Our community has had some pretty sad news this week. It has been especially hard for animal lovers and even more so, I’m sure, for those working at our animal shelter. Hearing the stories makes my heart hurt, but it also reminds me of how much our own dog has increased our family’s capacity to love.
Oddly enough, had this happened a few years ago, I wouldn’t have given it a second thought. I wasn’t a fan of dogs or cats or household pets in general. In fact, I admit that I may or may not have made fun of “dog people.” I simply could not relate to people who would willfully endure the perils of housetraining, fleas, ticks or shedding. And scooping poop? Uh, no thanks.
That all changed in the fall of 2012. In the midst of one of the busiest times of my life, I felt overwhelmingly compelled to add to our family. While my husband and I were NOT pet people, my daughter was. Since she was an infant, she’d been drawn to every animal she’d ever seen.
Kay Williamson, one of the biggest advocates of the Oak Ridge Animal Shelter, encouraged me to check out a Bichon Frise that had come in. I took my daughter to visit the cute pup. She fit our needs perfectly. Not too old, not to young and minimal shedding/allergy issues. Plus, she was adorable. That was that. We were getting a dog.
We had to endure a waiting period of 5 days, as I recall. I was clueless as to how popular these pups were. On the day of her release, and much to my dismay, I found three people lined up in front of me for the very same dog. What? This was a thing? For real?
Fortunately, Savannah wasn’t traumatized by the ordeal and we gave it another shot. A similar dog was found and I decided it best to go alone this time. Kay had also told me about a puppy that had been rescued from a storm drain and insisted I see it. I really had no interest in adopting a puppy, especially not a longer-haired, 10 week old. I held her for only a few moments but instantly fell in love. Again, we had to endure a waiting period, but I was determined that she would be mine, er um, I mean Savannah’s.
When the big day came, I wasn’t taking any chances and showed up two hours before the shelter opened. Upon arrival, I saw a car sitting out front with a woman waiting in it. No problem. I’ll just stand at the door. An employee came out and asked if he could be of help. I told him that I knew they didn’t open for two more hours and was willing to wait. He asked which animal I was there for. When I told him, he apologized and said that the woman in the car had first dibs, she’d been waiting since 7:00a.m…..a full two hours before I’d arrived…four hours before they opened!?!?!
To say that I was crushed would be an understatement. How could this happen? How could I be so upset over an animal that I’d only seen once? How could I have fallen in love with ANY dog when, for 40 years, I had NOT been a dog person!
Throughout all of this, I’d been on the phone with a friend sharing my frustration and angst. She encouraged me to stick around and talk to the lady who would be adopting my dog. I reluctantly took her advice.
This woman, Norma I think was her name, was one of those kindred spirits that instantly warms and inspires others, including perfect strangers. During our hour-long chat, she shared with me that she was there to get this puppy for her teenage son. This was to be but a small reward for a young man who had already achieved much in life in spite of many hardships. She was one very proud momma who was, I’m certain, equally deserving of that same level of praise and adoration for a job well done. My heart melted for I knew that this dog, my dog, was going to a very deserving home.
As our time together came to a close, I decided to at least try to earn a vote from the encounter and handed Norma one of my campaign cards. She thanked me and let me know that her son had problems with allergies in the past and that if it didn’t work out, I’d be the first person she would call. I thanked her but didn’t expect to ever see her or Stormy again.
Three days later, Norma called me to ask if we still wanted Stormy. Sadly, her son had had a negative reaction. It was an odd feeling to be simultaneously sad for one family while elated for our own.
Our joy was tempered when Stormy became ill a few days later. She had become lethargic, would not eat and had lost 2 lbs (she was only 4-5 lbs to begin with.) We took her to the emergency vet and she subsequently spent a few overnights at the local clinic. Once again, our entire family was distraught. Even my husband, who had been so resistant to getting a dog that he designated our basement (a.k.a. his man-cave) strictly off limits to her, was crushed.
Fortunately, Stormy made it through that week and has been healthy ever since. And we are so blessed by the endless joy she brings us. Honestly, I cannot believe how attached we’ve become. We fight over who she comes to; we go for runs, not because of our health, but because of how happy it makes her; and we tear up over dog stories posted on Facebook. O.K., I tear up over Facebook posts. The transformation is complete. We are now dog people. Silly, crazy, stupid, madly in love Dog People.
THANK YOU Julie, Sara, David, Mark, Kay and all of the countless volunteers who give of their time at our shelter. Please know that, even during these difficult times, your work is invaluable and brings far more joy than you may ever really know. God Bless you all!