Over the last several months I’ve acquired several connections on Facebook who are seriously involved in animal rescue. I’m always saddened at how people can treat defenseless animals. Personally, I’ve lived with several dogs in my life and each of them has brought me overwhelming joy. Last month I was struck by a post on Facebook about a dog named Diva. A 7-year-old female Pit Bull-Lab mix this black and white beauty was taken away from her family, who lived in the projects in Manhattan because of a new NYC subsidized-housing ban on dogs over a certain size. She had been at the Animal Care and Control shelter in Manhattan and was scheduled to be euthanized a few days later, as her two week limit was expiring.
Her photo broke my heart. Curled up on the cold floor of the shelter, her Lab ears drooping low, she had the sad look of deep lonliness in her eyes. If dogs cried, I imagine she would have had tears welling up in her eyes. Looking at her I wondered again how there could be no one who would welcome her into their home with open arms. I’ve never had a problem with being alone, but lonliness is a whole other situation. Having felt truly alone before myself, I thought maybe I could help alleviate her sadness. Immediately I contacted the rescue organization and volunteered to help her. It was simply inconceivable to me that her life should end because she was evicted from her home. My own terrier had been living with my parents for months now and my house was entirely too empty.
On November 21st she came to live with me and took quickly to the name Donatella. She couldn’t have been sweeter. When she arrived she was on medication for kennel cough and even through her sickness she did everything she could to try and please me. It was upsetting to think that this beautiful and sensitve creature, who had already lived half her life and should have felt so comfortable and safe, was just aiming to please so she could find a sense of security. In public she behaved on a leash and didn’t lunge at other dogs or bother children. She made friends everywhere she went, her entire backside wagging away. When in the backyard she bounded across the lawn and into the creek.
She leaped through the snow like a gazelle. I wondered if she had the chance to run before and laughed out loud at her unbridled enthusiasm.
She was also a handful. Her separation anxiety was clear. Everytime I left the house she howled–the ONLY time she made any noise whatsoever. An extraordinarily smart dog, I’m convinced she had opposable thumbs that were hidden somewhere under her dew claw. On several occasions I cam home to find the refrigerator door opened and my potential dinner already consumed. (She also seems to enjoy yogurt, cheese, tuna, and arugula!) Even when I blocked the door to the fridge with heavy boxes, she managed to move them just enough to get to the rewards she knew were inside. Did I mention she was strong? But for all of her hijinx, she never once chewed, tore, or damaged anything. It was simply here nervous energy that made her curious. I never scolded her for these mistakes. I didn’t want to draw attention to her negative behavior. And after all, she met me at the door with a happiness to see me that I was so very grateful for. Her companionship was more than worth some literal spilled milk. As I moved from room to room she followed my every step.
One bitter cold Saratoga night, my car decided it did not want to start. This situation left me car-less for an entire week, and with one very big problem. How was I to leave Dontella alone all day long? I had been coming home at lunchtime to ease her anxiety and keep her company for a while. Without a car, this was going to be more than difficult. So, she came to work with me. What a wonderful addition she was! Everyone loved her. She greeted customers, intimidated potential shoplifters, sometimes napped at my feet, and gave me security when I closed the store. In very short order, she became a fixture.
And then my life changed. After a long and drawn-out job hunt for a position back in publishing, I was offered a job for a book publisher. In Virginia. Under most circumstances this would not have been a problem. I’m appalled at the idea of people who give up their animals because they move. Pets are members of the family, not chairs that “don’t go” in the new house. But here I was, faced with not just a move, but a lifestyle change. I would be living almost an hour’s drive from my job and there would be no way to go home for lunch with Donatella. It seemed that my intended adoption was destined to be a foster situation instead. My guilt was overwhelming. Mine had become her home: she had a crate for daytime napping, a teddy bear she snuggled, a coat which kept her from shivering, a bed she curled up in the bedroom, and a big place in my heart.
I was so worried about finding her a new home, though I knew deep down it was in her best interests. After getting in touch with a friend who works with rescue animals regularly she put me in touch with Out of the Pits, an organization that rescues only Pit Bulls and Pit Bull mixes. It really was a Christmas miracle. They met her and loved her–how could they not?–and within a day had two potential new homes for her. She left here yesterday and is currently at the vet’s, waiting to be spayed. Her potential families will be meeting her this weekend and there is a great chance that she will be in her new, permanent home within a week.
My fears were assuaged, though my guilt still weighed heavily on me. And then the representative from Out of the Pits thanked me. Me. She was so grateful that I saved her from unnecessary euthanasia and gave her love and safety for this short month. I wanted to cry because really it was Dontaella that rescued me. It’s been a while since I’v e had the opportunity to care for anyone and I’d forgotten what it was like. I like that feeling. Actually, I love it. I’m a nurturer at heart I guess, and I’m grateful to Donatella for reminding me that there are those out there–canine or otherwise–that think that’s an asset.