Two Losers--A Love Story

"Romeo and Juliet" Of The Dog World

By Rena Dictor LeBlanc

My saga started at the animal shelter.

I adopted a three-legged mutt.

He had a partially crushed jaw.

Instead of a front-left leg he had a short stump.

He was one of the most pathetic creatures I'd ever seen. The dog was scrawny and white with slapdash black markings and floppy ears. He looked like he might have been used as bait in a dog-fighting ring.


The terrier-mix pooch appeared to be among the ultimate losers in the canine world. He tugged at my heart. I felt if I didn't adopt him no one else would.

Of course I grew to love him. My husband and two daughters did too. I renamed him Mazel, which is the word for luck in Yiddish. My husband joked with a friend of ours, "The only reason Rena adopted a three-legged dog was because there wasn't a two-legged dog."

Seeking The Ugliest Dog

It might have been a year or so later that I was back at the animal shelter with my younger daughter Marisa. Again I was seeking the ugliest dog. I wanted one that I felt was least likely to be adopted.

There was a black shaggy female that seemed to be the obvious choice. "Are you sure she's the ugliest?" I asked Marisa. "She's the ugliest," my daughter assured me.

When I brought the dog home Mazel suddenly turned ferocious and tried to attack her. I had never seen such instantaneous rage. My husband had to hold Mazel back as he struggled to charge at the new dog.

Deadly Confrontations

In headlines every morning we read about countless deadly confrontations between strangers of the human species throughout the world. But, here, right in my dining room, was a microcosm of such viciousness. My first thought was, "What have I done? These two animals can't possibly live together."

I doubt that Mazel was born with such explosive fury against another creature he didn't even know. I realized that, just like with humans, whatever indoctrination and brutality he'd endured that had left him deformed on the outside, took its toll on his psyche as well.

Romeo and Juliet

We kept the two dogs apart to start with. But, when they understood they both were loved, cared for and safe, possibly for the first time in their lives, they were drawn to each other and became pals. My husband named the female dog Simmy, short for simian, because she looked like a cross between a dog and an ape.

In time Mazel grew to love his gentle companion. He licked her with true devotion. They would lie side by side and savor the closeness to each other. They were transformed into the Romeo and Juliet of the canine world.

It was in September 2002 that Mazel became very ill. The veterinarian treated him, gave me medication, and I took him home. Our beloved dog hardly could stand.

Now We're Both Widows

That night I lay Mazel gently on the pillow where he slept with Simmy, at the threshold of my bedroom. When I woke the next morning he was dead. My husband Jerry had died two years before. My heart ached. Poor Simmy, I thought. Now we're both widows.

But, I savored the thought that these two "losers", Mazel and Simmy, became the luckiest of winners in their relationship with one another. They bestowed on me a deeper understanding of the power of love to transform even the most hopeless lives.

Previously published on

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