One of my more memorable rescue adventures occurred last winter, when I was contacted by the German Shepherd Rescue about a dog at the county animal shelter. It had apparently been left at an elementary school, probably with the misguided hope that one of the children would take it home. A kind hearted man across the street noticed the poor dog standing vigil, near the flagpole by day, and in the bushes at night, most likely waiting for its people to return. After several days, he coaxed the dog over to his house, fed it, and gave it water. He planned to ask around, or try to find the dog a home, but it would not stay on his porch - it broke through the screen and returned to the school to resume its vigil.
By the time I got the call, the dog had been picked up by animal control, and it was nearing the end of its stay at the shelter. The sheer volume of homeless pets at shelters results in many perfectly healthy and adoptable dogs and cats being euthanized simply because there is nowhere to house them. The kind hearted neighbor was still on the case though, making calls to various animal and breed rescue groups to describe the dog's plight. It was at the shelter, it was a nice dog, and it was running out of time. Most of his calls resulted in dead ends. In the current economy, the numbers of dogs and cats being surrendered in local communities has overwhelmed many rescue organizations, and foster homes are frequently filled to capacity.
When GSRA contacted me about this dog, asking if I could go take a look, they also told me that all of our foster homes were full. If the dog assessed well, and a recommendation was made to bring it into the network, then some sort of emergency boarding would likely need to be arranged while a foster home was sought. They made it clear - we'll try, but don't promise anything. In short they were saying - there is absolutely nowhere to put this dog, but go assess it anyway. I had the next day off work, but had both a dentist appointment and an eye exam scheduled. I called and rescheduled them both. I have no idea why, other than something nudged me to do so.
I have to confess, I hate going to the animal shelter. It is an amazing place, filled with amazing staff who do incredible work despite having few resources. But I am such a weenie, and so soft-hearted, that it breaks my heart to see the rows of cages and runs, with all the searching, expectant faces. I want to take them all home. But off I went to the shelter that day, fortified with a friend's advice "not to look around." That seemed like a good plan. Just walk straight in, follow the staff member to this dog's run and don't look around.
I never know what I'm going to encounter when I go out to do a dog assessment. Sometimes the dogs are friendly, but wild and unmannered, having been taught no social skills whatsoever. It's hard to learn appropriate behavior when you spend your entire life alone in a backyard, or at the end of a chain. Other times the dogs are quiet, mistrustful, and suspicious of me. Sometimes they look at me and want to interact, other times they are completely disinterested in my presence.
Then Luna turned and looked right into my eyes and said: "Please. Save me." It gave me chills. I had never seen such deeply expressive eyes, or had a dog communicate with me so clearly. What she was saying to me could not have been more clear had she spoken it verbally, with words. I knew instantly that we had to get that dog out of there. It was a terrifying, overwhelming place for her, and she needed out. But, there were no foster homes, and nowhere to put her. Even if we were able to pull her from the shelter, she would still most likely have to go to a boarding facility, or some other loud scary place, at least temporarily. It is moments like these when I wish I were a stronger person, and that I possessed that ability to love, nurture, and then let go.
*cat photo courtesy of Wikipedia
*close up photo of black and tan German Shepherd Dog above courtesy of German Shepherd Rescue & Adoptions