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How my Rescue Dog rescued me
For as long as I can remember there was a family pet in my household. When I was just a toddler my folks owned a big dog named Barney. He was a German Shepherd mix and was a part of the family. Of course, this was all before I was five years old, so my memories aren't very good. I do remember him though, which speaks to how central he was to all of us.
As I got older there were many pets to come along. Barney lived his life out and we eventually adopted a terrier mix named Blaze. My parents adopted him from the Denver Dumb Friends League. That is where almost all of the family pets came from. Not pet stores; not puppy mills or expensive breeders.
He was not a purebred, but he was a pretty little dog. We coined the name Blaze because he was black with a white marking that looked like a lightening bolt on his torso.
Sadly, Blaze did not mind well. He eventually ate a bunch of crayons and promptly threw them up on new throw rugs and bedding. Money was tight and my parents felt they could not afford to keep an animal that puked Technicolor on the kids new bedding and rugs. So, alas, he was returned to the Dumb Friends League to hopefully be adopted out again.
After the Blaze debacle, my folks seemed to steer clear of adopting a dog for several years. This became the beginning of the Cat years.
The first cat to come along was a solid white stray that we adopted and named Snowball. Oh, I loved that cat! I was nine years old and he seemed to like me the best of the family. He was a soft, sweet kitty who was pretty affectionate.
Being a cat, my parents felt allowing him inside/outside access was the way to go. So one day we let Snowball out and sadly, he never returned home.
The next pet I recall was a Mynah bird. My Dad worked with a woman who could not say n too any living creature! She adopted parakeets from the trees and other creatures as they lived in a fairly rural part of town. She had found a Mynah bird and made it a pet by caging it. The bird was content enough and even could talk. My Dad brought her home for us to keep as a pet.
I remember that bird so well. I have a picture (long lost) of that bird perched on my shoulder. We did keep her in a bird cage and fed her regular bird seed. One day my folks decided that Myrnah the Mynah would be better off as a free bird. So, they opened her cage outside in our yard and she flew away to a life of bird freedom.
Later on, my folks decided that we should adopt cats in pairs. So the same lady with the bird, had kittens in her barn and we chose two brothers from the same litter. I was about eleven at the time we adopted Rufus and Junior.
Rufus was a lovely ginger tabby and Junior was a black and white cat. We did learn that having cats in pairs was a blessing for the cats. They had a built in playmate and often would sleep nested together. We had that pair of cats several years before both of them disappeared or passed on.
The next pair we adopted was Sam and Alex. Sam was a beautiful grey tabby and Alex was another black and white cat. They were much like Rufus and Junior. We had mountain cabins back then, that my folks would travel to each weekend and for week long getaways in the summer months. Those cats all would go along for the three hour car ride. They went hiking in the mountains right along with us and always returned home.
When I was fifteen I started being stalked by a neighbor man. It was pretty scary as I went to school late enough in the day that it was dark when I would walk home. There this creepy man would be standing out by the side of our yard just watching my every move. Then he started just driving by the house when I was home alone and would follow me in his car sometimes. I finally had to say something to my parents because I was afraid. They took action by involving the local police. The police suggested we get a large dog to be a protection for me and a deterrent to the neighbor.
So, off to the Dumb Friends League we went. We found a female adult German Shepherd mix and brought her home. I named her Tequila (I was fifteen and it was trendy to name dogs after booze) and she was my new best friend. I took her with me when I walked (except to and from school) and she slept at the foot of my bed. She was a loving and constant companion.
Only one problem with her being protective; she was afraid of men! Yep, my poor, sweet dog had apparently been abused by a man at some point prior to her life with us. Which meant that every time my father entered a room, the dog went skittering fearfully out of the room. And if a man approached her she would roll on her back and pee! Now this was not going to help me defend against a predator unless she peed acid. But, she was so sweet and so loving we kept her as a pet, regardless of her inability to guard me.
Sadly, when I decided to move out at age seventeen, my parents opted to not keep Tequila. I couldn't take her where I was going so they returned her to the Dumb Friends League. I can only hope that she was adopted by women (Or pee proof men)and had a good life.
I respect my parents and know they tried hard to be humane. I do feel the Humane Society and it's ilk are a real boon to animals. I just think that back in the seventies maybe they weren't as good at matching pets with their prospective owners as they are now. If only the Dumb Friends League had made it known that the dog we were desiring was afraid of men, we might not have ever adopted her!
I ultimately came to work for a Humane Society about 35 years later, and it was one of the most rewarding things I have ever been able to be a part of.
I had traveled to Belize during 2008 and 2009. In 2009 I met the person who opened and managed the local Humane Society in the small town of Hopkins, Belize. We became friends and she told me there was always a position for me as a volunteer vet technician at the Humane Society.
So, when I moved to Hopkins permanently in March 2010 I immediately got involved with their Humane society. I worked as a volunteer and after a few months they began paying me a bit as well for my efforts. I learned so much that eventually I was able to perform all the skills of a Veterinary technician and got to work with many traveling Vet teams that brought their services to Belize.
Oh how wonderful to take care of animals and in so help their owners too. People in Belize love their pets just as much as people in the US or anywhere. When you help a sick pet or tend to it with spay/neuter or vaccinations you are also helping their owners. Seeing the difference in animal health by providing medical care and proper nutrition was simply heartwarming and so rewarding.
In 2011, after working for 18 months for the Humane society, some ladies I knew brought in a dog that I knew. He had been abandoned for five long months. He had starved off about 50 pounds and was looking like he may not be able to survive. We had a visiting vet at the time who said he would euthanize but also suggested the dog might benefit from some TLC and a home.
I decided to adopt the old boy and Pepe` came home to live with me. Pepe` was a wonderful big old Labrador mix. I knew him as the pet of some folks in Hopkins. He had been given to a man who left the dog when he moved back to the states. I almost couldn't recognize Pepe` for he had gotten down to 60# and he had been about 100#. He was droopy and his fur was matted and thin. But he remembered me. I saw that spark of recognition, so taking him home was the thing to do.
That ole boy became a very good friend to me. He stayed my constant companion for the remaining 18 months I lived in Belize. I did not try to bring him to the US with me for several reasons. First of all, he was 12 years old. He had lived his whole life on the sea and without a leash. He lived in temperate/tropical climate with no snow and no altitude. I was moving to CO at a mile high altitude and plenty of winter snow. And of course, there would be no roaming free without a leash and a lot of stairs to my apartment. He was arthritic and stairs were hard. I was able to secure a good home with a family for Pepe`.
So, once I got settled in my apartment in CO I started missing having a four legged friend. I decided since my apartment was on a second floor and small that a small dog was the way I should go.
I went looking and found my dear Honey on the Toy Breed Rescue site. I sent to "interview" her and the foster Mom felt we would be a good fit. There was just one wrinkle with my Honey. She was a "special needs" pet as she had severe anxiety. The foster mom had adopted her out twice already, but the prospective owners returned her. They couldn't stand seeing the dog pace from anxiety.
It just so happened that I was going through a terrible time with my own anxiety. It had been crippling at times and I was only just beginning to manage it. I decided that maybe I could help Honey with her anxiety and took her home.
It was not easy; not for a long time. She paced and she didn't eat much. But, I just kept breathing and when the pacing got on my nerves I just got busy with something. The more I "allowed" her to be anxious, the less anxious she became.
The was some escaping and a lot of angst, but over time she seemed to come to like me and trust me.
The beautiful thing was that while I immersed myself in loving Honey and helping her cope with her anxiety I began to lose my own anxiety. It would still come up for me, but it was getting better. And the technique I used to cope with Honey's pacing worked well for me. I simply took myself away from the anxiety in whatever form I could.
This was the beginning of my realization that every animal I every rescued had done something marvelous or simple that had in fact helped to rescue me!
There was my dear Tequila. I know she never was able to protect me, but she rescued; from being lonely, from not feeling loved, and she helped me feel safe.
Pepe` came along when I had such a need of a pet for companionship and comfort. I nursed him back to healthy weight and a shiny coat. He helped me by going in the car with me when I went out, and being by my side. He barked at intruders and made me feel safe and protected.
And then there was Honey. The gift that keeps on giving. My sweet girl has been through so much, and I with her. To find this precious, sweet and loving little dog has been such a gift. She has grown to trust me and follow my every move.
I seem to attract "broken" and damaged animals. I think it's because I have been broken and by helping these animals find a sense of normalcy and love has been so healing for me also.
I know that I will never again buy a dog from a breeder, and never a pet store. I may pay for a quality pet, but it will be an adoption or rescue fee. I have no need of special papers or breeds. But a loving animal with a heart that needs a home is what I will seek and I know I will find as many times as I need to.
I often have thought that there is just one flaw in this whole Pet situation. That flaw would be that there is a vast discrepancy in life expectancy of the animals and their prospective owners. How is it fair that the human lives 70-90 years and the dog or cat live 10-20 years at best?! What kind of rip off is this? Not being able to know the real rationale for this age discrepancy has led me to create my own rationale.
That would be that our animal friends live so much shorter in order that we humans can be blessed by many more than if they lived as long. Instead of loving one or two pets over a lifetime, we can love dozens! I think that this is an advantage. It doesn't alleviate the tears and heartbreak when our four legged friends time comes to go to the Rainbow Bridge. But, we can always find a new friend who needs us and who we can rescue.
So, open your heart to a rescue animal. You might just find yourself being rescued right back!