Why Rescue Touches My Heart—Another ‘Tail’

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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Having lived these good many years, (71 to be exact), has given me the opportunity to reflect on what I value most. Family, good friends, and the precious pets that have shared my life  have enriched me as a person. I’ve evaluated what is most important to me and what lessons I’ve learned, and what I’ve determined is that I want to leave this world a better place for having lived here. It is one of my deepest desires to be able to help those who have no voice — because animals have always played an important role in my life. They were constant friends when the world around me was changing.  One, (a small parakeet named Petie), accompanied me when as a child my family moved across country twice, (New York to California and back again)-I can still see Petie in his small travel cage sitting on my lap as I explained to him where we were stopping for the night and feeling that his company as well as my dear parents were all I needed to feel safe and secure. My pets were with me in good times and bad, often being the consistent non-judgmental voice my heart needed. Although I spent my working years as a commercial artist, both teaching the craft at a local college and in my own studio, it seems that in my later years it is by painting with words that I am now able to reach out to people, and it is my joy to do just that. I hope my stories help to connect people to kindred souls that wear fur on their faces but are just as capable as we are to feel great love in their hearts.  Rescue animals particularly deserve another chance at a happy life and it is my honor to bring their stories to light and hopefully be the catalyst that joins two different species on their journey. The connection we share with our pets is like no other, There is no need to be anything other than who and what you are. No amount of money or privilege will impress them as much as your kindness and attention. I do know that in the final analysis, life is good and most people honestly want to do the right thing. If that includes opening their home and heart to another living being, then my purpose is accomplished. I hope in some small way I can contribute to that greater good. Bio- Born in Middle Village, New York- 1945 Mother to a wonderful son, Michael who truly would be a cherished friend even if we weren't related--and fortunate in meeting my kind and thoughtful soulmate, Burt, in later life- I am blessed indeed. Retired teacher/ Orange Coast College/ former owner and operator of a commercial art business in Huntington Beach, California.
 Lucky to have had the opportunity to work in the art field where I was often quoted as saying, "You mean I am being paid for something I love to do?!"

 Interests: travel, enjoying local points of interest, movies, volunteering at the Newland Animal Shelter and writing about the wonderful personalities I have been honored to meet there, both human and furry-faced, and generally enjoying the retired life.

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