This is a story from year’s gone by about a moment that was incredibly powerful to me. Lest you worry, it has a happy ending! It is a story from a trip we made to visit our rescue partners in Kentucky. Next week we make another “pilgrimage” to where we began. We will need your help to save as many dogs as possible. Please consider fostering to save a life or donating to our rescue efforts here: http://www.safehandsrescue.org/home/donate-2/
“Lynne, look, another puppy” Barb says and I grudgingly look over my shoulder. “Ain’t she cute? She is ADORABLE. I know you are gonna want this one.” I barely glance over and grunt something fairly unintelligible. I hope it passes enough for admiration or appreciation that I can go on with my task at hand. I listen as the woman says “another puppy” is a stray that just done took up at her house. She’s played with the kids and the other dogs, but they just can’t afford to keep her. They thought best they bring her on down here.
The last thing I want right now is “another puppy”, the weight of another little life I will now feel responsible for. One more dog I must find a foster home or rescue for before we leave. We are in Harlan, Kentucky, foothills of Appalachia. We travel here a few times a year, back to where our rescue began, to the motherland, to see our friends and comrades in arms that are on the front line in this mutual fight to save the dogs of Harlan. We come to meet the current crop of canine residents at the shelter. We assess, photograph, network and save as many as we can. We load them on the van with us when we go and send the next transport after those left behind. We come to provide support for our friends there, to renew energy, share knowledge, to bring fortification in the form of donated towels, blankets, food, kitty litter and medical supplies. We come because this is where our roots lie. We come to remember. We come to never forget.
It is one thing to look at photographs and try to save a dog’s life. It is another thing entirely to lay your hands on the dog, to have his head on your shoulder, to feel her sweet kisses on your cheek. It is another thing entirely to look into eyes that are deep pools of longing, desire and need and to feel the weight of their worlds on your shoulders. So this is where I found myself when Imogene made her arrival. We’d been there all day. We’d made many canine friends, saw the beauty inside them, made promises to them we were determined to keep. “Another puppy” was about the last thing I was hoping for.
As we packed our things and prepared to leave the shelter for the night I asked Terrilea if the new puppy had gotten dewormer. “New puppy? What new puppy?” She hadn’t been up front when the pup came in. I sighed, so weary from a long day and the longing looks of the wayward and hopeful souls I did not want to disappoint. I picked up the Panacur, “kennel 34” Barb said. I trudged back to find “another puppy”.
I was mightily distracted as I entered her kennel run and prepared the medication. I didn’t realize something very important. I was going through the motions of the task without “seeing” this small, scared kid. I bent down to pick her up and the whole world changed.
There she was. There was Imogene, shivering with fear, huddled into the corner, face to the wall, trying so hard to disappear. There she was, all alone in this big place with the concrete floor, high ceilings, loud noises. She started her day outside in the sunshine, playing with kids and other dogs. Now she found herself in this terrifying place, everyone a stranger, no one a friend, no toys, no kids, no canine companions.
In an instant I was knocked hard back to the present. I felt every muscle in her body shake and quiver, saw the confusion in her eyes, the abject terror in her face and immediately felt all that she was feeling. The force of the emotion sunk me to the ground. I pulled her close, wrapped my arms around her and held her as her pain spilled out through the tears flowing down my face.
I held Imogene until she stopped shaking and I could make the tears stop coming. Then I stood up and carried her out of there. I walked out to the lobby and wordlessly handed her to Andrea. She looked up, “What?” “Just hold her” was all I could say.
A triumphant smile lit Barb’s face. She knew that Imogene was ours now. She was coming with us, coming tonight when we went back to the hotel and coming home to Minnesota.
Sometimes the weight of “another puppy” turns out to be nothing at all.