About 12 years ago, I suddenly started seeing a beautiful chow mix dog in the yard of a home not too far from where I live. It was an unfenced yard, and she lived on a chain all the time. The couple who lived there didn’t seem to care about her.

I never once saw her off the chain, and I never once saw them give her any attention. When I’d happen to be walking by and the people came home, she would strain on the chain trying to get to them as she wagged her tail hard, but they would ignore her. She obviously wanted attention badly. It broke my heart, but I watched this for months — until after the dog got pregnant and had five puppies on that chain.

The puppies would wander around  — beyond the reach of her chain — and she would seem frantic in trying to get to them to care for them. It was upsetting to me to watch as I’d drive by or walk near the house. The last straw was when the couple who lived there left town for a week and left this mother dog and her puppies out in the yard. After making inquires across the street, I found out that they had asked a neighbor to feed her while they were gone, but that was all the provision they’d made for her or the puppies.

I didn’t know what to do, but I knew I wasn’t going to leave her there. There were already three dogs in my household at the time, so I didn’t need any more. I had no intention of keeping her, but I couldn’t leave her where she was with five puppies she couldn’t take care of.

I took the mother and the puppies back to my house and put them in a fenced enclosure in my back yard — where she could care for the puppies. I let the neighbor know what I was doing, and I left a note on the door of the other house saying that I was taking care of the dogs until they returned. Honestly, I figured they would probably be angry at me for taking their dogs, but I didn’t care.

When the owners returned, they didn’t seem bothered in the least that I’d taken the dogs. In fact, the man told me they were about to move, so they were about to take all of them to a shelter. After he told me that, I volunteered to find homes for them — and Lucy’s been with me ever since. (She was named for another silly redhead, so you probably know where the name came from.)

I found homes for the puppies and got medical care for Lucy. (She had never been to a vet.) It turned out that she had heartworms and would have died without treatment. But that’s been many years, and she’s lived a happy, healthy life instead. (She likes to lie underneath my chair while I work, as you can see in the photo above.)

My ex-wife ended up keeping one of the puppies — the runt of the litter who was stuck with the name Munchkin. She was a sweet dog, but she escaped from a vet clinic when she was being boarded about four or five years ago. You can read her story here.

Lucy gets along great with my cats and she and the felines sometimes sleep together in cold weather. She’s also the biggest chicken in the world, scared of noises or objects that she can’t control. In fact, she’s so afraid of unfamiliar things that she turns her head whenever I point a camera at her. So I treasure the few pictures I’m able to get of her before she turns away.

Based on the vet’s estimate when I got her, she seems to be about 14 years old now, which is pretty old for a dog her size. Her health has been declining — and I sometimes have to carry her up and down stairs — but she’s still the sweetest and most loving dog you could ask for.