The Dog's New Home

by Kelli Knight

©2013

    The clock hanging on the wall showcased a variety of breeds of dogs each representing a different hour of the day. At 4 o’clock the Chihuahua shrilled four, short yaps. It wasn’t much longer after that when he arrived.  

     “It’s okay little one. Come on in," I said calmly coaxing him.

     I looked the new pup over. He was young and had a short snout. He was so dingy that his once, white fur blended with the black spots on his un-curried coat. He couldn’t have been much older than seven months, maybe eight. He had clumps of dried mud between his toes on his front paws and in his flanks. The hair on his head and face was matted in a place or two. I would guess at one time he had a groomer’s cut, but it was long outgrown. I imagined that he had been on his own for a decent part of his young life.

     “You most certainly have Shih-tzu somewhere in there,” I said tenderly hoping to earn his trust. His irises were so dark they were almost black. His bulgy, round eyes were opened wide; they raced looking from one corner to the next of our surroundings filled with cages, runs, and dogs yapping. It was obvious he hadn’t a clue as to where he was or what was happening. He shivered so much that his stringy, black and dirty-white strands quivered. His gentle spirit was exposed in his hesitancy to engage with me. I could tell he was a lover, not a fighter. It was probably why he had ended up in this place.

     I wanted to comfort him and make him feel at home, “Don’t be scared. I’m your friend.” I rubbed up on him a bit. “How did you end up on your own?” I asked knowing full well he wouldn’t answer. “Did your owners move and leave you behind?  Or maybe it’s the all too familiar story. They decided the responsibility of having a dog was more than they anticipated and they thought you’d be better off with someone else. Boy, do I know that tale. They’re so excited to bring you home, but when they have to cut their fun short at a party to get back to the house and let you out or if they can’t take a weekend trip because they can’t find someone to come feed you or take care of you, that’s it. The novelty is gone. Maybe you chewed one too many shoes, who knows. Whatever the reason, somehow you find yourself living with another person you don’t know, who doesn’t understand how much you want companionship, and the comfy inside you once knew is now an unsheltered yard. You’re tied to a line plugged to the ground. You have to fight the ants for your food, piled up on yesterday’s leftovers. One day, the anchor comes free. For so long you've yearned to be in a different place and your wish finally comes true, but now you’re homeless. Ironically, the streets are actually better than the yard you had before. You have to roam on your own to survive.  You’re not cute enough to find a permanent home, but you’re pitiful enough that you find a sympathetic hand to feed you here and there. The dirt clinging to your fur and filthy collar gets you shooed out of yards and not even given a second glance. I have nightmares about that story. I told you though; everything’s going to be okay now that you’re here. This run, it’s really not bad at all.“

     I fluffed up the bundled towels and blankets that had been donated to the shelter. They were worn and a little thin. “A couple of the towels and blankets have holes, but when they’re bunched up together you can hardly tell. They make quite a comfortable bed. This place may not be the brightest, but it's dry and you’re fed twice a day. Sometimes on special days, you’ll even find canned food in your bowl. You get regular walks, scratches behind your ears, and on sunny days there’s a yard out back for stretching your legs and sniffing the breeze. You see, there are people here that really care about kitties and puppies. Some work and don’t even get paid. They come because they love dogs and cats, and want to help little lost souls, just like you. The best news of all, this place isn’t permanent. Everybody goes home. You especially shouldn’t worry; I’ll bet you won’t be here but a couple of weeks at best. You’re young and once you’re bathed and brushed, all you’ll have to do is wag your tail, give a yip, and a little girl or boy will find you irresistible. You’re going to have a lifetime of treats and toys, little one.”

      I could see him settle. His bulging eyes relaxed and his lids lowered a bit. He walked over to the blankets and scratched at them, then laid his tired body on top. His head rested on the floor of the run, but he still watched me.

     “Go ahead, get comfortable; it’s all yours, now. And these bowls, they’re yours. Oh, there’s a ball in the corner under the green towel. It’s yours for now, until you get your forever home.”

His tail wagged a bit and we looked at each other, eye to eye.

     “You’re going to have this run all to yourself, too because today is my day. Today I get my forever home. It’s been a long, long time coming and I’m ready. It’s going to be a lot better than anything I’ve ever experienced – even better than this run. I’ll have unconditional love, I'll never be abandoned, and I’ll never starve again. All the awful memories will melt away. Like I said, no matter what, when we come here we all get a permanent home – somehow, someway.” I continued to look deep in his eyes. “You’re going to have a full, long, and fun life.”

      The clock interrupted our gaze. The German shepherd gave five deep, gruff barks.  “It’s time. We’ll see each other again. We always see each other again.”

     The lady with soft hands approached the run and opened the gated door. She came with teary eyes and slipped my head into a lead.  I lifted my muzzle and she gave me the best scratch I’d ever had under my chin.  “Come on ol, man,” she said in a wistful voice. I turned to look back to the little guy. “See ya again one day,” I yipped.  She closed the door to the run. The lady and I walked down the hall that ended with a heavy, black door. When it opened, I saw a rainbow. I was finally going home.

Each year thousands of dogs and cats are put down in shelters because there simply aren't the resources to keep them long enough to find homes for each pet. This element in society can be avoided by spaying and neutering pets and understanding that pets are family. Kill shelters can be a thing of the past if we all advocate to help find homes through local foster programs and by being responsible pet owners. Hopefully this story touching enough to prompt your advocacy to end kill shelters.

Good St. Francis, you loved all of God's creatures.

To you they were your brothers and sisters.

Help us to follow your example

of treating every living thing with kindness.

St. Francis, Patron Saint of animals,

watch over our pets

and keep our companions safe and healthy.
Amen.