I’ve been volunteering with a local rescue for about a year now and have loved every minute of it. In the past year, I’ve transported dogs, helped rescue dogs off of a chain, helped a dog give birth, adopted and said goodbye as some of my favorites have found their forever home. I’ve gotten to know some dogs more than others and have cheered nearly every adoption and only shed a tear or two for a few who have especially touched me in some way.
Still, there was something missing. This rescue is foster based, and at this time that is the one thing I’m not able to do, so most of my interactions come from adoption events or transport services. If I could bring my dog to work with me things might be different, because sometimes you just need to hug a dog or play with a kitty, so I began volunteering at our local SPCA. I figured that they were located close enough to my office that I could spend a lunch hour or two each week relaxing in the company of a furry little friend under the guise of helping them while in all actuality, reaping the benefits that come with cuddling a pet. Orientation was in two parts so after part one, I was able to ‘socialize with cats’ and I spent a good portion of a lunch hour on the floor of a kitty room getting and giving some soft purr-y love.
Part two allowed us to interact with the dogs and there was a special boy whom I met at both orientations and I was eager to go back and really interact with him on my first “dog day.” Its funny how a dog (or any animal, really) can grab your heartstrings and how it varies from person to person as to who that special furry pal may be. A fellow volunteer nudged me and pointed at a dog, “That’s my dog. I’m going to adopt that one.”
“Hmmm, cute dog, nothing special,” I thought. He or she was the kind of dog I might not have given a second glance at if I weren’t here to generally socialize with the dogs.
In the kennel next to “her dog” was the special someone who had me at first glance. Truth be told, “special boy” is not usually someone who would grab my attention… except he did. He was just a medium sized dog, medium hair, medium build but with a deep chest and funny white paws that were too big for his body. (As a further testament to how perception skews what we actually see, he is listed as a large dog with long hair.) There was nothing exceptional… but his eyes. Ah, those soulful cinnamon eyes peering at me over the chew toy he hopefully offered me, they had me at hello.
I was sure this guy received a lot of attention from volunteers and I just wanted to spend hours and days with him, so I made myself a deal: I would spend some time with the least attended dog(s) and then reward myself by spending some time with this guy. I upheld my end of the bargain and walked two dogs before turning my attention to him and though I enjoyed myself with all three, this guy was just special.
I entered his kennel and was greeted not by jumps and frenzy but by a quiet, happy appreciation for my company. I got him leashed up and he walked so well out to the play yard with the same toy in his mouth that I could just feel myself melting even more. Unlike his kennel neighbors, he did not pull or strain, but walked with me to the play area and stood waiting for the next cue. We checked out some of the toys, but he seemed content to sit near me and let me pet him and I was happy to oblige. I found a spot on the ground and he climbed onto my lap where we snuggled for awhile and he let me hug him while a tear or two blazed a hot trail through my make-up.
He got up and sniffed around a bit, examining the toy offering in the yard while I dug in my bag for a tissue then turned those cinnamon eyes on me as if to ascertain that the tears were not the result of anything he might have done. Once I had a slight grip on my sudden emotions, I returned to a spot on the ground near him and he rolled over for some belly rubs. The ease and comfort of our time together once again choked me up and I feared that further interactions with him might turn me into a blubbering mess. I’ve even engaged in an internal debate as to whether I should stay away until he is adopted and just try to network him from afar. Could I stand to be away? Could I stand not to come? Could I carve out the time to come every day? Time was getting tight and I knew he was reluctant to return to the kennel, yet he did so with no trouble and accepted more hugs as I turned to leave.
I don’t know why some dogs grab your heart so quickly while others don’t. I don’t know why I had to stop writing this so many times and why I finally finished it with that hot tightness in my throat and waves of tears welling in my eyes and an emotion-soaked tissue in my fist. I've visited with this fellow several times since that first week. I'm less emotional but no less happy to see him. He is not my heart dog but I am in his corner rooting for him and hoping that his heart person finds him. What I do know is that the love of your life may be waiting for you at your local shelter or at your local rescue. I'm not going to post a heart-wrenching photo of a dog languishing in a kennel, or the sad eyes begging for a home. I honestly believe that to guilt a person into adopting a dog (or cat) is a recipe for failure. Adopt because you are looking to add to your family. Adopt because a certain dog caught your eye. Adopt because you want an older/younger dog. Just give them a chance. Adopt.
*Originally, the title of this post was that dog's name. There is no name and no picture because that is too limiting. He or She is waiting for you and only you know the name. Only you know what that dog looks like.