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Volunteering my way is turning a dog into hero | FOR GOOD FOR EVER
American society thrives on volunteerism. From church volunteers, to school volunteers, to those who sit with the dying, we are a people who naturally want to help.
April is National Volunteer Month and while I volunteer a lot, I have always looked for that one thing that would give my life more meaning. And now I’ve found it.
I am a dog lover. Dogs make my life whole. Last month, I wrote about the rescue process for abandoned dogs and the network of people who find them loving homes. Sadly, homeless pets outnumber homeless people in this country by 5 to 1, and only 1 in 12 shelter dogs will actually find homes before being euthanized to make room for more.
Why is this true? Because dogs are a commodity, like Barbie Dolls. They are something to be bred, marketed and sold by the bucket-load. Look around at the pet stores, the puppy mills, the ads in the newspapers. When a certain dog becomes popular, they suddenly become readily available.
But unlike unwanted Barbie Dolls, dogs are put to sleep by the millions when there is no one to take care of them.
My volunteer role is to serve as a foster home – saving one dog at a time. It’s not an easy job. I often have to drive to North Seattle to pick up the dog(s), wait for them to be vetted and/or take them to a groomer. Many of these dogs are scared of humans. They’ve been chased, cornered and caught. Some have been abused, others neglected. And some have been abandoned and left to wonder why they’re now alone.
A foster’s job is to be patient, build their confidence, teach them good manners, housebreak them, or just give them love. And when a family decides to adopt them, our job is to let them go.
My first foster was a 1-year-old female terrier who was underweight and wouldn’t eat for two days. She was lethargic and stayed to herself. But soon, I saw a change. She began to play and put on weight. By the time she went to her forever home 10 weeks later, she was a confident, playful animal ready to take on the world.
My second rescue was also young but had trouble using his long gangly back legs. He struggled with my porch steps and couldn’t run properly. It was heartbreaking to watch. We suspect that he’d spent most of his young life in a shelter, never able to behave like a normal dog. Yet, by the time he left, he was chasing my two dogs around the yard and cornering like a sports car.
But my favorite story is about Murphy, a young Pomeranian-mix who was just hours away from death when he was rescued.
For the first few days he wouldn’t let me reach out and touch him. He reacted like so many dogs I’ve tried to pick up off the streets; he was afraid of getting caught. Within a few weeks though, Murphy was jumping up in my lap and playing with my two dachshunds.
But Murphy had greater things in his future. The Thompsons came to meet Murphy with their son, Brandon. They had suffered their own loss. They had adopted Brandon and had recently fostered a baby girl who they also wanted to adopt. Unfortunately, the baby’s birth father re-entered the picture and took custody of his daughter. The family was devastated and Brandon kept asking for his baby sister.
“He would ask for her 10 times a day,” his mother told me.
Heartbroken, they thought that perhaps getting a dog might help.
Even though Murphy was skittish at first, they took a chance on this little dog. And just two days later, Mrs. Thompson emailed me to say that not only had they all fallen completely in love with Murphy, but Brandon had stopped asking about his baby sister. Instead, all he could talk about was his new dog.
It made me cry.
Murphy, the little dog picked up off the street and almost euthanized, had filled a void in their lives and become a hero.
And I helped to make it happen. Now that’s volunteering my way.
Would you like to be a foster and help to create a hero just like Murphy? Contact 6Dogrees Rescue, Ginger’s Pet Rescue, Old Dog Haven, or one of the many other local rescue agencies for more information.