And what a cast of characters they are! I am torn by my desire to forge connections and see our bonds grow, and my sincere desire to see them all leave into the generous hands and homes of loving, responsible people. Perhaps one of them will know a bond with me in our own home.....
Friends of mine worry that spending time in the shelter will discourage me; they know how emotional I can be and wonder if I can handle it. I remind them that the shelter, especially this one, is the best place these dogs can be for now, and that they often receive more attention than many house pets. I expect to know deep sadness at times, and I have given myself permission to express it, deal with it, and let it strengthen me.
Before I introduce you to my new friends, I want to express my admiration for all of you who have ever opened your home to animals; and not only that, who actively care, or did care, for them, making a comfortable life for the creatures in your midst. You know who you are, and you deserve the love that you're given, from your current pet, or those wistfully and fondly remembered, and definitely deserve my respect for your kindness.
Feeding and watering the dogs at the shelter, cleaning the "accidents" and the chewed up bedding, walking them in the snow at night, and giving them the affection they crave, is a wonderfully transforming experience. I will exercise the muscles of patience, endurance, and sympathy I often forget I possess. Whether I might run a shelter of my own some day, choose a dog to raise from among this motley group, or gather material for original fiction, I am moving in a good direction, a positive re-invention.
(I am suddenly, somehow, inspired to begin my series on the days I spent as a Residence Hall Director at two different colleges....very soon! Both experiences share certain humorous elements.)
Here are some of the personalities I work with:
Cassie is a new arrival, a brown-on-brown Beagle who was about to be euthanized. Cassie and I understand each other....She seems to know how much I miss Maggie and in her eyes I can see a message, that Maggie is happy that I found one of her distant cousins to give my affections to. Cassie is a sweet girl who nonetheless streaks like a bullet on a leash...she wants to sniff and explore so.... Soft ears...gently takes treats from my fingers..... She is a special one.
Danny frightens most of the volunteers. He is a code-red Pit Bull who has been known to bite. He is also the most vocal, barking his annoyance at most people who walk by. Maybe it was my goofy gap-toothed smile...or my calm as I breezed by his cage to feed his neighbor..but Danny stopped barking when I was nearby. He is a dog who feels desperate to defend himself from the hurt he experienced at the hands of a previous owner. Maybe he will forget someday.
Louise came to us last week; I mentioned her before. She is a beautiful 6-year-old Great Pyrenees, as large as a St. Bernard. Her owner is dying and cannot care for her any more. She is sullen now and sleeps a lot, and is simply waiting for an owner she will never see again take her to a home to which she will never return. But we saw a breakthrough.... She came up to me, and allowed me, and no one else, to collar her, for the first time since she was brought in. Soon, I think she will allow another to love her, and take her to her new home.