The seasons are changing here in my hometown of Huntington Beach. This year brought us much needed rain and the chance to chase away fear about imminent danger of the dreaded drought.
As we transition into spring we seem to be experiencing a lot of morning fog. That was the case this past Monday when I walked the distance from my little 17-year-old car to the Orange County Humane Society where it is my pleasure to volunteer and be an advocate for those who cannot speak up for themselves.
The palm trees in the distance which line our beautiful beach coastline were shrouded in a haze and for a while they reminded me of the dogs I have written about. As the trees, they are now hazy memories of dear personalities I have known and loved.
The dogs all have stories to tell and they come to us in all manner of condition. Some have been well-loved pets that were suddenly without a home after their owner passed away without making provisions for them. They are confused at the abandonment and when offered a walk and a hug along with a verbal reminder of how special they are I can see their eyes soften and the fear momentarily leave them. They went from a warm, safe home with a caring owner to being one of the multitude of animals hoping to impress a visitor with their beckoning eyes or perhaps to see their owner again and be taken from this place that is noisy and not as comfortable as home. They do this by either using their voice or just putting their front paws on the chain link fence begging to be released. They want to go home. They want to be loved again. They want to sit in a friendly lap and have their ears rubbed, and they want to be able to return that love a hundred fold.
Some of the dogs have been strays, often out on the street foraging for food and warmth. Their fear is also on display and if that is coupled with the fact that they had been abused or yelled at, they meet our visitors with trepidation that asks “Will you be kind to me? I’m afraid of being hurt again and it may take a bit of patience to see past my fear, but I promise you that I am worth it.”
I have been fortunate to see and hear some wonderful stories. I’ve seen dogs brought to our shelter from high kill shelters just hours before they were to be euthanized find wonderfully loving homes. Personally, I don’t think I could be the one to walk down the aisles of those shelters determining which dog would live and have a chance for a new life and which would be left behind.
I had a conversation with one of our animal control officers about a year ago that was very interesting. She told me that the only reason she can do what she does is that she knows it is the only chance the animals have. The animals rescued off of the street have another chance at a new life. That is a blessing for them and for the new owners who are willing to open their hearts and homes through adoption.
Some of these adoptions have been my privilege to help bring about. Often I ask the new owners to write and share pictures with me of the new life these precious dogs are now living.
I have seen dogs once so fearful that they shook or flinched when a hand was raised to put a leash around their neck, so fearful are they of being hit. I try to convey to them that they are safe now. That they have the opportunity to be calm and lovable companions, bringing joy to their new homes and a sense of peace to their once troubled minds.
I saw one little dog adopted after spending almost a year in the shelter. She was so timid that people just walked past her pen not wanting to spend time with a dog that was too fearful to come to the front of the enclosure and greet them. It takes a special person to see beyond that fear and mistrust.
That sweet little dog was adopted by a good friend of mine. A sensitive person who looked past the fear and unfortunate past little Bella had experienced and took her home and into the family’s heart. When I visit my friend now, what I see is a dog that confidently runs to welcome people into the home and does a little dance of gratitude just for being alive and in the care of a loving and gentle couple.
People ask me if it’s difficult to see the suffering on a dog’s face and I have to admit that it is, but given the chance to make a difference in a life, to see the joy a faithful companion can bring into a home is worth the downside.
The most difficult situation I deal with is watching a dog become depressed after a long period spent at the shelter. Seeing people come and go and not being seen for the special soul that they are. For watching other dogs leave with a family while they are left behind. That is why I share their ‘tails’ with you and why it is so important for me to show up in my orange volunteer shelter shirt and orange cap.
Please consider opening your home to a rescue dog. They may not be the cute little puppy in a pet shop window, but they have such amazing stories to share and would love the chance to share and dedicate their lives to you.