Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Oliver, A New Shelter Pup-- Tuesday Journal

When you spend time in an animal shelter, working with dogs, the events of the world disappear, and what finally matters most are all of the unfortunate animals in your midst.  Even the irrational cruelty of humans, which can be seen in the eager, inquisitive faces of the dogs in your care, is overcome by the immediacy of the need in front of you.  That cruelty is a silent reminder which permeates the atmosphere, a reminder of what makes you come here each week or more.  

You accept the crescendo of barking and baying, the wildness of  pent-up dogs on their walks, the spilled water, the accidents, the snarls, and the signs of abuse, because you are certain that you provide comfort and love to these amusing, playful, confused and frightened animals. 

That may be why I experience an unusual calm after my shift at the Buddy Foundation; for a couple hours I have avoided all the world's nasty politics, the unstable global economy, the danger of tyrants from Iraq to Washington DC, the dispiriting popular culture, and the stress of career.  And it has done some good to help these helpless dogs, all of whom I love like crazy.

And the reward is often a singular and life-affirming encounter with a puppy like Oliver.  A beagle weighing about five pounds, this little guy bonded with me like a duckling for its mother, following me, peeing happily in my presence, climbing on my lap, and sitting quietly in my arms as I carried him out to the yard.

It was immediate love for both of us. The moment I walked in the puppy room, he ran to me and wanted contact, putting his paws on me, licking my face and running around me in that awkward puppy manner.  I don't think my voice has ever been so gentle since we had Maggie.  He ate his food like a trooper, sat with me on the lawn, and made me a present--unfortunately, once we got back inside (!)

Friends have asked me why I have not yet given a loving home to a creature like Oliver.  Just between my readers, and I, I have gone back several times to see a favorite, maybe to convince myself of the rightness our bond; and always, that dog has been adopted. It's want them all to have good homes, and yet you will miss them.

So why wait so long?  Considering the difficult lives these dogs have had, it is extra important to make a good decision.  With Mark and I in the thick of our careers, we will not take in an animal and leave it alone most of the day.  We must weigh the goodness of having a heart filled with love romping in our home, against realizing the dream of  our finally being able to travel.  We want to be certain of a reliable caregiver when we do go away. 

And there is the pain that lingers from Maggie's departure....Can I endure that intensity of loss again?

But all of this melts away as I look at Oliver's eyes, and feel him breathing in my arms, sitting contented and safe there. will happen some day soon. 

But Oliver is so charming, he will not stay long at the shelter.  For us, it's just too soon, and he will not be ours, I'm afraid.

Do you remember "Goodbye Mr. Chips"?  Chips, the schoolmaster of a boy's boarding school, is asked if he missed not having children.  His response can be re-written to aptly describe my feelings, about my fulfillment at the shelter....

"...a pity I never had children? But you're wrong...I have...thousands of them....and all boys!"
At the Buddy Foundation I have dozens of "children"...all dogs.


  1. Awwww! I would adopt Oliver in a second! Such a cute beagle! As you know I'm a lifelong beagle lover and if we ever did get another dog to add to our growing menagerie, it would be a beagle! Our weekly trips to the dog park with our two "boys" only reinforce that as there are often two or three beagles running about. What a lovely and heartfelt post, Tom! Well done!

  2. Tom..after I wrote this, I remembered your great love of Beagles, so I am very happy that you stopped by to comment. We are giving serious thought to taking Oliver home, if he is available, in a week or two. He is a wonderful dog...I wish I could send him to you! Thanks for your encouragement.