Over the next hour I have three stories to share, about the theme of rescue. We rescue each other. They rescue animals. We rescue them.
It’s funny how often a big concept manifests itself right under our nose. Joanie C. from Colorado shares how she came to realize that for her, Be the Change was taking place right in her own home with the adoption of her dog Cinder. I’ve read Cinder’s story several times now, and it makes me misty eyed each and every time I read it.
It’s not that Cinder’s story is any more heartfelt or that she was more needy than any of the other millions of less-adoptables out there. The only difference is that I can tell Cinder’s story and she can’t. As I’ve thought more and more about the Be the Change movement, I realized that Cinder is the change. It isn’t what I’ve done, it is who she is and what she represents.
When Cinder came into my life I wasn’t necessary looking to adopt a dog. My first rescue dog Shelby passed away in July 2005 and it was the first time I was without a dog in 11 years. I knew that I would eventually adopt another dog, either by way of rescue or shelter, or another stray who happened to cross my path the way my first two dogs did. I was slowly warming to the thought of another dog when I happened upon Cinder’s photo online.
I hadn’t given any serious thought to adopting another dog but something about Cinder’s face lingered in my mind. She wasn’t a puppy, wasn’t particularly fluffly or giving puppy dog eyes. Nor did she look sickly, badly neglected or abused. But something was there. Something in that face stayed with me. There was only minimal information given about her on the site:
– 45 lbs.
– Housebroken? unknown
– 2 years old
The shelter was in a nearby city but I was willing to make the trip. I’d never actually been inside of a shelter before and was a little hesitant that it might be too overwhelming. I worried that I’d be inundated with images of pleading puppy dog eyes. When I finally talked myself into making a trip to the shelter I knew I only wanted to meet one dog.
The shelter seemed to be very well run and clean. I asked to see Cinder (then named Beatrice in kennel #42) and was directed toward the back of the building where the kennels are. I tensed as I started back toward the sounds of barking dogs and puppies and rattling kennel doors. Fortunately for me, Cinder was the only dog on her side of the row of kennels facing a wall.
When I got to her kennel there was no barking, no howling, no jumping at the kennel door. Cinder was silent and still. She was wedged as far as she could get underneath the bench at the back of the kennel and she was frozen in place, not making a single move. She looked absolutely terrified.
I kneeled down on the floor close to the kennel door and spoke softly to her. Nothing. She had the look of a dog that might strike out of fear. I tried again, spoke softly and sweetly to her, gently putting my hand against the chain link kennel door. No movement, no acknowledgement. Just that terrified stiffness. I knew that I couldn’t judge her on this very first impression.
The shelter manager was kind enough to take Cinder from her kennel and bring her to a visiting room so that I could get a better feel for her personality. As soon as I saw her standing, I noticed how painfully thin she was. When I asked if she’d shown any type of aggression I was quickly told that any dogs showing aggression are put down immediately.
When the shelter manager turned away and closed the door behind him, Cinder leaned against the door, head bowed. I sat across the small room on a bench and again Ispoke very softly and called to her. She did make eye contact but was still very unsure.
I moved to the floor and patted my lap to which she laid down and began crawling across the floor towards me. Cinder, at 45 lbs., crawled into my lap and hid her face in the crook of my neck. It was the sweetest most gentle gesture. I put my arms around her her and just held her.
I looked over at my mom and she had tears in her eyes. “You have to take her.” I moved my head away to get a closer look and Cinder gently licked my face. I think that was the moment when I knew that she was coming home with me. I could see that she was not aggressive. There was such a gentleness about her. In my heart I knew that all this girl needed was some love, some fun toys, good food and a nice warm bed.
When we emerged from the visiting room it seemed that all eyes were on us. The shelter staff were all awaiting our decision. And when I said I’d like to adopt her it looked like they all breathed a sigh of relief. It turns out that Cinder was at that shelter for over a month and no one had even asked to see her. I was the first one to even inquire about her.
However, from the time we got there until the time we walked out with Cinder, I watched 3 puppies and two cats get adopted. The staff at the shelter never said but I got the feeling that Cinder’s time at the shelter was extremely limited. That day she was due for her shots but hadn’t been given them. Not until they knew she was going home with me. As we prepared to leave with our new dog, the shelter manager thanked us and told us that we were doing a wonderful thing and that she was going to make a great dog. I could tell by his expression that he was so relieved.
I learned over the next few days that she was 20 lbs. underweight, had mats and ticks, was probably younger than 2 years (more like 10-12 months) and loved enclosed spaces. She chose a corner of the living room and spent her first few days there. However, once a full week had passed, she no longer stuck to her corner, no longer made me leash her to get her to go outside, and no longer bowed her head. I saw wagging tail, smiley face and exposed belly for lots of belly rubs. It took a little longer for her stomach to settle and for me to find a food that she could tolerate but we worked with our vet and she gained the much need pounds in no time.
Cinder has come a long way from the scared, malnourished “shelter” dog that I met in March 2006. Today she is the sweetest, goofiest, most gentle dog. She is loved by everyone she meets. I recently took her to a pet expo and a gentleman walking by stopped and said, “Now that is a happy dog. Probably the happiest dog I’ve seen all day.”
I thought that Cinder might have some fear issues since she was so scared in the shelter. Not so! There is nothing that bothers Cinder. She absolutely loves going to the vet and riding in the car. She isn’t bothered by loud noises including power tools and thunder. She is the epitome of a great companion. And to think, no one wanted her…
If people could only see that there are millions of dogs just like her that maybe at first glance don’t look like the dog they want, if they look again, they might find exactly what they’re looking for.