It is one thing to have a steady procession of cats and dogs through our house for stays as short as overnight and as long as a couple of months as Connie provides foster care for them as preparation for their being adopted at the Humane Society of Central Oregon. It is quite another to go down to the shelter on Saturday mornings and put neckerchiefs on dogs that we suspect may get passed over because they are older, not a popular color, or not a "more desirable" breed.
The cacophony of barking can be deafening. For some, the barking is an attempt to get our attention. For others, it seems to come out of a desperation not understanding why they are cooped up in this place. Sometimes, more distressing to me are those who don’t bark at all, ones that seem to be completely intimidated by their surroundings or who have given up in despair that is written on their faces.
We go in on Saturday mornings before the would be adopters come in. The neckerchiefs were cut and sown the week before. One of the attendants, whose compassion for them seems endless, opens the kennel and holds the dog while Connie ties it. I hold the neckerchief bag. We are told that the neckerchiefs make a difference in calling attention to these dogs that may so easily be passed by. We hope so. I am always saddened when I come back the next Saturday and find dogs still wearing the ones we put on the week before. It takes all of my resistance not to take these dogs home with me and add them to the two we already have.
Maybe you’ll understand that when we received the following message today from another friend who cares for these animals, it had special meaning.
I rescued a human today.
Her eyes met mine as she walked down the corridor peering apprehensively into the kennels.
I felt her need instantly and knew I had to help her.
I wagged my tail, not too exuberantly, so she wouldn't be afraid.
As she stopped at my kennel I blocked her view from a little accident I had in the back of my cage.
I didn't want her to know that I hadn't been walked today.
Sometimes the shelter keepers get too busy and I didn't want her to think poorly of them.
As she read my kennel card I hoped that she wouldn't feel sad about my past.
I only have the future to look forward to and want to make a difference in someone's life.
She got down on her knees and made little kissy sounds at me.
I shoved my shoulder and side of my head up against the bars to comfort her. Gentle fingertips caressed my neck; she was desperate for companionship.
A tear fell down her cheek and I raised my paw to assure her that all would be well.
Soon my kennel door opened and her smile was so bright that I instantly jumped into her arms.
I would promise to keep her safe.
I would promise to always be by her side.
I would promise to do everything I could to see that radiant smile and sparkle in her eyes.
I was so fortunate that she came down my corridor.
So many more are out there who haven't walked the corridors.
So many more to be saved.
At least I could save one.
I rescued a human today.
I know, this is projecting human emotions onto a dog, and in scientific studies that is a definite no no. But I have lived with dogs long enough to be suspicious of anyone who says they know what these creatures feel and don’t feel, or know or don’t know. My suspicion is that they know more and in ways that as humans we can’t imagine. Unlike any other animal, over thousands of years, dogs have been bred to be companions to humans; it is now, quite literally, in their genes.
So, if you have a place in your life for a canine friend, or perhaps a second one, consider one of these with a neckerchief, or one that should have a neckerchief but doesn’t. You just might get rescued.