Mar 24, 2008

Shelter Dogs

I've been searching through shelters for a dog who can be a best friend to my little Edison Jack, but so far I either haven't really found a dog that I like enough to want to spend the next decade or more of my life with, or I if I have liked a dog and think it could work out, Edison tries to tear its face off upon meeting it.

The thing with shelters is that they're very depressing to visit (so I can only imagine how awful it is to live there). No matter how clean and bright the environment, it's ultimately a dumping ground for unwanted animals, troubled animals or animals that have just been dealt a really shitty hand in this life and have never had anyone to love them. And all shelters look like prisons, regardless. I try very hard to not feel badly when I am actually in the building looking at the dogs because I know they can sense what I am feeling. I try to be calm and gentle and not be wearing my "oh these poor things" heart on my sleeve, but it's virtually impossible for me to get out of there without completely losing it.

This past week I met two dogs that I spent some time with while considering making them members of our little family. The first was a shepherd mix who had been run over by a car and left for dead. Not only had she been seriously injured, but she was also pregnant. She had been watched over for several weeks outside a police station in Puerto Rico (best not to get me started on what I really think about Puerto Rico and their stray dog "problems") where the men fed her scraps of food, yet no one thought to bring her to a vet or even get her out of the elements. By the time a good samaritan had brought her to a doctor, her babies were dead and her seriously broken leg had healed wrong so now she has a permanent limp. Many humans would have given up after having this happen to them, or at least be left suffering from some pretty serious depression, but this was a very happy little girl. She was gentle and sweet and her tail never stopped wagging. Griffin really liked her and she was a little darling, so I thought, "okay, let's do this" and then Edison, who clearly couldn't sense her sweetness or didn't even remotely care how loving she was, tried to bite her in the face several times. So much for dog #1.

The second dog was absolutely beautiful. A lab/boxer cross by the looks of him, black with white socks. This was a dog that has been in a shelter every single day of his life and for the first ten months of his short twelve on this earth was never interacted with at all. The people in the shelter in Arkansas where he came from ought to be flogged. This is now a dog who simply cannot allow a human to get close to him because he doesn't trust. No one has ever held him or patted him or kissed him. No one has told him what a good boy he is, how beautiful he is or played any doggie games with him. He'll let you walk him, and during the walk he'll even begin to stand a little closer to your legs, but try to reach down and pat him and he'll try to run away from you. There was nothing but terror in that dog's eyes. He'd give you a look like he desperately wanted to be loved and given attention, but when you made a move to show him kindness, it terrified him and he'd frantically pull away. He was afraid of Edison, who in turn was completely indifferent to this pretty boy. That's rather symbolic of this dog's whole life: if he hadn't been ignored so much he'd have more social skills and be very adoptable. For the person who is willing to give him the time he needs, this dog would make a lovely pet, but only if they lead a very quiet life. This is not an animal that you could take out in public, especially in any crowded areas, nor would he be good with company visiting at home. Most likely, this is a dog who will spend all his days in a shelter as very few people have the knowledge, time or patience to rehabilitate a dog this withdrawn, and that's unbelievably heartbreaking.

So my search continues, which unfortunately means more trips to shelters, which never gets any easier. I would rather find our next little friend in one of them though, than to go through a breeder again, simply because the act of giving an unwanted animal a second chance at life and love is a very beautiful thing for the dog and for us. I guess I'll need to dig deep and find in me the motivation that keeps these poor dogs going in spite of all their own difficulties. If they can survive the horrors they have lived, then I can survive the horror of walking into a shelter and hearing their stories and hopefully giving one of them a long and happy life in a loving home.


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