Love Unconditional


She was six weeks old, a tiny, coal black ball of fur with piercing black flecks for eyes and a white tip on one hind foot. All of a pound and a half, she was a mixed breed, the result of a backyard breeder’s lack of experience and knowledge.

I named her Tipper in honor of the tip of white on her foot. She’s more gray than black now, and the tip disappeared a long time ago, but she’s left indelible marks in my life and on my heart. This little dog taught me everything I need to know about unconditional love, loyalty and determination.

Let me back up a moment and tell you how Tipper came to live with me. A few months earlier, I lost my two dogs tragically. I was heartbroken and determined never to become attached to another animal.  A failed human relationship left the house even emptier. My love for animals warred with my common sense. Eventually, my need for companionship won out so, after a suitable mourning period, I made plans for a new puppy.

A toy poodle was my choice. I answered an ad in the paper and went to see the two-week old litter. A sizable deposit was required, and I went home to wait the six weeks until I could bring the new member of my family home.

Somewhere around week three, my best friend called. “I have the cutest, tiniest puppy on my desk.”

Immediately, an image of her two dogs, one of them a Rottweiler, came to mind, and I shook my head. “You’re getting another dog?”

“It’s not for me—it’s for you.

A moment of incredulous silence passed as I digested that. “But…I’m already getting a puppy.”

“But this little girl is unbelievable cute, and she fits in the palm of my hand.”

“My deposit. I’ll lose it if I back out of the deal.”

“She’s so cute, and she really, really needs a home.”

“No! I don’t want her.” I was irritated. My friend was messing with my plans. Spontaneity wasn’t a part of my life—planning was everything. Of all people, she should know better. Worse yet, she knew how much I loved animals. Did she really expect me to make this decision?

She wasn’t repentant. “Okay, I’ll find a home for her. I already paid the money so I’ll have to keep her until I find someone. Unless…maybe you could keep her for a couple days.”

“No!” The rest of my grumbled comments trailed off. “Okay, but just for two days.”

Who didn’t see that coming? Later that day when Tipper arrived, she climbed on to my lap, scratched and crawled her way to the safety and warmth of my neck, and settled in for a nap. The war was over without a shot being fired. There was no way I’d ever give her up.

Always the gentle lady, Tipper slept through the night without whimpering from day one, took to the regimens of house breaking like she came that way, and chewed on many things but never damaged anything. She always preferred to walk on her own feet, but occasionally she’d come, put her feet up on my leg and ask to be picked up. Or she would drop a toy at my feet, hoping for a game of fetch. She’s always excited to see me, content to lie beside me, and comforted by my touch or the sound of my voice. A truer unconditional love would be hard to find.

Tipper turned twelve last September, weighs a whopping six pounds, and has more than her share of health issues. She suffers from seizures, kidney failure, an arthritic back, and luxating patellas. None of that keeps her down for long, however. She’s not a doggie hypochondriac—she doesn’t feel sorry for herself.

She simply wants to be loved…while remaining ever alert for the occasional cat to chase.

It’s been said we don’t get the dog we want—we get the dog we need. I’ve learned life’s best blessings aren’t necessarily what we hope for or expect. Our hair might change color and our backs give out. We might not be able to eat everything we used to eat, but that doesn’t mean we should give up or that we don’t still have great things to accomplish.

Tipper sleeps a bit more than she used to, but she hasn’t given up. She still has a few more things to teach me . In the meantime, I endeavor to love unconditionally…and keep an eye out for the occasional cat to chase!

Has there been a special animal in your life?

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