Resiliency and the Wagging Tail.

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Yesterday afternoon Paul and I went to the shelter. I was going to meet another volunteer to take some Petfinder pictures and Paul had a rough exam in the morning, so I suggested he join me to get his mind off of it. So, we headed down in the hopes of spending some time with a bunch of dogs, in addition to the doggie photo shoot.
One of the dogs I wanted to spend time with was a female pit bull mix named Autumn, as I had heard very good things about her from another volunteer who was concerned about her. We also spent time with Cher, the oddly proportioned rottie/corgi (basset?) mix and the beautiful Ella again. In addition to these girls, another caught my eye and made my heart sad and her name was Tracey. Tracey is a young brindle, beagle mix who I had to lure out of the kennel by speaking softly and sitting at the entrance and awaiting her approach. Though she made me sad, I didn’t let her see it and we got her out, took her pictures and let her relax a little bit. One thing worth noting is that someone at the shelter was thoughtful enough to provide her with some soft blankets to rest on in her kennel. This really touched me and reinforced why I am doing what I am doing.
As for Autumn, she has been on the News as a featured dog and has lots of people advocating for her…however, she has remained in the shelter for about six weeks. That is a very long time for any dog to be in any shelter, especially for a dog like this.  For the life of me, I cannot imagine why she hasn’t been adopted. She was the most trusting, loving dog that I have ever met. Even Paul said that he thought she was a very special dog…and I am pretty sure that before he met one, Paul, like way too many people, was sure that all pit bulls were un-trustworthy, brutal killing machines. If Ella had not proved otherwise just shortly before, Autumn surely would have. I had been told how sweet she was, but, honestly I didn’t believe she’d be this sweet. Within moments of being outside, she settled with her head on Paul’s lap, while I finished up taking pictures. When I finished with picture-taking, I headed to the run they were in and she placed herself between us for more loving. With every touch and soft word spoken, she would wag her tail a little. Eventually, I sat on the ground with her and within a few minutes, she nudged her way onto my lap and made herself a nest between my legs. Then, she began to snore softly. I was extremely physically uncomfortable…the pebbles were cold and hard underneath me yet my soul was full of joy and for as long as I could stand it, moving was not an option. Most of the dogs come out of the kennel and want to walk, play and/or go to the bathroom before snuggling, not Autumn…her need for physical comfort and reassurance was far greater. And, it was nice…it was relaxing and in a way, reassuring for me. It did make me sad, though, because she needs that love and reassurance full time. But, again, I didn’t let her see that, because I truly believe that dogs can sense what is going on in us and I just wanted her to feel the love.
As for resiliency, the more dogs I meet at the shelter, the more amazed I am at how capable they are of trust and love. So many found as strays, roaming the streets for God knows how long and so many dumped by their owners for reasons I just can’t understand. But, time and again, they are willing to meet a new human, let him/her loop a leash around their neck and take them from the safety of their kennel. They do so with hope in their eyes, tails wagging and then come up for pets, kisses and playtime outside. It speaks volumes to what dogs are made of. And what they have to teach us.
I don’t talk about it a lot, but, my love of dogs is a very spiritual thing for me. I find something very calming and life-affirming being with them.
I am constantly reminded of the film I watched on HBO last year called “Temple Grandin”, about the life of this brilliant, autistic woman whose love of animals has revolutionized much of the livestock industry. I won’t get into detail, but, I highly recommend the film to everyone who loves animals. Much of it isn’t pretty to think about, but, worth pondering for many reasons. Just like most animals we use for our purposes, humans have molded dogs to suit our needs for a very, very long time. We have exploited their talents for both good and bad. We have held them up as heroes and disposed of them like trash. Life is a sad state of affairs for many, many dogs. I look at so many of my friends who love their dogs and how many dogs I have loved throughout my life and am so saddened to think of the literally millions of others who were not afforded the same care. But, being sad isn’t enough for me. I can’t just sit here and ponder the unloved ones…I can love them. Even if it is only for a few minutes. Because, those few minutes matter. To me, but, more importantly to the dog. I’m pretty sure Autumn agrees.

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3 responses »

  1. Beautiful! I volunteer at at high kill gassing shelter and this brought me to tears. I am going to post this on our facebook page. We need more people to come out and share a moment with the animals. We lost an old beagle/hound a few months ago because no one wanted him. I spent a few minutes with him in the adoption room just letting him snore on the rug. I went there to try to get a more appealing photo of this poor cherry- eyed boy who staggered when he walked. Little did I know that when a shelter work came for him a minute later, it was the end of his days. I only hope that he was comforted for those few last minutes. I wish that I could have done more.

  2. I think we all wish we could do more. I just try to keep telling myself that those moments matter so much. Your last minutes of comfort to that dog were a great gift..and I am sure he enjoyed snoring safely with you. Keep it up…it matters!!!

  3. That’s such a sweet story… It breaks my heart when animals are abused and neglected and yet remain so submissive and trusting. They, like humans, thrive on love and are keen to recognize it and appreciate it for the rest of their days (moreso than a lot of humans!). I think the world would be a better place if we could all be a little more like that!

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