Once you've worn out pairs of rescue shoes it's easy to be jaded by all the horrible cases of rescue failures that you stumbled over along the road. It's easy to forget that dogs add so many cherished memories to our lives. It's easy to overlook the effect how these cherished moments have helped build and define our character. We've been exposed to the worst of what mankind has to offer with our experiences with shelter dogs. How could we expect anything different emotionally to evolve from that?
But have we lost the ability to step back and see the lighter side that dogs bring to our lives. Why do these same creatures who have endured this abuse not be symptomatic with the same emotional shortsightedness?
Could it be that dogs simply gravitate back to a true purpose in life - that purpose being to celebrate living rather then festering on dying? Dogs who have endured suffering far greater then we humans can tolerate quickly seek out healthy alternatives - dogs just want to run and play - they want to be able to sniff things - they treasure the soft touch human words of praise. For dogs life is about living, even if that living means moving on from the past. Dogs don't want us too feel sorry for them either - they want us too love them unconditionally in the same way they love us humans unconditionally.
When I was still green in rescue - still wearing those same shiny new shoes I didn't understand the significance in restoring not only a dogs trust with humans but more importantly restoring a dogs purpose in being a dog. That purpose is found in running in circles barking at squirrels, it's in finding new curiosity in chewing newly found shoes, it's in simply getting their little heads rubbed. If we humans can't restore those life values too our rescues then we truly have failed.
A Georgia Tale
|Camilla - Elbert Animal Control "mug shot"|
I looked at her picture for days. Kept telling myself "you can't save them all" but I don't think I did a very good job selling that argument. In the end it kept coming back to one person in the background caring enough to hold Camilla out with those eyes that screamed "why not me?"
Camilla was about five plus years old and was suffering from a severe skin condition. She was missing half her hair with huge raw red skin under her neck. One would assume that if rescue was about saving dogs from a "Fate Far Worse Than Death" the logical disposition for Camilla would be a humane ending to life as she knew it.
Still, I was haunted by those wide starring eyes. As my finger started zeroing in on the delete key I slowly paused. Rather then make this judgment call myself I decided to let Camilla make that choice. Instead my fingers quickly dialed the number of a rescue friend who sent me her story and I told her to "go pick her up".
Camilla's skin condition didn't seem to respond to the many treatments we tried. Her vet bills quickly climbed into four digits with little to show for our efforts. We tried skin specialists looking for allergies, we treated every parasite known to man - yet the only thing that seemed to blossom from it all was Camilla's amazing resilient spirit. Too a causal observer, Camilla seemed to be just another extremely curious and happy beagle.
She loved running through the yard sniffing everything along the way with her tail flipping side to side in the wind. I started taking Camilla to adoptions not to necessarily find someone too adopt her but too show people the horrible results of neglecting an animal. Camilla's special diet, special meds, vet visits ect made this sweet girl extremely "high maintenance" that virtually excluded most potential pet owners who weren't looking for a project but simply wanted a family pet.
Still, I fell for Camilla's "charms" realizing that quite possibly Camilla had found her forever home.
January 2007 marked another significant event for the hounds. It began what would be a highly contentious battle with our county government and animal control seeking to lower the number of hounds residing at my residence. While in it's original "plea offering" the county insisted on my surrendering all but three of my hounds which I refused, the county attempted to "sweeten the deal" by offering to "allow" me to keep the original fifteen hounds I had before I started doing rescue.
Once that offer was on the table I gave some consideration to the proposal. It's also interesting in the fact that I had been advised by an "unnamed source" who worked inside our county's "justice" circle that if my case went to trail I would be found guilty and have all my hounds removed.
Threats and intimidation never have worked with me. Having to choose just three of the hounds when I knew I had eight, writing about about the rest for years would have been an impossible choice to make. While this new offer would spare me those difficult choices of which hound was "good enough" to save and which I should just say "oh well", those considerations quickly became obscure when my thoughts went back to Camilla and the rest of our foster dogs. When our famed "animal rights attorney pressed me for a response too her "extremely generous offer" I replied with the following comment:
"Allison, what part of advocating for sentinel creatures allows me to take beagles who are sleeping around my bed and send them to our shelter where the county will kill them. The number of dogs I will agree to "dump" in order to save myself from your threats of twelve years in jail is ZERO. If the county wants an alley fight on this issue you will be surprised as too who ultimately gets bloodied up." With that statement I launched into an all out battle to save not just some of the hounds but all of them.
In the trial, we were found guilty - just like my source had predicted. But in her court ruling the judge refused too consider including putting a limit number on the number of hounds I was allowed to keep. While I was sentenced to 24 months in jail and allowed to serve that time on probation the hounds were finally safe.
Despite Camilla's suffering she could care less about the court ruling. Life returned to normal, her tail never seemed to stop wagging and she still ignored my every command. While we never gave up on finding a cure for her illness her treatment plan focused on preventing her condition from getting worse.
Camilla had good weeks and she had not so good weeks as well. Through it all I became tremendously attached to this little girl and by the summer of 2008 considered Camilla as one of my own.
Destiny sings a different song
|A life Far Better then Death Georgia and her new mom|
During an adoption event a little more then six weeks after our trial a woman approached the cages where the beagles were, asking "that beagle was still available." I looked over and saw little Camilla hopping on her back feet trying to get this woman to pet her raw skin. I started too explain all of Camilla's health issues and suggested some of the other beagles might be a better choice when she abruptly cut me off by saying "I'm not interested in the other beagles - this one is talking too me. I want to see THAT beagle"
Low and behold Camilla was speaking to her, wagging her tail and working real hard to get her attention. After a lengthy discussion about Camilla's health issues she was adopted.
From time to time over the next few months I would see Camilla on her trips to Petsmart. You really couldn't tell who was happier, Camilla or her new proud mom. But what you could see was a gradual improvement in Camilla's overall health. Six months and over $1,200 in vet bills later Camilla is no longer Camilla in name or body. Her new name is Georgia and she has completely recovered from her illness.
|Georgia - Mission Accomplished|
Georgia has a beautiful beagle coat, has added six pounds to her once skinny frame and serves as a perfect example why we shouldn't be so quick to judge whether there ever is a fate far better then death. Certainly you would have a difficult time convincing Georgia or her mom of this ridiculous assumption.