The furry thing showed up on our doorstep when I was just 12 years old. He was starving, beaten and desperate. His ribs were jutting out of his chest, and he seemed to choose our porch as his final resting place. His back leg had a wound and buckshot pieces embedded in it.
I did what any 12-year-old in the ’80s would do. Without a care in the world for things like rabies, or teeth, or stranger danger, I approached him cautiously and placed a bowl of milk in front of him. He lapped it up, and while he did so, he let me pet him.
He had cream fur, with brown and black spots. My mom said there was “NO WAY WE ARE ADOPTING A DOG RIGHT NOW.” She said it emphatically, in case the uppercase lettering wasn’t an indication.
I continued to feed him milk and scraps of meat, and every day we saw a bit of improvement. One day, he was strong enough to walk again without a limp, and the next day he disappeared. And that was when my mom said, “WHERE IS THAT DARN DOG WE’RE NOT ADOPTING?”
She fired up the car and I got in the back seat. We rolled all of our windows down. “Bert!” she cried out.
“Who’s Bert?” I said.
“That’s his name,” she replied. “Because he’s like the plain puppet from Ernie and Bert.”
My mom, in her attempt to not adopt the dog, nor to get too attached, had in fact named him. Bert.
We cased a few blocks before we finally found him. He was hiding under a tree. When he saw that it was us in the car, he scrambled toward us and jumped right in, licking our faces.
“We’re adopting a dog right now,” my mom said.
“As long as you say so,” I replied.
Bert taught me so many things. How to persevere despite injury. How to make friends even when it’s hard. And how to be grateful for everything you are given.
Each meal we gave him, he would smile and snuggle, as if he didn’t expect the food, and he would never expect it again, but he was thankful for the small bit of humanity that was offered to him right then.
He knew he couldn’t make it on his own, so he found a family, and he took a chance.
And despite his limp from the buckshot, he played fetch with his favorite Frisbee.
If we’re talking about character, this dog had it in spades. For the few years we had him, I learned more about integrity than I ever had before, as well as gratitude, loyalty and love.
For me, this election season is less about characters and more about character.
Here’s to character.
Brodi Ashton is a New York Times best-selling author who lives in the Salt Lake City area. She’s also an occasional columnist for The Salt Lake Tribune.