May 16, 2012
I have a confession to make. I don’t like dogs. We always had a dog when I was growing up and I never connected with any of them. I’m sure my life would be a little easier if I liked dogs, so I’ve tried. But I can’t force it. Wait— there’s more. Since one took a chunk out of my hand, I’m afraid of them too. For all you dog lovers out there, it’s nothing personal; I don’t like cats either.
But I’m not a total cretin. I like other animals. I love watching squirrels. Don’t let anyone tell you squirrels frolic; they are serious (if not misguided) about their business. And I squeal like a two-year-old when I see rabbits in the yard, even when they’re eating my flowers (I don’t get angry until they’re gone; by then it’s too late.) Then there’s the roaming hawk. He let us watch him eat a mouse once. And I love watching the bats that come out at dusk….
Maybe it’s just domesticated animals I’m not fond of. I never met a cow that I wanted to bring home.
Then I met Andrew. I went to pick up my three youngest kids from a sleepover at my brother’s (aka Detroit Dog Trainer). They wanted me to come in and meet one of the dogs my brother was currently working with. I was reluctant to say the least.
“Please come in and see him. Please, please, please,” D³ begged me.
I sighed (deeply) and went in. To my surprise, I liked Andrew. He was an adorable, little mutt, with puppy-dog-eyes. Not all dogs have puppy-dog-eyes. And he didn’t jump, yip or nip. He sat quietly at my feet waiting for me to pet him. So I did. Then he rolled over and I rubbed his tummy. My daughter, D³, had fallen in love with Andrew and was quite encouraged to see me petting him and enjoying it.
“If I ever got a dog, which I won’t,” I told my brother, “I’d take Andrew.”
It’s ironic. Had I known Andrew’s background, none of us would have met him. Cute, little Andrew had a dark past. After a stint with abusive owners, he was taken to Almost Home, a non-kill rescue shelter, where he spent the next six years in his cage (that’s about forty-two dog years). He was adopted and returned four times. After many failed attempts to help Andrew, Gail, the founder of Almost Home, was ready to give up. Enter Detroit Dog Trainer (my brother), Andrew’s last chance.
On their first night together my brother couldn’t get Andrew to come out of the cage because he attacked anyone who came near him. So my brother put on a heavy hockey glove and shoved it into the cage. Andrew bit it for forty-two minutes before giving up. My brother called him “The Little Ball of Hate.”
Three weeks later Andrew was a changed dog and my daughter and I both fell for him. But my brother was concerned. He already owned two dogs and couldn’t keep another, and he worried that Andrew would regress if he had to go back to the shelter. Andrew needed to be adopted. But not by just anyone. Even though he’d come a long way, because of his past, Andrew was considered a “special needs” dog. And he needed a family that understood him.
Enter the miracle. A couple that wanted to adopt a special needs dog was interested in Andrew. A meeting was arranged at the shelter.
“I want you and D³ to come,” my brother told me. “She was really good with Andrew. It’ll be good for them to see him with a little girl.”
So one drizzly Saturday afternoon we make the trek to the shelter— my brother, D³ , Andrew and I. Gail, a pretty woman with long brown hair, greeted us with a wan smile. I could see the trepidation in her eyes as she looked at Andrew, who was still huddled in his cage.
A crowd had gathered around him— he was well-known at Almost Home. But he wouldn’t come out; he had a sudden bout of stage fright. The couple waiting to meet him watched with concern. Everyone backed off as my brother and D³ coaxed Andrew out of the cage and began walking him around. When D³ took the leash and began to pet him, Gail broke out in a huge smile.
“So how does it feel to be Cesar Millan’s (the Dog Whisperer) sister?” she asked later as we watched Andrew with the couple that had come to meet him.
I shrugged. “I don’t really like dogs,” I admitted.
She looked at me with disbelief and I added, “But if I was ever going to adopt a dog, I’d take Andrew in a heartbeat.”
Then she burst out laughing and told the older gentleman standing behind us, “She’s Detroit Dog Trainer’s sister and she’s afraid of dogs, but she’d take Andrew.” He grinned at me.
Then Gail repeated it to everyone she saw and she’d laugh just as hard each time. And they’d laugh too. I finally realized that it was because a miracle had occurred. Andrew, the ferocious dog they’d loved but had almost given up on, had been saved. And I felt the love in this place, and I was grateful that D ³ and I got to experience it.
After my brother said goodbye to Andrew, he watched him with his new family. ”This makes it all worth it,” he said.
But as with so many of the truly good things in this world, there isn’t a happy ending. Rescue shelters are being stalked by an insidious menace. But that is for a later post. Right now, I’ll just be thankful that such places exist, loving and caring for discarded animals that otherwise would have no hope.
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