*While I’m out traipsing across the country for my real job, I thought I’d post something that was written 5 years ago today. I was living in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, away from my family, while I worked. For sanity, I spent my free time volunteering at a local animal shelter. This is a story about a dog, one of millions, that explains why I am so passionate about animal rescue. Please consider a shelter pet.*
Last night, I was invited to the home of friends for dinner & a movie. They have 2 dogs, sweet mixed breed companions that are well loved members of the family. One is a little possessive, and will bark at you if you pet the other. It worked out ok for me, because Moose & Echo have taught me well how to pet 2 dogs simultaneously.
So, I was grateful for some canine time. This morning, though, I realized that a little dog time is much like one handful of M&M’s….it’s probably plenty, but you really want another handful.
After leaving work today, I went back to the Humane Society. I continue to be very impressed with this facility and its operation. The volunteers/employees are friendly and helpful, the animals are always spruced up with neck scarves or bows, the information cards are filled out….it’s just a good facility. I was happy to see there’s no overcrowding right now. As a matter of fact, one of the 4 kennels is completely empty, which gives the Society time to do some maintenance on those enclosures.
There’s a real glut of American Staffordshire Terriers in the kennels, a.k.a the politically correct identification of a pit bull. Whether it’s for marketing purposes or legal reasons, I’m glad to see that the stigma of “pit bull” is left off of the descriptions of these sweet, smart dogs.
While I won’t go so far as to say there are no bad dogs, I am a firm believer that there are no bad breeds….only bad owners.
Note: there ARE bad dogs, but based on a percentage of population, there are way more bad humans than dogs. I’ll take a bad dog over a bad human any day.
I’m going through the kennels, thinking it’s a pretty good day to be a shelter dog. Happy dogs, lots of families looking for canine companions, with constant exclamations from all sides: “Awwww, look at her!” “Moooooom, come see this one!” “Wow, what a beautiful dog!” Yep, it was a good day to be a shelter dog in Ft. Lauderdale.
Then I came to the last enclosure in Kennel 4. Allison’s enclosure. Beautiful face, beautiful eyes, just a gorgeous young dog. Another American Staffordshire Terrier, wink wink. I wonder who picked “Allison” as a name. It doesn’t suit her at all. She’s a Chloe, or a Shera, or maybe even a Margot or Zoe, but not an Allison.
She is shaking like a leaf in the center of her kennel. I take another step and she bolts to the back of the kennel. Check the signs on the chain link, and learn she just had a bath, she’s a year old, she’s in training. There’s another sign, that says “I’m shy, please be patient”. “Shy” is kind of a mild word for her. If she could find a way to crawl into the floor drain, she would.
I sit on the concrete floor. I’ll go down to her level, let her investigate. I don’t call her over, but I do talk to her. I stay still, letting her decide when she wants to take a sniff. She peeks around the opening into the front part of the kennel, takes 2 steps towards me, then runs to the back. We do this for 20 minutes. She is shaking so badly I’m starting to feel guilty for causing this anxiety attack, but I know this behavior isn’t going to get her adopted. So I wait a little longer.
Eventually, she takes the two steps into the front kennel and doesn’t bolt. She sits. She shakes. No growling, no signs of aggression, and I’m encouraged. I put my hand out, hoping she’ll return the effort and at least lean her nose towards me, but even that minor movement causes retreat.
She tries again. Hesitantly crossing the divider and slowly sitting down, averting her eyes. Shaking, shaking, shaking. I wait. Whether faith or anxiety or curiosity compels her, I don’t know, but finally she looks at me. In just the briefest of moments, I see behind her eyes, and know that Allison is the reason I am so passionate about these animals.
Her heart wants to run over and climb on me and lick my face. She wants nothing more than to have someone throw a ball or play tug of war or get a belly rub.
She is shaking because her fear is greater than her hope.
Her instinct is to love and protect, but her experience defies her instinct. She doesn’t know if this human is going to hurt her. Has she been hit, yelled at, neglected, kicked? I don’t know what the method of action was, but the result is that she is a dog betrayed. She doesn’t know what she has done wrong, and is unsure what to do now that will get a good response. She is fearful, distrustful, terrified…but still wants to trust some human enough to love them.
She puts her front legs forward a bit, a timid introduction to lying down. She is still shaking. I s-l-o-w-l-y bring the camera up from my lap, and she runs with her tail between her legs. I’m an idiot for trying to move, and fear we’re going to start from scratch. It’s beginning to feel like a really awkward slumber party, and my knees are starting to scream protest against the concrete floor. She surprises me, and returns to her hesitant spot in less than a minute.
We hang out this way for another 20 minutes, with Allison fleeing only when prospective adopters walk past. I sneak 2 pictures. I finally decide to go, and she turns her head and backs away as I leave.
I have reinforced her fear of rejection. It breaks my heart.
I walk away wondering if the right person will show up. I wish I could leave yet another sign on the cage. I would title it “Do You Deserve This Marvelous Animal?” I want to tell those who are looking for the perfect dog to not be put off by the shaking. This is a wonderful dog, a beautiful dog, an intelligent dog. She is going to need a lot of time, a lot of attention, a lot of reassurance. The payback will be huge. She will be loyal and kind and loving. She will protect you with her life. She will be your companion and your confidante. She will be an incredible family dog.
Tonight, my hope is that the right person will stop long enough to see what’s behind those eyes, and will give her a forever home…and a new name.