I Found Your Dog Today
I found your dog today. No, he has not been adopted by anyone. Most of us who live out here own as many dogs as we want, those who do not own dogs do so because they choose not to. I know you hoped he would find a good home when you left him out here, but he did not. When I first saw him he was miles from the nearest house and he was alone, thirsty, thin and limping from a burr in his paw.
How I wish I could have been you as I stood before him. To see his tail wag and his eyes brighten as he bounded into your arms, knowing you would find him, knowing you had not forgotten him. To see the forgiveness in his eyes for the suffering and pain he had known in his never-ending quest to find you... but I was not you. And despite all my persuasion, his eyes see a stranger. He did not trust. He would not come. He turned and continued his journey; one he was sure would bring him to you.
He does not understand you are not looking for him. He only knows you are not there, he only knows he must find you. This is more important than food or water or the stranger who can give him these things. Persuasion and pursuit seemed futile;
I did not even know his name. I drove home, filled a bucket with water and a bowl with food and returned to where we had met. I could see no sign of him, but I left my offering under the tree where he had sought shelter from the sun and a chance to rest.
You see, he is not of the desert. When you domesticated him, you took away any instinct of survival out here. His purpose demands that he travel during the day. He doesn't know that the sun and heat will claim his life. He only knows that he has to find you.
I waited hoping he would return to the tree; hoping my gift would build an element of trust so I might bring him home, remove the burr from his paw, give him a cool place to lie and help him understand that the part of his life with you is now over. He did not return that morning and at dusk the water and food were still there untouched. And I worried. You must understand that many people would not attempt to help your dog. Some would run him off, others would call the county and the fate you thought you saved him from would be preempted by his suffering for days without food or water. I returned again before dark. I did not see him. I went again early the next morning only to find the food and water still untouched. If only you were here to call his name. Your voice is so familiar to him.
I began pursuit in the direction he had taken yesterday, doubt overshadowing my hope of finding him. His search for you was desperate, it could take him many miles in 24 hours. It is hours later and a good distance from where we first met, but I have found your dog.
His thirst has stopped, it is no longer a torment to him. His hunger has disappeared, he no longer aches. The burrs in his paws bother him no more. Your dog has been set free from his burdens, you see, your dog has died. I kneel next to him and I curse you for not being here yesterday so I could see the glow, if just for a moment, in those now vacant eyes. I pray that his journey has taken him to that place I think you hoped he would find.
If only you knew what he went through to reach it... and I agonize, for I know, that were he to awaken at this moment, and (if) I were to be you, his eyes would sparkle with recognition and his tail would wag with forgiveness.
Adventures of an Accidental Rescuer
It's hard for me not to imagine and wonder about all the stories out there. Stories about people exiting their daily routines to hurry out the door and drive minutes, miles, and even states to help an animal in need. They pack their car with crates, a list of names, numbers, directions, snacks, cellphone, and a GPS. Maybe it's their first time, or maybe they've done it several dozen times... but no matter how little or how often, it's always an adventure. There is always something interesting, different and completely unexpected. Sometimes these are the things that make you smile or laugh, while other times they are so sad that you find yourself walking back to your car with tears on your cheeks. You fumble for your keys, sit in the car, close the door and cry.
But it's always an adventure....
So last week, I went on another adventure. I filled my car with crates and drove out of town to help rescue and transport a few dogs.
After a long drive of dying radio stations I pull into the shelter’s parking lot. Seeing all the cars, I can’t help but wonder about the people I’m going to walk past. I’m curious. Will some of them be there to adopt a pet? Or will most be there to leave an animal? I see kittens in a box and a dog on a leash. I get this funny feeling in my gut. This is me wishing they would stop, turn around, walk back to their car with the animal, and drive away. But my thoughts and wishes don't have that kind of power. I'm powerless...
Getting out of my car I see a golden lab in the back of a truck. She's leaning over the side towards me, and wagging her tail. A woman walks over, and takes her out of the truck. The lab is a lactating mom and there are no puppies. She is being brought into the shelter. Later when I video some of the animals, I see this lab walking past with an officer. She is being placed in one of the kennels. Although she seems calm, she looks a little worried. Is she wondering where she is? Is she missing her puppies? Why did they bring her here? What do they think or feel? Did they find her this way? If she’s their pet doesn’t she mean anything to them? How could she so easily be disposed of? I would break down. I would fall apart and be broken and crying. Even if she wasn’t my dog I’d be a weeping mess. But I don’t have the time to think so I must keep moving.
I quickly load up the dogs. One is a scruffy vocal little guy with a cherry eye, and the second is a timid and gentle doxie. The dogs are carefully placed in separate bleached-down crates.
Just as I’m preparing to leave, I pass a woman who has two tiny kittens in a box. I can see that they are too young, and will most likely be euthanized. So I offer to take them. Since I have a friend who raises bottle babies, I decide to take the risk that she’ll have room for them. I open my car and find a small soft pet carrier which a friend just happened to give me the previous day (as if God or fate planned for this to happen). I place the kittens inside, set them on my passenger seat, and silently think about how I’ll need to call my friend when I get home. And what if I can’t get a hold of her? What if she doesn’t have room? What if these kittens are ill? And dozens of other questions pass through my mind as I mull over possible solutions.
Onward to my next stop. Another shelter... I am scheduled to pick up a third dog. A small terrier. So I continue my journey along an uncrowded freeway, and then enter a straight and visually endless two-lane road. I pass fields of hay, alfalfa, and farmed roses. Besides my worried dog who feels compelled to talk with me the entire trip, a second one who is content to sit quietly, and the two kittens whose carrier bag I keep rearranging in fears it might collapse on them (Ugh!), my only companions are the huge produce trucks passing by.
Eventually I arrive to hopeful faces and wagging tails. I stop at each kennel and visit all of them. I wish there was a way to take them all with me, but my car is full. The best I can do is throw out hope like a bottle filled with wishes and tossed into the universe. A wish that others will take a similar adventure, grab a couple of leashes, fill their car with crates and choose to save a life or two, or unexpectedly more....
After I leave this second shelter. I get back on the two lane highway and head towards the freeway. While I’m driving, I notice a young dog next to the highway. I scan the area, but see no one around. So I stop my car. I get out and call the dog. It’s just a puppy about 5 months old. She runs up to me full of joy and a wagging tail. All I can think of is how it’s a miracle she hasn’t been hit by one of the trucks driving by, and why is she out here in the middle of nowhere? How did she get here?
She has no collar and there are no identifying tags. So I pick her up and put her in my car. The thought running through my head is; do I turn around and bring a pit mix puppy to a shelter that has a 90% euthanasia rate? And if I don’t, how would her family find her if she were missed and loved? I decide to take her home with me and search the local paper for anyone seeking a lost puppy.
Although the drive that day was long, I had plenty of company and unexpectedly more then anticipated. This was no problem because I know it’s part of the adventure. Sometimes you never know what will happen and who you will find. Just about everyone (except me thank goodness), got car sick and vomited. The puppy vomited gravel, wood chips, and something orange that looked like Cheetos. Seeing this made me thankful I found her. It was too sad to imagine her out alone, trying to take care of herself, and struggling to find food.
Every shelter has it’s own sad stories, but there are the happy ones too. And it’s the happy stories that make visiting, volunteering and being an accidental rescuer bearable for the people who fall into this. It’s the positive ones that make it all worth while. There are times in life when the loss and the pain are so great you have to stand back and let it go. But sometimes, in the shortness of life, and between the tedium of daily routine, you have to just jump in, and attempt to make to make a difference. No matter how tiny and seemingly insignificant. Even if it’s just one little dog, one dog out alone on a highway with no food and no place to go.... because life is meant to be an adventure.
Saving Something Special
She didn't look special... just another little gold dog with smooth fur and a thin wirey body. When I first saw her it was just a shelter photo that showed her face held in someone's hand. A little face. I couldn't tell much from the photo except she had soft brown eyes and looked like a million other chihuahuas.
The puppy was not particularly small, and she didn't have unique markings. She was so plain and common she might as well have been created on a xerox machine. And I thought... why did it matter? What mattered about her life? Why should anyone care? And what's the difference if she didn't make it out of the shelter when there are so many dogs that look exactly like her?
But I took her anyway. Her time was up. So I bent down, and she jumped in my arms. She had a tail that never stopped wagging. And during the ride home, she didn't cry or complain. She sat in the crate. Other dogs whined, but she was silent and patiently waited. Later I held her on my lap and she seemed to fall asleep. She was no longer just any dog, or a xerox copy, but had become unique and special to me. It was like watching a developing photograph... something that had been merely outline slowly filling in.
Something very unique... and very special... and much too valuable to lose.