Friday, January 22, 2010

Shelter Dogs-A Cast of Characters--A Friday Journal, for Fun

The dogs at the Buddy Foundation had their "closed-gate" meeting last week and  voted me "in" to their special club of caregivers!  And they certainly gave me a hero's welcome, as only a group of eager, loving, needy dogs can do.

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.

Skittles and Banjo are an inseparable couple of feral dogs, an unusual occurrence in a day when we rarely see wild dogs surviving on their own. They were found wandering by a road, and may have been wandering for a long time.  No doubt they were abused, and although they growl and bark a lot, they are very afraid, and need gentle words and lots of patience.  It will be a while before they allow me to touch them.
Starsky is that Boxer/Bassett mix, solid and strong as a boxer, easygoing and stubborn as a bassett hound.  He is a good dog, but hard to characterize.  Most people will not warm to him and he is not a cuddly sort. I fear he will live most of his life in the shelter.  Of course, when I start to arrange adoptions for the shelter, I will make sure he is seen by a new family who will give him the space to roam, and will understand his need for affection even as he does not always invite it.

After another week or two, I hope to have good news for you about these critters..and will introduce more characters in my gallery.


  1. Great story! What a wonderful group of dogs you profiled here, Tom. My favorite is Cassie, but I have always been partial to beagles. I'm glad that all is going so well with your work at the shelter and that it is giving you such satisfaction and helping you on your path to re-invention. Well done!

  2. Tom, it looks like Cassie may be adopted soon. I had a chance to play with her tonight at the shelter. I will feel strangely sad if she leaves, but grateful that she will at last have a loving home. You would love the dogs here!