," she sniffled as the kids rushed them for hugs.

As his big family embraced, Owen marveled at how different his life was. He had a better position in Mr. Lincoln's company, earning an excellent salary. Amanda loved his kids. Their household was full of laughter, good food, and wagging tails. It was all he could hope for.

Things only got better when the noise of a baby rang in their home. Ilan was a perfect little boy and the favorite of the entire clan.

One afternoon, Amanda was reading through her phone. Ilan was three years old and ran from his room completely naked, heading toward the backyard. Claire was right behind him. "Come back here!"

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"I'll catch him," Nathan said, distracted from the stove. Aranza got up from her dog bed and started running after all the kids.

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

But Rufus stayed down, watching all of them. His eyes went to Owen, and they stared at each other for a long time.

He knew right then that his new, big family was Rufus's doing. It was a gift for saving him from the shelter. But in truth, the dog had done a lot more for Owen.

Tell us what you think about this story, and share it with your friends. It might inspire them and brighten their day.

If you enjoyed this story, you might like this one about a woman who took her dying dog to his favorite place and discovered treasure.

This piece is inspired by stories from the everyday lives of our readers and written by a professional writer. Any resemblance to actual names or locations is purely coincidental. All images are for illustration purposes only. Share your story with us; maybe it will change someone's life. If you would like to share your story, please send it to info@amomama.com.

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The information in this article is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content, including text, and images contained on news.AmoMama.com, or available through news.AmoMama.com is for general information purposes only. news.AmoMama.com does not take responsibility for any action taken as a result of reading this article. Before undertaking any course of treatment please consult with your healthcare provider.

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