Everyone is emotionally touched by an animal at some point in their lives. For me, having a dog in the house since the day I was born forever cemented canines in my heart. Some people have had terrible experiences with animals, while others can’t live without one. If you’re thinking about getting a dog or cat to add to your family, then I urge you to adopt a pet from your local animal shelter. You’ll not only help an animal in need, you’ll receive something we ALL need—unconditional love.
And now, without further ado, part two of Jan Flores’s heartwarming tail, er tale…
Things have changed at the shelter where I volunteer as a dog walker. It now has a Behavior and Training Department, whose members evaluate the dogs that come in to determine if they have any medical and/or behavior problems before advancing them to the adoption floor. But when I first started, it was just me, the dogs, and a slip lead (For those who don’t know what a slip lead is, it’s a long piece of material about half an inch wide with a metal “D” ring at one end. To use it, you thread the end through the ring, forming a circle that substitutes as a collar. The “slip” of the lead means that it can be adjusted to any size dog). In those early days, I quickly learned that it wasn’t so simple as: put on a leash and go.
I chose to work with the clinic/hospital dogs instead of those already up for adoption because they seemed to be most in need of help and attention. They didn’t know where they were, or why their family had left them behind in a strange place. I wasn’t a familiar face, but I could be a helping hand, letting them know—for the brief time I was there on my volunteer day—that they weren’t alone.
It was an experiment for both of us. In those early days, I had no way of knowing when I entered a kennel what I was about to face. Some dogs “shut down” in depression and turned away; others became aggressive because they were uncertain and scared. But most were so glad to see me that they almost vibrated with excitement. A leash, a leash, we’re going for a walk! I could see it in their faces, and it makes me smile every time. Their joy at such a simple act almost makes me forget why they are here. Almost.
It was a shock to learn that only a minority of the shelter dogs are strays (at least in our shelter); the majority have been brought in by owners with various excuses (see Part I) about why they can’t keep the dog any longer. But one justification I’ll never understand, is “We just don’t want him anymore.”
How can you not want a dog who has been a faithful family member for years? How can you throw him away for someone else to take care of just because he has silver around the muzzle, or cataracts in his eyes, or limbs crippled with arthritis? To see such a dog watching his former family walking away without looking back is simply gut-wrenching.
I always pay special attention to these old dogs. The look in their eyes just breaks my heart.
On a brighter note, here are some of the special dogs I’ve met at the shelter:
HOLLY: (so named because she was found in a parking lot at Christmas). We never knew what happened to this white, bright-eyed little Maltese cross—whether it was abuse, or being hit by a car—that caused paralysis in both hind legs. I admit to mixed emotions when they fitted her with a canine version of a wheelchair. It seemed so unnatural to me. But when I saw Holly’s joy at being able to race around—sometimes on one wheel—I had to admit that, for her, it was the right prescription.
LEO: a small boxer cross that came from
with what appeared at first to be a tumor the size of a small grapefruit under
his chin. I won’t go into the medical details this dog suffered; suffice to say
he became one of the most loved because of his resilience, determination, and
sheer refusal to lose to a deadly disease. Mexico
STEVIE: a black, blind terrier cross with eyes that looked like silver coins. He was found wandering on a busy thoroughfare. It was a miracle he wasn’t killed. The shelter vet reluctantly determined that it was too late to restore his vision, but he didn’t let his blindness stop him. Whenever he heard the jingle of a harness and a leash, he whirled in circles, eager to go outside for a walk.
CHANCE: a beautiful 25-pound American Eskimo, with the blackest eyes and a blindingly white coat (once he’d had a bath to wash away the street grime). He had many physical problems, but he didn’t let that stop him. Sometimes he just wanted to sit with my arm around him while we watched the world go by.
FLOWER: an abused pit bull with so much potential. Black with a little white on her chest; eyes gleaming with intelligence. We worked hard getting her aggression under control so she could be adopted, only to have her returned in a semi-crazed state with no explanation about what had happened. Despite our best efforts, she quickly developed “shelter stress”, and even though it was the best thing for her, it was a sad day for us all when she was put down. Such a loss for a dog who had tried so hard.
ABBIE: an extremely shy Aussie, with a beautiful “Autumn” coat. She would retreat to the opposite of her kennel and shake when anyone tried to get near her, but with a lot of patience we brought her out of her shell and into a new life.
BRIE: another Aussie. She had to have her front leg amputated because her owner left a home-made, too-tight bandage on and left it on too long, destroying the circulation in that leg. She was a brave and uncomplaining girl who just wanted to be loved. That’s what we gave her—until her new family came along, fell in love, and adopted her.
There are so many more that I could go on and on. They pass through my mind like a fancy shuffle, with the cards falling in a waterfall, moving so fast I can’t see the faces. But I know they were there, and I believe I did my own small part in helping them. What they did for me—and continue to do—is more than I can say.
Janis Flores was born in Montana, and raised in Colorado and California. After graduating from college, she received her license in Medical Technology, married Ray Flores, and they moved to northern California—she to supervise a laboratory, he to establish his horseshoeing business. She found time to take a class on the short story, but instead wrote her first book—a Gothic suspense titled HAWKSHEAD, which was subsequently published in hardcover by (then) Doubleday and company. Thirty-four novels—from historical to contemporary mainstream—followed.
SWEETER THAN WINE, published by Musapublishing.com, is her first ebook.
The award-winning TOUCHED BY FIRE has now been reissued in ebook form.
Both titles can be found at:
SWEETER THAN WINE:
TOUCHED BY FIRE:
You can find Jan on her website: www.janisflores.com
On Facebook: www.facebook.com/janfloresauthor
On Twitter: @JanisOFlores