To celebrate the release of Everything But a Dog on 12/11/12 I'm talking to people who work with, or have adopted, rescue animals!
When I put out the call for adoption stories one of my good friends sent me a beautiful one. Cindi Myers is not only a fantastic writers, she's an amazing woman. And you can see what a beautiful heart she has in her story of Katie.
The Perfect Dog
Losing a beloved family member tears a hole in your heart. The hole is no less small when that family member is a pet. When we said good-bye to Shelby, our darling Belgian Malinois, at the end of her battle with bladder cancer, my husband and I cried bitter tears. The house seemed so empty without her sweet presence. Our other dog, a Beagle mix named Snoopy, mourned the loss too. He moped, picked at his food and was a sad pup indeed.
Though other people told us to give ourselves time to grieve and not to rush into anything, we decided adopting another dog was right for us. We missed having two dogs and Snoopy clearly needed a canine companion. Besides, with so many dogs in shelters needing a home, and us having the resources to provide that home, adopting seemed the right decision.
So one bright Saturday morning we loaded Snoopy in the car and headed to the Denver Dumb Friends League. After reviewing their website, I'd picked out a top three candidates of dogs we thought we'd like. We had criteria – under two years old, short hair and on the small side. We toured the runs and submitted our choices. All three were either already adopted or in the process of being adopted. Unwilling to give up, we toured the runs again and stopped before a kennel containing a beautiful black Chow mix. She lay with her back to the glass, the picture of a sad, depressed dog. She was all wrong for us – too big and too hairy – but we were drawn to her nonetheless. "Let's ask to see her," I said, and my husband agreed.
When the counselor led her into the meeting room a few minutes later, she gave a tentative wag of her plumed tail. I was so enchanted by her sweet face and gentle manner that it took me a few moments to notice she had only one eye. "She's been here a while," the counselor told us. "About a month. Let's take a look at her history."
She'd been turned in to the shelter supposedly because she was "destructive and not house trained." Words that had probably deterred more than one potential adoptive family. Maybe they should have deterred me, but they didn't. "I'm home all day," I said. "I can work with her."
"She's nervous around strangers," the counselor said. "The evaluation almost ruled her a non-candidate for adoption, but we decided to give her a chance." She didn't seem nervous around us; in fact, she was eagerly accepting our pats. "Let's have her meet Snoopy." We took them out to a play yard and brought Snoopy to meet her. After greetings, they began to play. Snoopy was livelier than we'd seen him in weeks.
"We'll take her." We decided to name her Katie. We took her home, fully anticipating problems. What we got instead was a sweet, obedient, amazingly well-trained dog. Never a single "accident" in the house. Not so much as a tooth mark on anything. This was the destructive, non-house-broken dog in the shelter records?
The one thing they'd been right about was that she was nervous around strangers. We set about socializing her. It was a slow process. We began to suspect abuse in her past. It took fully two years before she stopped hiding when we came home after being gone a while, and she still sometimes hides when strangers visit, particularly very big men. But gradually, she grew more confident. She needed us and we definitely needed her. The dog the counselors had deemed almost un-adoptable was the perfect dog for us. She wasn't what we'd set out to find or what we'd expected, but some relationships are meant to be.
The View From Here. "It takes a village to heal a broken heart."