Years ago – though it feels like a lifetime ago – and before I owned my sugarplum Mia, there was the original mischievous sprite: A dog named Baby.
At one of those “What am I doing with my life” crossroads, I started reading about dog rescue groups and volunteered just a tiny bit of time to Pomeranian and Small Breed Rescue, in Ontario.
This tiny bit of time wasn’t heroic, nor world-changing in any way, as we maybe first imagine volunteering will be. Nor did it stick: Within a year I had fallen in love with writing film reviews, and I gave this new passion all my time, outside of my day job.
So, yes. A volunteering fail, on the days I’m hard on myself. Which is most days. No, if I’m being honest, it’s every day.
But it was also a small glimpse into what seems like an alternate reality: Communities of people, who band together, who give all their time and savings, who clean up dog barf and risk getting mauled.
Everyday. For nothing. For a dog, or many dogs, that they will say goodbye to in the end. Some volunteers foster their dogs for months, or years, with a painful mix of love and knowing that any day it could be time to let go.
And so, like many others who learn about animal rescue, it started with hours each night, devouring all the information I could, and living in utter shock at what I found. I’d come to work drained and with cry-eyes, with images of injured and traumatized death row dogs filling my head.
I’d meet these people, these incredible and amazing people, and couldn’t fathom how they manage with their huge hearts and their brave faces. Their homes nearly have revolving doors, as they often welcome four, five, six new dogs. With few questions or objections. Biting dogs, backyard escapee Houdini dogs, diseased dogs and even terminally ill dogs.
When you foster a rescue dog, you soon stop caring about wanting a perfect dog. A breeder dog. A picture of health and obedience. A lucky dog. You find yourself wondering how many rescue dogs could you squeeze into your tiny apartment – because anything is better than the life they have now.
And so we started me off with Baby, an owner-surrendered Shih Tzu mix with an overbite. A playful, ridiculous goofball of a dog. And oh my, was it ever love. Within a week I had submitted my application to adopt her. A “foster failure” as it is jokingly called in rescue circles.
But there was a problem. My goofy girl had separation anxiety, and as our bond grew, so did her condition. Neighbours complained about increasing amounts of barking while I was at work. Claw marks on the door were soon dabbed with bloodstains, as she had scraped until her nails were chipped down to their quakes.
So as my heart broke, she was immediately re-homed. They found a retired foster mom who could be home with her all day. Her adoption papers now voided, and my home suddenly feeling emptier than it ever did before.
Within weeks, Baby got adopted by a great lady who works from home, has a huge backyard and other dogs to keep her company. And although I truly hate goodbyes, I know she found the right home.
What I learned from Baby is what I really wanted: A crazy, goofy, imperfect dog. Later, when I was ready to try again, that’s exactly what I found in my Lhasa Apso, Mia.
But that story is an even more emotional one, so I’ll have to save it for another day.
I still hold all at Pomeranian and Small Breed Rescue in the highest regard. They changed my life as much as Baby’s. If ever interested in volunteering or in adopting a dog, I recommend them wholeheartedly. You can read about them at http://www.psbrescue.com