Part 1 – The Sad Part
One of my resolutions for the new year back in 2010 was to become more connected…
…to learn about, and to use Facebook both socially and to promote HoofPrints. It’s been great fun, and I’ve enjoyed catching up with former classmates, co-workers, etc. One of which was my friend Anna, who worked with me at RAM Graphics. We were both aspiring graphic artists, fresh out of college, hell bent on setting the design world on it’s ear with our brilliant creative solutions. (Ha Ha – the things you think you know when you’re 24) Eventually we went on to other things and lost touch for 20+ years. One night I logged onto Facebook and saw this picture of Anna and her Australian Terrier Remmington. Remmington had been suffering with a serious esophageal condition, and Anna had previously mentioned their struggles to diagnose & treat him. But this time her status read:
“This picture taken last night. At 9:05 this morning, I sat at my table with my Remmington on my chest, kissed his forehead and said my goodbyes; read him Psalm 23 and he quietly, gently slipped away… He was MUCH loved and will be greatly missed.”
Of course, I bawled my eyes out. Our own dog Zack had been doing poorly, and I knew that his end was near soon, too. I wrapped up a framed Pet’s Prayer Verse and sent it off to my friend with a sympathy card.
Part 2 – The Suspenseful Part
First, we need to clarify that my dog placement skills are not so good.
The previous summer, after someone dumped 2 black Lab pups at our farm, my bestest, most super-woman, mega-connected, marketing-savvy efforts resulted in only 1 taker. My success rate is a dismal 50%… “Piece of cake!” – I remember telling my husband – “All these people read my newsletter – these pups will be in good homes (not ours) in no time!” The ensuing experience plunged me head-first into learning a great deal more about the unwanted pet problem than I ever wanted to know.
In my efforts to place my pups, I’d made connections on Facebook with Maleah Stringer, the director of our local animal control. This woman is a dynamo – she spearheaded a huge effort to make major changes at the shelter, which had a terribly high euthanasia rate. She’s rallied an army of volunteers. She writes a gutsy column in our newspaper that spells out in eloquent detail, just how big the unwanted pet problem is in our community. They are getting things done and it’s refreshing and inspirational to watch.
Their Facebook page is another that I keep an eye on. So, one night I log on and this guy (Benji) pops up in the status.
So, one night I log on and this guy (Benji) pops up in the status. He looks like Anna’s dear departed Remmington. So, what to do? Here’s a friend that I don’t know very well after many years… her heart is broken from the loss of her dog. Do I send her this? I didn’t want her to think that I felt Remmington was replaceable by another dog; it seemed shallow to send her a picture of a dog that looked just like…
But Anderson Animal Care & Control is a municipal shelter. They can NOT turn dogs away. When they get full (which is nearly always) some have to be put to sleep. So I decided to take the chance. I sent her a note with the picture saying; “This dog is at the shelter, in case you’re interested.” Fortunately, Anna wasn’t upset with me, although she did tell me that it was still too soon, and that they were considering a larger dog for their next choice. A few days later I got another note from her, saying they’d stopped by the shelter to see Benji. I could tell she had reservations; she said he wasn’t at all friendly, and that they didn’t want to bring him home and discover that they had psycho dog on their hands.
More days passed and she told me they’d decided to foster Benji, so if things didn’t work out they could return him to the shelter. As all this played out, I began to question the wisdom of my getting involved and trying to play “doggy matchmaker” over the internet for two parties I don’t really know. What if he attacks them? Eats their couch? Poops on the carpet? I was beginning to think I should have left well enough alone. Which, in turn, gave me even more respect for those folks who do this very thing – every day. All over the country, shelter workers take in frightened, upset, untrained, and sometimes abused dogs… and try to safely match them with families that will give them good homes.
HoofPrints carries a book that tells these folks’ stories; Don’t Dump the Dog. It’s a poignant account of what it’s like to deal with the canine unwanteds of the world.
Part 3 – The Happy Ending
Benji goes to live with Anna and Doug on a trial basis
Since Benji was so fearful and distant at the shelter, my friends had reservations about how well he would adjust to life in their home. Both are busy professionals, and were not ready to add doggy psycho-therapy to their already full plates. I held my breath, hoping that Benji was just stressed and afraid from being at the shelter, and that he wouldn’t get worse after another move into yet another strange environment.
I breathed a great sigh of relief when this message came from Anna:
“As for BENJI – what a love! He really is a great dog. Our vet said he is between 2-3 years old and appears to be healthy. He is a lover. He is obedient. He is house trained. He walks well on a leash, too. I am healing from what could only be described as a devastating loss. We are SO thankful to you. Not going with a puppy and all the chewing, the house training, and energetic but destructive behaviors and social training required… is just such a huge relief. This is the right move for us. We are completely enjoying this dog – NOW.”
The adoption was finalized and Benji has been a permanent resident of the Whiteman home for seven years now. He’s been by Anna’s side through career changes, caring for her mother through her passing from Alzheimer’s disease, the birth of two grand babies, and a cross-country move.
When I first started dabbling with Facebook, I viewed it as a fun social toy; a way to snoop into what my former classmates had gone on to do with their lives, to see what my equestrian friends were doing with their horses, and tell HoofPrints’ friends about new product developments. But for Benji, Facebook may very well have saved his life. I am glad I pushed past my reservations against meddling, and shared his picture with my grieving friend.
“Life is sculpted on a moment-to-moment basis. Every one of the thoughts we think, the words we speak, and the actions we take contributes to the complex quality and character of the universe’s unfolding. It simply is not possible to be alive without making an impact on the world that surrounds us. Every action taken affects the whole as greatly as every action not taken. And when it comes to making the world a better place, what we choose not to do can be just as important as what we choose to do.
For example, when we neglect to recycle, speak up, vote, or help somebody in immediate need, we are denying ourselves the opportunity to be an agent for positive change. Instead, we are enabling a particular course to continue unchallenged, picking up speed even as it goes along. By holding the belief that our actions don’t make much of a difference, we may find that we often tend to forego opportunities for involvement. Alternatively, if we see ourselves as important participants in an ever-evolving world, we may feel more inspired to contribute our unique perspective and gifts to a situation.
It is wise to be somewhat selective about how and where we are using our energy in order to keep ourselves from becoming scattered. Not every cause or action is appropriate for every person. When a situation catches our attention, however, and speaks to our heart, it is important that we honor our impulse to help and take the action that feels right for us. It may be offering a kind word to a friend, giving resources to people in need, or just taking responsibility for our own behavior. By doing what we can, when we can, we add positive energy to our world. And sometimes, it may be our one contribution that makes all the difference.”
Stay tuned for the next chapter. For now, you can read the rest of my dog stories here.