Nancy’s Diary~Stories of a Volunteer
The stories below are some writings I did when I first started volunteering with HCAS back in 2007, just as the Volunteer Program was getting off the ground. I came across them while cleaning up some files and I thought I would share. I can do that ya know since I am the ‘web-mistress’. So many things have changed with HCAS, the Volunteer Program, and me, since these early years. I hope to continue my writings again so I can share the ‘grouth’ of all who may be involved with this wonderful faculity…both Staff and Volunteers. Changes we never thought would happen, have happened..but we still have a long way to go. Check back often.
Sometime last May, I started offering my services as a Hillsborough County Animal Services Volunteer. This page will be dedicated to this experience…not so much for people to read, but, mostly for me to ‘catalog’ my feelings. It is the only way I can help myself make sense of things.
For so many years, like so many others, I never thought I “could do it”. To put ones self in a straight line of fire to see a wide variety of issues regarding, mistreatment, abuse, and total disregard of Animal life, I imagine is like looking down the barrel of a shotgun without knowing who is on the other end. I have found my emotions running all over the freakin’ place. And the experiences and feelings I will share, will be with me not even being ‘close’ to the Investigation or Euthanasia areas of this wonderful, yet horrid place. Those 2 areas are the ‘barrel of a Cannon’….and I am not sure I would come out ‘intact’ if I had access to them.
So after all my years of living and actively loving animals, I have decided to “look down the barrel of the shotgun”…because, sometimes, the best way to conquer a fear is to face it head on. Love takes on a new meaning as one “ages”…but, as always, sometimes, love can hurt.
All of what goes on at Animal Services will not “go away” because I choose not to look at it. It will also not make it exist. Ignoring it to ease pain on myself won’t help all the innocent ones..…and that is what I want to do….just “help”….in any way I can. And in the midst all of the sadness of this place lies a great amount of love…from all the people who work there, be they “paid” or “volunteer” or the ones who come “looking for love”.
I would like to say all of the actions involved with AS are well-balanced. But, they are not. Not enough room, not enough people, not enough money. All of this is reality for those that are trying to help. This, combined with the mass of people who continue to contribute to this cause, makes for not a good balance. “They” (meaning general public) abuse or tire of “Fluffy” and are too lazy to find another way. ”They” simply don’t care. “They” bring them in droves,… puppies and kittens in baskets, and often still in the womb. Older animals who have lived many years with “them”, who now may have become a “problem” to “them” with their ’senior needs’… are dropped off as easy as dropping a bag of groceries on the table. I wonder if many of them don’t just drop off these innocent, wonderful creatures on their way to the beach. Surely there couldn’t be any thought behind these moves….unless, maybe it was that the ‘errand’ might make them late to whatever they had planned for the day.
Wrap this one thought around your mind. ( And this is just a rough example )
Fifty (50) intakes of “Owner Surrender” Animals in one day…maybe another 50 picked up as Strays…and I don’t know if this is factoring in possible Confiscation cases etc…… Maybe twenty (20) animals go out this same day as ‘adoptions’, and maybe a few find their way home. And, this happens every day. the ratios change, but it is never to the favor of AS or the pups. You do the math. Think about it.
So, if you want to share my journey with me, please return to this page. If possible stories of sadness may hurt you, then stay away. Regardless of what story I tell, they will be of mixed emotion. I will just be “going with the flow” of my heart.
Mixed Memories 6-23-07
As I was coming out of the dog adoption area, a group of potential volunteers was entering. They were on a ‘tour’ of the facility after their orientation. This group seemed to be widely varied in age. I was standing outside the adoption kennels waiting for the crowd to disperse so I could escort some people back to the lobby. I went to enter back into the kennel area at the same time a woman from the tour group was exiting. She was crying.
I paused for a moment and felt slightly intrusive, but, I wanted to make sure she was all right. I overheard her tell other people in her group that “she just couldn’t stand it“…meaning, ..all the homeless pups. I walked over to her, gave her a hug, and told her not to feel sadness for those pups beyond that door. Those pups were “safe”. (Unless of a dire medical condition that may arise, from what I understand, once a pup is lucky enough to be chosen for adoption it remains there until it finds a home). She continued to cry and said she couldn’t stand the sadness of watching them…the ’safe’ ones nor the others,..the others who would never be so lucky. Sadness washed over me. I felt her pain. Although adoption pups are “safe” and in air conditioning, they sleep on cold hard floors with the bare necessity of food, water and maybe a toy.
They beg at the gates with their paws..clawing under the kennel gates, into the kennel gates, between the links of the kennel gates, or, sometimes they just sit quietly and shake. But, they all want the same thing.. the one ‘thing’ that might result in a scratch behind an ear, a kind word,..and if they are really lucky..it will result in a ‘green pass’ that means that pup may be taken out to sit outside for a while or maybe even taken to sniff in the grass. The “thing” they all want is love and attention.
As the woman continued to cry, I felt my eyes welling up also. Trying to make her feel better, I must have said something to the effect that we were there to make a difference. ..no matter what our volunteer job was. She said she couldn’t go ‘back in there’, but, she ‘could paint’. And, I understood that to. Animal Services has so many needs..some of them are completely outside of the kennel areas and away from the animals. In this instance, there apparently was going to be a need for ’painting’.
Everyone who is able to donate some time has something they can contribute. Me? I hate to paint…so I dried my eyes and headed back into the kennel.
Unusual Scenario 6-23-07
One of the downsides of a busy day at Animal Services is that I don’t get to escort every single person back into the adoption areas. I like to spend time with everyone…they all have stories of why they are there, and what they are seeking. It is especially joyful to watch someone ‘find love’. But, sometimes, it is just too busy..visitors are sent back on their own, or maybe another volunteer leads them.
One particular afternoon, as I was just drifting around the adoption kennel, I noticed two young boys, ..well, I say “young”…but, I am thinking they are probably in their early 20’s. Actually, from where I sit, that IS young.. Anyhooo…. Since I hadn’t brought them back, I didn’t know their story. My first thought was they were looking for a pit mix or something. You know…something ”cool”.. I am ashamed to say, at first glance, that was my reaction. I mean, come on….how many times do you see two young boys looking for a pup to love on a Saturday morning? And, to make matters worse, I didn’t even really look at the kennel they were hanging around…based on ‘feel’, I knew it was close to the kennel where there is a very lovely red pit bull. After taking a second look tho, I realized I was wrong. I peeked over their shoulders and realized they both were snapping pictures and videos with their camera phones of a beautiful, young yellow lab mix. I also noticed they carried a ‘green’ pass.
I poked my head in their photo shoot and said, “So…you lookin’ at taking this guy home?”..Both turned around and said “yes”. We shared some general ‘chat’ for a moment, then one of them said that he had just put down his pup the day before. He said he just couldn’t stand the thought of being without a dog.
Again, in my mind, I passed a quick judgement. Hmmm..apparently didn’t love that much if he is replacing this soon. And, no sooner than I thought that, the young man took out his wallet and showed me a picture of a beautiful little red Min Pin… the “love” he just lost. He kept a part of his heart in his wallet.
I watched them leave, two young men, comparing photos and videos of a new family member.
It is my guess that a new part of his heart will be added to his wallet..probably right next to the ‘lost’ one.
What are they thinking? 6-30-07
I saw them get out of the pretty, black SUV. A man, a woman, 2 dogs on a leash, and one cat in a carrier. He walked in to the lobby area with one dog…apparently the others waited outside. No one seems to pay attention to the sign on the window that says “Animal Surrender” with an arrow pointing around the building. There are ‘pawprints’ painted on the sidewalk to show people where to go. A ‘cute’ little way to show how to take your animals to doom. The jobs of the people at Animal Services are not easy. And, it would be so nice if people would read the signs, and keep the Customer Service area clean of at least THAT particular heartbreak. This particular day, I personally had not seen one animal leave out of adoption, although I know some had…but, I probably saw 7 come in to be ’surrendered’.
Animal “Intake” apparently closes for lunch. I don’t know why. Anyhow..Mr. Pretty Black SUV man entered the building and was told that “intake” was around the corner…outside (follow the painted paw prints)…and, that they were closed for lunch. You could tell he became ‘miffed’. Then he loudly told everyone that he had driven across town to surrender his animals..and, exactly what was he supposed to do now? “Intake” was to be closed for at least another 30 minutes. I guess keeping his animals was not going to be the answer he would have wanted.
So, Mr. Pretty Black SUV man left the lobby area and disappeared outside. During the next 1/2 hour I would guess, another 2 to 3 people came looking to surrender animals. Some of them ’strays’..some of them from unwanted litters I suppose, and some of them like Mr. Pretty Black SUV mans, ..probably pets. They were told the same story about the “Intake” hours.
Twenty minutes later, word makes it to the lobby that people have started leaving their dogs in the parking lot in front of the”Intake” gate. It is my guess the ‘plan’ was started by Mr. Pretty Black SUV man. Pages started going out to anyone in the back, alerting them to the situation…hopefully to get someone up front to gather up the dogs.
To YOU Mr. Pretty, Black SUV man. I don’t know your story..but, to be honest I don’t care. I am not sorry you drove all the way across town to ‘dump’ your dogs and the pretty little kitty. I am sorry you didn’t hang around long enough to sign the paperwork that tells you there is no guarantee the animals you leave will make it to adoption. In fact, the odds are probably stronger they will be euthanized not too long after you leave. Or, did you know that and just didn’t have the guts to stay? Nah, ‘guts’ reside in the same area as the ‘heart’. It is my guess you have neither. And, it was quite apparent that whatever your story actually was,..the plot didn’t include you spending much time to say ‘goodbye’ to your animals, nor did it contain any emotion whatsoever…unless of course, you count the anger you felt after “driving all the way across town” only to find out you had to wait for a while before you could dump your pets.
I am trying not to despise you, because, in truth, your story may be different than I imagine. But, it really wouldn’t make the situation any better, no matter what your story was. The end results are the same.
You followed the “painted paw prints“. It’s a damn shame you couldn’t have stopped to search for some kind of emotion in you and instead, maybe, have followed your heart. Maybe the two would have been in completely different directions. Or, maybe not. Tell me Mr.Black Pretty SUV man…where does one go when one doesn’t harbor a heart, and there are no footprints to follow?
The pup came out of the pen for some ‘bonding’ time with his new ‘parent prospects’. He was a little “Poo” mix of some kind,….apparently a perfect match for their other pup at home.
The woman’s mind was made up..we were just waiting on the final confirmation from her ‘ other half ‘. I was lucky enough to share the excitement…that is the greatest part of being a volunteer….you can become a small part of the family for a short period of time.
Every so often her eyes would meet mine over the bonding process that was taking place between dog and man below us. She was smiling, but in those eyes I saw a quiet desperation.
He was sitting on the ground, pup in his lap…she was standing behind him with her fingers tightly crossed behind her back, thinking no one could see. I thought it was cute. God did to apparently.
A new family was formed.
At The End of Her Rope. 7-6-07
I was sitting in the lobby, waiting for my next ‘assignment’. I had made eye contact with an Hispanic woman who was standing in line. She looked ‘lost’. She walked over to me after I asked her if I could help her.
She was a soft-spoken woman, with a light Spanish accent, who did not break eye contact with me during our conversation. Her words were heartfelt and honest. I could tell that from her eyes.
Her family had been hit by hard times..and had been for a while. The dog she owned was a 12 year old, lab mix. There was very little money to feed the family, much less the pup. She mentioned her daughter being unable to work, while also being a mother to two young children. A kind neighbor would, on occasion, throw food over the fence to feed the dog,…”an act of kindness“, she said. She continued to tell me more of her story, as if she had to justify it within her self. I couldn’t judge her, nor did I want to. She was so very different than “Mr Black SUV man” She had a plan…one that she had thought about for a while. She wanted to know if we could take her dog…she had no other choices.
“There is no money for food”…she reminded me. “I cannot afford the shots or vet care for our dog”. I wanted to look away..but, I couldn’t…she held me captive by her sad look and her words.
I asked her if she had her dog with her. She shook her head ‘no’. She lived close, she said…if it was all right, she would come back with it later. This is the part where it was my turn to speak, and, I struggled for just a moment.
I said “You do understand that if you bring your dog here, there is no guarantee that it will make it to the adoption area. In fact, the odds are great that your pup will be euthanized not too long after you leave”.
For the first time during our conversation, her eyes left mine. Her gaze dropped to the floor for a moment. She shook her head ‘yes’…and then raising her gaze to look at me once again, she said she understood. There were no tears, but I could see an unmistakable deep sadness. Now, it was my turn for my eyes to focus on the floor for a moment.
As I blinked back a tear, I looked at her once again, and directed her to a gentleman at the counter..I watched as she told her story again…
My attention was diverted for a moment, and when I looked back the woman was gone. She didn’t return while I was there…at least not that I saw.
But, when I work I cannot see the lines of dogs forming at the end of the ‘painted pawprints’…so, that day, I am unsure if she and her dog were among them.
That woman and her family, along with her pup, will be in my prayers…
Mr. Mean Man
He lost a cat. I was the one that had to escort him and his wife through the cat rooms to search.
He wasn’t very nice. In fact, he was a little ‘arrogant’….ah hell, he was a lot arrogant’.. He asked about the ’scanning’ process for Microchips. I told him all animals were scanned upon arrival..but, it was my belief that one shouldn’t depend on that form of identification alone…I would still recommend that a physical walk through of the kennels. Animal Services employs humans, which always leaves room for error,…and ‘chips’ can sometimes be missed. He then asked me, if animals are checked again, one last time, before being euthanized. My answer was simple…I honestly didn’t know for sure, but, it was my guess the County takes every precaution they can.
“You” he said,…”need to find that out“. I informed him I was a volunteer and that I wasn’t entirely sure of protocol of all instances…in this case, what kind of double-check system was in place. However, a paid worker was in the cat room, so I asked her. She assured me that all animals were scanned again prior to euthanizing..and that yes,…sometimes they will find a chip on that last scan that didn’t appear previously.
Well, Mr. Mean Man said they need to ‘get better’ at it..and that “you“ ..(meaning “me”) need to make sure that everything possible is done to prevent ‘accidents’.
For a moment, I felt as tho all the rights and wrongs of HCAS was directly related to me. Like, I had some kind of control over any of it. I fretted about it for a moment …but, then just reminded Mr. Mean Man that he needs to return to check every 4 days….physically….for his cat. Holding days for non-tagged, non chipped animals is 5 days……tagged or micro-chipped animals are held 10. But, we have established that tags can fall off, and ‘chips’ can be missed…so don’t leave anything to chance..nothing can be substituted for YOU being able to physically identify YOUR cat in the flesh. I informed him that most days in excess of 100 animals are brought in DAILY…and then quietly wondered to myself if his cat was ‘fixed’.
Mr. Mean Man didn’t find his cat on that trip. He mumbled something about it being nice that I could do ‘this’,…and that he couldn’t…that he “couldn’t take it”. I thought to myself about all of the other things he could do instead of belittling the system. I became angry at myself for allowing him to ‘get to me’.
I hope he finds his cat…..
And, I hope that maybe his next trip to AS, he will bring an extra towel or blanket to leave..or some newspapers….or maybe a few of those little kitty ball-toys with a bell in it. He ‘could do that’…..anyone can.
Just a thought 7-14-07
A woman came in today to ‘give‘ us some kittens. And, those were her exact words. ” I came in to give you some kittens “. She seemed to be very kind..and, she smiled when she said it. She was directed to the “pawprints”.
Maybe she doesn’t know….
One hundred and twenty-nine animals were euthanized yesterday. That was a pretty average day from what I understand……..
She caught my eye as I was quickly walking through. The vision of her reminded me of one of those cardboard skeletons you see at Halloween…you know the kind…they are ‘tacked’ so all the extremities ’swing’ when they are hung.
She wasn’t cardboard tho..there was breath in her. She lay on the hard cement floor next to a bowl of food and a container of water. Generally, I try not to make eye contact with those in the cages..I look, but, I try not to see. I always keep my hands in my pockets.. it helps me keep my ‘distance’ . The rules request you don’t touch, a safeguard of sorts from possibly spreading disease. I do it for that reason and to keep from causing myself more heartbreak. As the pups will confirm, ‘touch’ is a powerful thing. Only on occasion do I stop and let a slurpy tongue lick the back of my hand through the links of the cages. But, I do speak to all of them though as I walk. ‘Voice’ seems to reassure them…and it seems to help me to.
But, I had to stop for her..I had to. But she wouldn’t get up to greet me. And her eyes reflected nothing. They were completely ‘vacant’. She was a boxer type, brindle in color…and only a skeleton of a dog.
She was picked up as a stray. It is my guess she will not make adoption. And, it is my guess that no one is looking for her.
And, after a most recent life that consisted of very little, if any, of love and food..she will have to continue to live the remaining days of her ‘hold’ on that hard cement floor.
We will never know her story. But, if you are the praying type…say a prayer for her and all the others.
It is soul breaking sad that her last days will be of a living skeleton on a cement floor, with only dry food, water, and hopefully, a handful of people who have said a prayer for her.
It breaks my heart to think that will be the best and last thing she ever had.
I know she deserved more.
How could they? 2007
He didn’t have ears. None. Not even an indication they existed..except by the two holes at the top of his head. He was a sweet pit mix, reddish brown in color, picked up as a stray.
As I sit here and try to write this I still ‘freeze’ at the site of him in my mind. Somebody, somewhere, had mutilated him… plain and simple.
I can’t find words. There is nothing I can say to even try to make you understand or envision this.
He wagged his tail tho…the little dog with no outward ears was happy for a moment…his innocence was apparent.
I Love You 2007
It was a bone shaped tag on his collar. “I Love You”
The collar hung around the neck of a cute pit mix. I spoke to him while walking by. With his tail tucked, he spun around in a small circle. He wanted to play. His chest to the floor and his butt in the air, his tail wagged furiously. Then he burst upward, front paws on the gate…his whole body wiggling. That is how I saw the tag.
He was there…9 oclock in the morning. His kennel card said he was picked up as a stray…the date was about 4 or 5 days prior. I can’t recall exactly. I just remember thinking that someone should have been looking for him by now.
Around 11:00 as I was walking through again, he wasn’t there. I looked for him each time I escorted someone through that area for the rest of the day,…just in case maybe I had missed him.
Someone had loved that dog enough to put that cute little tag on him. Somebody, somewhere, loved him.
Maybe his owner made it in to claim him. Maybe I just missed the happy reunion in between my escorting people.
Maybe Vet Services took him to see if he would be ‘cleared’ for adoption.
I can’t even allow myself to think it. But, he was a pit mix. Generally their chances aren’t good. But, he had that tag…and that ‘enthusiasm’…the happiness of just being a dog.
I won’t know the ending to this one unless he happens to be in the adoption pens next week. And, without the “I love you” tag, I don’t think I would recognize him.
I just remember how happy he was…and that somebody, somewhere must have loved him.
I just wish they would have loved him a little more.
I Now Know The Way 2007
I accidentally indirectly found out where the path to the euthanasia area is. I think my head had always known…my heart just didn’t want to acknowledge. Just knowing the mere direction of the that area makes my stomach queasy.
On Saturday while walking a group of people through the kennels, I saw an attendant removing a small white pit mix from his cage. The attendant was using one of those “stick-choker” type things although the pup didn’t seem to be resisting. I imagine that is the standard protocol.
I was following the group I was with while they searched for a new pup to love, and, for some reason I stopped and turned around to watch this small white pit mix. He was now out of his cage.
I watched him as they walked away.
The pup was wagging his tail. He seemed to be grateful to be leaving his cage.
My heart then had to acknowledge what my head already knew.
The innocent little white pit mix would be dead in just a short time.
Dear Lord 2007
She arrived late at the shelter. Adoptions close at 2:30 on Saturday. The shelter closes at 3:00. It was 2:15 when I escorted her to the adoption kennels. In our conversation I found out she was replacing a family dog that had recently died…and she wanted to replace it by Sunday. That was when her 4-year-old son was returning from Camp.
But, she only had 15 minutes. And, most of the pups in the adoption pens aren’t normally “ready to go”. Most have to be spayed or neutered before leaving,..but, there are a few that have been through the process for various reasons.
I knew there were two “yellow cards” in the adoption pens. Yellow cards on a cage door indicate a pup is “ready to go”. One yellow card belonged to a pit mix…the other to a large beagle-looking hound.
Now, 10 minutes left. The Pit mix was not an option. The Hound looked harmless enough for a 4-year-old I guess. She made her decision that instant, based on nothing but the fact that the hound was “ready to go”. I mentioned that time was running out, and suggested that maybe her son might enjoy picking out a new pup with his mom….maybe she might wait….take a little more time to find a new family member? Nope.
Somehow, she got her application filled out in time..she was approved, and got the Hound. They left by 2:40.
It is my guess that she took less time picking out this dog than she does picking out a box of cereal. She seemed like a nice woman..and I am sure she didn’t want to have heartbreak await her son on his arrival home after learning the family pup had died even tho the child knew it was going to happen. Apparently they had been talking about getting another pup to ease the transition when it did happen. But, there was no thought given to the dog she chose. No emotion. No time to see if there was any type of ‘connection’ between them. It was merely a dog and it was “ready to go”.
I don’t feel real good about this one.
Dear Lord,..please take care of the Hound.
The Luck of the Irish 2007
I have always read the “Lost and Found” section of the classifieds. I know the pain of losing a pet. Since I started volunteering at AS I have tried to sharpen my memory skills in retaining information of what I read, and then of what I see.
Every Saturday morning I cut out the “Lost” section of the Tribune and put it in my pocket. Then I refer to it many times while doing my ‘escort’ walks. It is difficult to keep up with so many dogs. Pups come and go during the day. I could do one walk thru….then, do another one 20 minutes later and have many new pups that I didn’t see on my first round and a few that disappeared. It is mind boggling sometimes.
Back in the early 70’s, I showed Irish Setters. It was my ‘breed of choice’ and, they happened to be #1 on the AKC popularity list. LOTS of Irish Setters around at that time. Last year they ranked #63. Today, many people don’t even know what they are. So, when I saw an ad that said “Lost Irish Setter”, I was surprised. The ad had been in the paper for many days…the pups name was “Ginger” and, according to the ad, she had a pink collar on.
On my first ‘escort’of the day, while walking through the last kennel what did I see….YEP….an Irish with a pink collar on. According to her card, she had been picked up a few days prior. I was completely thrilled..I knew it HAD to be the pup in the paper. And, a few kennels down, lo and behold, ANOTHER ONE!! I mean come on,…what are the odds?
I flashed back to the 70’s when I had my 3 Irish. Everyone within a 7 mile radius knew them by name. And, my pups saw the inside of Animal Services a few times. Fence climbing was a ‘hobby’ of sorts for them. I had made special accommodations for the fence, but, on occasion my system failed. Anyhooo…I knew what the breed was like, so it was no great surprise to see one under these circumstances..and I knew that the odds were great that the same people owned both of these dogs.
I took the ad to the front, had one of the guys call the number, but, no one was home so he had to leave a message. While walking another set of people through later that day, I noticed the attendants taking both of the red pups out of their kennels. It was confirmed that the owners were there to pick them up..and that they both belonged to the same people.
I didn’t get to see the reunion, but, it made my heart feel good knowing that they were headed home. I have to wonder why the owners may have not checked with the pound. I am pretty sure those pups would not have been euthanized, had they surpassed their hold period….they would have gone to a rescue group if nothing else. Both pups had been picked up wayyy down on the other end of town. Apparently someone found them wandering the streets, took them to a local vets office, and the vet called AS to come and ’store’ them for a while.
If you lose a pup that is tagless or chipless..AS only holds it for 5 days. If there is a tag, or microchip…they hold it 10. Either scenario is not a whole lot of time. If one ‘puts off’ trying to find their pup immediately..precious time can be lost that could result in an unhappy ending for owner and pup. A dog can be euthanized..or, it could legally end up in the hands of another.
I found it quite odd that my first ‘find’ was an Irish. That breed holds so much history with me. I am sorry I couldn’t meet the owner,..the pup came from the same end of town as the breeder from whom I got my first Irish. How weird would that have been had it been her? So, I guess that whole scenario was meant to be. Least that is the way I am seein’ it.. :)
I now miss my beautiful red dogs again. My bitch became a Champion.. “Ch.Glenmora Miss Danny O’Meade“…a moment that made me very proud. The others I had deserved the same title in my eyes, but, show rings would have thought otherwise. Regardless, they were all loved deeply…
AnaBrook, Pauli, George, Danny……I miss you.
I still continue to look every Saturday for pups that may even remotely look like one that may be in the “Lost” column. And, I call the ad if one may come close to a description. I am so surprised at how many don’t check with Animal Services.
One Dogs Journey 7-21-07
He was at Mango Dog Park. Somehow he ended up inside the Park. It is my guess someone put him there after they found him wandering around. I think it was on a Sunday. I had taken Ollie for a little bit of ball-chasing, and while sitting at the table I was surprised by a long bodied, short legged, Shepard colored mutt with a head that was slightly too big for his body. He was a “cut and paste” dog. It looked like he may have been put together by a blind man. But, his short little legs managed to get him up on the table to stare at me in my face.
He was following everyone around. I heard some people say he had been there awhile, and I thought I heard someone say they were gonna take him home. For a while, he stuck himself to me like glue. He didnt ask for anything, cept a little bit of attention. He was absolutely adorable.
That was at least 2 months ago.
While escorting a family through ‘open access’ today I saw the oddest looking pup. I paused for a moment, but, only for a moment,.. my people were starting to get ahead of me. An hour later, the odd looking pup still hadn’t left my mind. I walked alone to find his kennel.
Yep, it was him. Mr. My-Head-Is-To-Big-But-Ya-Gotta-Love-Me. He looked the same….and he looked at me with his adoring eyes like I was the greatest person in the world. His tag wagged viciously.
His sign said he was picked up as a stray. But, I wanted to see if there was more history on him so I wrote his kennel numbers on my hand, and went back to the front to allow the guys to run his numbers to see if he had more ’story’.
His only story was “sweet dog” and “picked up in Plant City”.
I was shocked. Plant City is quite a ways away from Mango Dog Park when it is measured in doggie footprints. And, if you factor in the length of Mr. My-Head-Is-To-Big-For-My-Body’s legs..well,…it just seems like an impossibility.
Had someone taken him home that day from the Park, or did someone simply turn him back out into the streets? Has he been homeless for this length of time? His appearance didnt warrant it. He didnt look like a dog ‘on the lam’ so to speak.
Did God merely put this pup in the middle of my path twice for a reason?
~ OPUS~The story continues…
Well, the whole ordeal almost ” took me out ” so to speak. A story up, (^)I wrote about “Mr-my-head-is-too-big-but-ya-gotta-love-me”. Shortly after I wrote that story, I sent an email to AS asking for a little more information on this funny little pup. His “hold” period was almost up when I found him. Their response was simply that I would have to talk to the Adoption Coordinator. In that email I had expressed a slight interest in possibly adopting him.
I knew I wasn’t going to be able to volunteer that weekend, due to Inventory at work..and I just wanted to make sure “Mr-my-head-is-to-big-for-my-body-but-ya-gotta-love-me” was safe.
Days passed, and I became complacent with the whole ordeal. I guess I kinda felt God ‘tied me up with inventory’ to take my mind off the funny looking pup. And, being the somewhat naive person I am, there was not a doubt in my mind that “Mr -my-head-is-to-big-for-my-body-but-ya-gotta-love-me” wouldn’t make the adoption area……..THEN, when I went back to volunteering, IF he was still in adoption…….well, I would take that as a ’sign’ that maybe he should be mine.
Inventory came and went..and although “Mr” was in the back of my mind, I wasn’t worried about him. I didn’t really need another dog anyway….and in my mind it was a ‘given’ that he would make it into adoption.
Then came the email. Basically it said, “it is OK if you don’t want the Corgi/Shepard mix, ….we just need to know. We just can’t hold him much longer” HUH? HOLDING HIM FOR ME? I had NO idea they were holding him for me.
My first thought was that by them holding him for me, they had been keeping him out of the adoption pens..thereby eliminating his chances for a home. I felt horrible. I shot off an email, telling them I would call them that morning. Which I did. I needed some more basic information…age, etc. Still, I had no doubt he wasn’t going into adoption.
What happened next sent me into a tail spin. I didn’t know it then, but the next two days of my life would be pure hell.
My call to AS started out as a verbal release of this cute pup. I had convinced myself he would be safe, and would probably be better off adopted by someone other than myself,..and besides, he was so darn cute. But, before I got to that part, my world was rocked.
“Mr-my-head-is-to-big-for-my-body-but-ya-gotta-love-me” was scheduled for the euthanasia room…not the adoption kennels. He had been declared a strong heartworm positive. That diagnosis condemned him to death. Had the person I emailed not put a sign on his kennel stating “do not euthanize-possible adoption”, “Mr” would have been euthanized probably within a day of my first email. By not facing the statistics that I face every Saturday, ”Mr” almost fell victim to my carelessness of the cold hard facts. Cute doesn’t guarantee anything in a scenario like this.
My mind was spinning. Important decisions are hard for me under the best of circumstances, …but, now I was under pressure. They had held him for me, without my knowledge..all my ‘thinking time’ was gone before I even knew I had it. Plus they had added more ‘thinkin’ material’….. Suddenly I was the only thing between “Mr”and that room. I came apart at the seams. I asked for one more day..a whole 24 hours so I could maybe see exactly what God may have planned for me and this pup. My kids and I went to visit him that evening after work. But that visit didnt solidify anything for me..I was still unsure.
Nothing was clear to me. Why had this pup and I crossed paths twice? Why had “Inventory” intervened? Why did they hold this pup for as long as they did? Why did that email come at all? Why did I send that first email? Why did I even walk back to that cage that day. I KNEW BETTER…I crossed the line that kept my ‘distance’.
I cried my way through my thinking process. I cried on people’s shoulders. I cried to my kids…and I cried alone. I literally ‘came apart’. Should I or shouldnt I?
I didn’t know a whole lot about “Mr” other than he was cute and followed me around for awhile at the Park those many weeks ago. Would Ollie like him? Does he dig under fences? A billion things were going through my mind…and not any of it made sense. I was so terrified of the fact that I had to make a decision quickly..I forgot that I had actually made the decision two weeks prior when I wrote the first email. I knew then if the pup wasnt going to be ’safe’..I would have to intervene. I just kept forgetting that under the stress of being the trigger to the gun.
It was an ugly 24 hours. I left work at the final hour of my turmoil. A decision HAD to be made. It was mid morning and I couldn’t think anymore..I couldn’t function. My daughter and I sat in my hot truck for an hour in her parking lot. Right up to the last-minute I still had no idea what my answer would be about adopting “Mr”. She listened to my babbling about right, wrong, good, bad..money, no money..two dogs, one dog, responsibility, dirt, hair, vacuuming, food, jealousy, death, life, and commitment. I covered it all. None of it still made any sense.
The pressure of knowing I was the only thing that was gonna save “Mr-my-head-is-to-big-but-ya-gotta-love-me” took its toll. I had truly ‘crashed’.
His name is now “Opus”. Ollie is learning to ’share’ and seems to like having an on-site playmate. “Opus” has a long road ahead. He sleeps a lot right now and has a slight cough. We are giving him a few weeks to recover from being neutered, a slight case of kennel cough, and bi-lateral ear ‘issues’. We will start his heartworm treatment in 4 weeks. My vet thinks he has a good chance to survive it. Ollie and I are hoping so.
The door to my heart was hard to open for Opus. I fear a lot of things..Love and Loss top the list I suppose. I had wanted to take the easy way out..I convinced myself that someone else would fall in love with the big-headed pup. But, no one elses name appeared on the card on his kennel cage as a possible prospect..I thank God that mine did.
My head tells me “you cant save them all” and I wasn’t sure what saving one might do to me when I go back and see the others. I broke my rule…now I have to find my ’distance’ again.
I don’t remember being sure of my decision to say ‘yes’ when the time came for my answer. Somehow it just happened. I flew on a wing and a prayer. Opus is safe now…at least as safe as he can be under the circumstances. He still has a little way to go health wise .. but, when he is all better, he will make another trip to the Dog Park..only this time he wont be alone.