I’m a lucky dog
Kinda hard to do when I have three dogs–and am very careful not to play favorites. Plus several other pups who live in my heart if not on this earth.
I couldn’t choose, so instead I offered a simple sentiment: that every dog whom I’ve had the honor to live with is the Best Dog Ever. Because each one gives so much and asks for so little.
I stumbled over my words as I spoke, and I probably sounded a bit silly. (I’m hoping that recording has since been lost.) But the emotion was true–and maybe that’s why the Lucky Dog Spirit was with me because the good folks at Merrick randomly chose my name–from among all those who stopped in that photo/video booth–to win a year’s supply of dog food.
A year’s supply of dog food can make a difference
I called my husband later that day to tell him the good news. The night before, while enjoying Italian ice at a nearby store with my son, Brain had been handed a flyer about our local animal shelter. “Save Our Shelter,” read the headline. The Somerset Regional Animal Shelter was in danger of being closed; they were rallying local residents to keep it open.
The shelter has been integral part of our community for dozens of years. My Pasha–a furry ball of Keeshond love–was adopted through them so many years ago.
“I want to give the food to the shelter,” I told Brian. “What do you think?”
It had to be a family decision. Brian had been out of work for more than a year; keeping our three dogs fed for a significant period of time would certainly help us out.
Rescuing a rescue
But here’s the thing: we could still afford dog food, and there were so many good things the shelter was doing. They didn’t just rescue dogs, and cats, and ferrets, and other pets, but they were also working hard to help families that were in much worse shape than us–families that might have to give up their beloved pets because they couldn’t afford to keep them–by donating pet food to the food pantry. Dozens of community volunteers helped socialize the pets. The shelter saved feral cats through Trap Neuter Release. A Pets at Home program offered behavioral training to address problems that might have otherwise resulted in surrender. Spay and neuter surgeries were offered at low cost.
In the end, there was such an outcry against the possibility of closing, there were so many people packed into the town council’s meetings in support of the shelter, that the contract was renewed and “the little shelter that could” was able to continue saving lives.
So it really was a no-brainer; about a half-second of consideration was all it took before Brian said, “Let’s do it.”
Special Delivery: 12 bags of dog food
It took a little bit of coordinating with Merrick (and a lovely bout of Lyme Disease had me sidelined for awhile), but Brian and I delivered a dozen 30-pound bags of Merrick’s Chicken and Brown Rice dog food to the Somerset Regional Animal Shelter this weekend, and got a first-hand look at the great work they are doing.
Nancy Gedbaw, kennel manager for the shelter, was thrilled with the donation. “We were down to our last three bags of food,” she said. ” This was perfect timing.”
Nancy’s smile grew even broader when she saw the bags of Merrick kibble. “It’s important to feed our animals high-quality food,” she said. Animals in a shelter are stressed as it is; giving them the best diet possible may make a difficult situation just a little more bearable.
We stacked the bags and took a few minutes for a photo op. I asked Nancy how long she thought twelve bags of food would last. She was quiet for a moment, as if she was attempting to do the calculus. “We were down to two dogs,” she said. “Then we brought in some more last week. Now we have 24 dogs.” She hoped some would find homes soon.
What I hadn’t known is that Somerset Regional takes in animals from other shelters in the state–ones that have run out of room, or maybe a dog has languished too long in one place and may have a better chance at finding a home in new surroundings.
While Brian helped Nancy stack the food in the storage area, I took a look at some of the current (and hopefully very temporary) residents.
When they were done, Nancy saw me looking at the sweet doggy faces. “I want to introduce you to somebody,” she said, and held an office door open for me. “This is Baby Girl.”
A somewhat chunky marshmallow of a dog greeted us, her tail wagging nonstop.
Nancy told me Baby Girl had been at the shelter way too long.
I hesitated for a moment, the unasked question hanging in the air between us. “What’s her story?”
Baby Girl had spent most of her years locked in a closet, her only purpose to produce puppies. When she could no longer breed, her “owner” (the only circumstance under which you’ll see me use that word to describe a human-animal relationship), didn’t want the dog anymore. (For a little more on Baby Girl, read my featured post on her.)
I watched as the dog hugged Nancy. Baby Girl is a real sweetheart who’d been dealt an unlucky hand. A “pit bull” mix. A black dog. Unloved. Ears cropped too close (I won’t even think about who did that to her). Yet anyone who took the time to really see her, anyone who spent a mere minute with her would get a glimpse of her gentle soul.
Before we left to visit the other animals in the shelter, Baby Girl stood up, put her paws on my legs, and looked me straight in the eyes. “I can’t bring you home,” I told her, “but I promise I’ll help you find one.”
“We call this Beagle Heaven,” said Nancy as she introduced me to a trio of happy pups. That’s Reno, Gizmo and Twinkle.”
I had grown up with a beagle-poodle mix named Twinkle. That was in the days before designer mixes existed.
Three adorable noses poked through the gate.
A pile of sleepy pitty puppies were occupying every last inch of the bed in a pen nearby. “We call them the True Blood brood,” said Nancy. As is the case when a litter of nameless pups comes in, the staff has to come up with monikers for each, and in this case, they were based on the popular HBO show. “The white one is Sookie,” she said. She couldn’t remember the other names; my guess is she wasn’t an avid fan of the show.
In the next run was Meatball. With a new baby on the way, his family felt they couldn’t keep him–not because he wasn’t good with children or they didn’t trust him. They just gave him up, or gave up on him.
Meatball was having trouble adjusting to his new environment. No wonder. The dog had gone from a home with rooms and beds and people to a tiny run in a place full of barking dogs. His back was turned to us.
“Hey Meatball,” Nancy called softly. He barely looked up. According to Nancy, he wouldn’t look at anyone his first few days at the shelter. She grabbed a bag of treats, and at the recognizable sound of a treat bag being opened, Meatball stood up and walked slowly to the gate. He took the treat and stayed for some extra love.
He reminded me of my Pasha, with his long brushy tail and a calm demeanor.
A thin black dog with a ropy tail peered at us from the next run. “That’s Gilly,” said Nancy. “One of the sweetest dogs I’ve met. She’s so housebroken that she won’t go in her pen or even outside on the cement.”
We decided to take Gilly outside for some relief. Brian fell in love with her floppy ears, and gave her some love.
By then, people were starting to arrive at the shelter, asking questions about dogs or cats they saw on Petfinder, looking at the faces who were looking back at them from behind the fencing.
Other shelter workers introduced us to a few more of the animals.
Chris Morello posed with a gorgeous brindle pit mix named Thor.
Lora Muckin brought us to meet some of the cats. Like Doobie, a well-mannered and incredibly loving mancat with beautiful green eyes.
Apparently Doobie loves to be held, and enjoys snuggling up to his people, whereupon he sets his purr motor to high.
In one of the cat rooms, kitten Earthshine climbed the cat tree, and tried to cheer up Randall who was hiding. “He’s depressed,” said Lora. She worried about him; he really needed a home and some love. Black cat Muffy sat on the bench, doing her best panther impression. She didn’t quite pull it off, as her friendly purr-sonality shone through.
More people were coming through the door, so it was time for us to leave and let the good people of the Somerset Regional Animal Shelter do what they do best–help find homes for these lovely and befurred souls.
As we left, we saw Chris handing a clipboard with adoption forms to Janice, a woman who came to the shelter with her children–all of whom fell in love with Gilly.
The two kids posed with their new family member. Everyone smiled–even Gilly. She knew she was going home.
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