Cordelia’s Day Seven

Day Six brought a trip to the vet and the A OK for Cordelia to get a bath.  This was a great boon for me, I’m not sure Cordelia felt the same way – at least initially.  I think it had been a v e r y  l o n g time since Cordelia had a bath.  She smelled.  The hair on her feet was yellowed from walking through urine in the pen with all those other dogs.  She had been spayed prior to being released to Safe Hands so I’d had to wait.  But Day 7 was the glorious day!

Yes, those eyes are heartbreaking aren’t they?  My poor little drowned rat girl.  She was a trooper though and took the bath well.  Afterwards wrapped in a blanket she fell asleep on my lap.  And I think when she woke up, even she realized how much better she felt all clean and new!

Cordelia’s Day Five

So this is Day Five. (or was last Saturday when I actually started this!)  I know you are looking at the pictures and thinking to yourselves…hmmm….that looks a lot like Day Four and Day Two.  But, I say, you miss one thing – Cordelia has a blanket on!  A small step, yes, perhaps even a teeny tiny one.  But it’s a step and I’ll take it.
Day Five dawned to Cordelia having, well, spewed the entire contents of her dinner (and probably lunch too) all over my kitchen floor.  Besides not being the most welcoming of sites first thing in the am (or any time really) I was pretty worried about our little girl.  She is painfully thin and had not been a great eater since joining us.  But thankfully, it was also See the Vet day for Cordelia.
Baby step one today happened just after Dr. Brenteson finished examining Cordelia.  I knelt on the floor, she was sitting in front of me and pushed out a bit so the good doctor could look her over.  With the offending exam completed – hold breathe – yes, Cordelia nudged herself closer to me and leaned into my lap!  She looked to me for some comfort and I was better than the rest of the Big Scary Things out there!!  
Before we all get too excited, mostly me, it was a temporary and contextual comfort she took.  But again, I’ll take this too.  It’s a step in the right direction.  Cordelia is learning to trust.  She is learning to have a relationship with a human.
So this evening as I was sitting with her and petting her I was worried about her not feeling well, the extreme cold, her frailness, her lack of any body fat whatsoever to keep her warm.  I gently pulled the blanket over her as I had tried to before.  And this time, this time she stayed put and she let me!  Baby step two.
So there you have it – Cordelia’s Day Five.

Cordelia’s Day Four

Can you even stand how adorable this face is?  How much I wish Cordelia knew what a sweet girl she is and how much she is loved.  Cordelia is still terrified.  We are still at the beginning of Cordelia’s new beginning.  By now I know this is how starts, this is how it is.  I know progress starts out slowly, trust takes time, Cordelia has barely had time to decompress and stabilize. 

The “right now” though is this – every time I enter the kitchen she cowers and looks away.  Every time she does my heart breaks a little more for this timid little girl.  She is begging for the Bad Things to be no more.  She is afraid to believe they really are. 

She really does WANT to be loved.  She just can’t believe yet that she IS.  I know this because if I approach slowly, carefully, without looking at her and lay down next to her she’ll let me.  I can slip my hand under her chin, start rubbing her chest, scratching her ears and head.  She’ll relax into it and eventually I’ll hear a really big sigh.  If I stay that way long enough she’ll tumble off to sleep. 

I watched her tonight as she slept and I wondered what her past life was like.  Was she ever loved?  Did she ever have a family that cherished her?  Did she ever go for walks on sit on someone’s lap on the couch?  Was she played with as a frisky pup?  Where has her journey taken her?  What has she seen along the way?  I am sure I will never know.  The truth is, wonder as I might, it doesn’t matter.  What I do know is enough.  What I do know is starting last Tuesday Cordelia is loved.  Starting last Tuesday, Cordelia gets to start again.

I also know where to look for the little signs of encouragement and forward motion in the journey.  Tonight, Cordelia learned that the bed is soft and warm and HERS.  It took a little trust for her to let me put her gently in the bed and to sit there, at first tense and nervous, while I stroked her ears and head.  I could feel her start to relax and I swear I could see the moment she gave in to the pleasure of being snug and cozy in the velvety goodness. 

So today Cordelia learned that this good thing is all hers and she likes it.  I’ll take that.

Cordelia’s Day Two

Cordelia has a ways to go…but she’s going to get there.  What we’ve learned so far – Cordelia likes to be loved.  The world is still big and scary.  Loud noises are no fun.  Bright blankie is the safest place to be.  Pretty plush new bed is a foreign concept.  Same for toys.  But in spite of it all, Cordelia likes to have her head rubbed, her ears scratched or her side softly stroked.  She’ll even fall asleep to it.

Starting Today…

This morning as I left the house I selected a pretty plush new bed in dusty rose and cream and one of my favorite puppy blankets.  The blanket is warm and soft in bright colors and was handmade with much love by a Safe Hands supporter.  As I choose these items specially for Cordelia I thought, today, maybe for the first time, Cordelia will be loved.

Cordelia came from one of those situations we hear about all too much these days – a case of way too many dogs living in inappropriate conditions.  Like many such cases, this is one where good intentions went awry and one dog led to another led to 70 small breed dogs living in one home with one couple.  But that was behind her now.  Cordelia was on her way to a new life.  I was picking her up after work and she would become our newest Safe Hand’s kid. 

Finally the time arrived for Cordelia and I to meet.  I took the skinny, shaking dog, wrapped her in the blanket and carried her away.  As we drove home together I spoke gently and told her that it was going to be OK now.  I told her that I knew it was all scary right now.  I told her that although she didn’t know it yet, her whole world just changed.  I told her that it all starts over today.  I told her that starting today, she is loved.

Like most dogs that come from these circumstances Cordelia has some residual emotional baggage.  Cordelia will need lots of encouragement and love to leave that behind.  Today though, Cordelia begins to heal.  Starting today, Cordelia is loved.

Thank You! Harlan Bound

THANK YOU!  Big thanks to all those who contributed to our Chip In.  We reached our goal and we are Harlan Bound.  Tomorrow am, bright and early.  There is so much to do in the next 21 hours…

Pictured above is Ryder Lee – he is one of the many dogs and pups that will get to come home with us thanks to all of you!

We are still looking for foster homes – if you think you have it in your heart and home to help a homeless dog for a little while please let us know.  You can fill out the foster application on the website  – www.safehandsrescue.org or email us at safehandsrescue@gmail.com for more information!

Here are a few more kids hoping someone will be open to giving them a helping hand!

Roxie – about 40 – 45 pounds – loves everyone and good with other dogs!

PUPPIES!  A girl and a boy – looking for a new start to life.

These girls would  love to find families to call their own.

This brother and sister are hoping for a ticket to ride the freedom train!
These girls were left on the mountain to fend for themselves or die.  Super skinny when found and brought to the shelter.  I would love to show them love, kindness and a better life.

Happy Anniversary, Looking Forward – Looking Back

Goldberg & Biscuit wait for rescue Oct 2006
Voices & the Journey
There is a Native American Proverb that says:  It takes a thousand voices to tell one story.  We’ve all heard that the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.

I find myself contemplating the Safe Hands journey and story as we approach our four year anniversary next week – October 7th.  Our journey, the Safe Hands journey, began with a vision to save a few doomed dogs in a small, rural county shelter.  Little did we know over a thousand more would follow.  Our journey and our story are told in their voices. 

There are SO MANY truly great dogs who didn’t stand a chance but defied the odds and are now loved, cherished, integral members of their own families.  Dogs like Goldberg who started it all, Chance who saved Barb from a charging dog and won a chance himself, Charles Wallace Martin III of the Walmart Parking Lot and amazing Two Tone Larry the Tough who arrived with a broken body but not a broken spirit.  Each has their own story to tell.

Chance at arrival in Minneapolis
These kids have been given the gift of life and they have given the gift of joy to the lives of the people who have helped them and who brought them Home.  There is nothing like seeing our “kids” happy, healthy, luminescent, adoring and adored.  It is the best feeling in the world.  It is a rush better than any drug.  It makes you feel like your heart might burst wide open and that you are floating on air.  These are the stories that keep us going.  This keeps us doing what we do.  Knowing the difference we can make.  Joy.  Life.
Moving forward, looking back
I am often so caught up, moving forward so fast that I don’t find time to reflect, to share the stories with you as I should.  My very wise friend Laura Gonzo wrote these words once, “Instead of looking up the mountain at the terrain you have yet to cover, try to see behind you to all of the lives you have saved, the lives you have tried to save, and the innumerable lives you have touched.” 
Indeed, we need to remember the lives that we have touched and that have touched ours.  It is the success stories that bring tears of joy, that motivate us and keep us going.  It is seeing Shug, left behind in the shelter, head hanging low, eyes lost and then seeing her smiling, bouncy, happy and loved with a family of her own and a place called Home.  It is seeing the young puppies like Tulip, Rosie & Aurora, so full of life, energy and promise, big eyes and bubbly spirits.  It is preserving their innocence and zest for life by providing a place along the way to that place called Home.  It is taking in baby boy Griffen who was shot clean through and left for dead on the side of the mountain and seeing him now the love of his new parent’s lives, happy, healthy, Home
Shug in Shelter
Shug – now Goose – today

“The number is unknowable, but I assure each of you that it is profound and it is precious beyond words.”
Tonight I do have a number to share though.  And that number is 1135.  This is the number of dogs that have passed through our hands so far.  Over one thousand sweet souls have been given an opportunity to live.  Over one thousand dogs feeling the sunshine, the grass under their feet, running, playing, loving and being loved.  It is difficult to comprehend and it is truly precious beyond words. 
Individually, we are one drop.  Together, we are an ocean. .  – Ryunosuke Satoro 
Together we are ordinary people coming together to do extraordinary things.  A total of over 5500 dogs have gotten out of the shelter, into rescues and into homes thanks to the efforts of this team of people.  We have taken action and that action has enriched the lives of over 5500 dogs and an innumerable amount of people.    Many of us once strangers, we are united for a cause and ideal that we believe in and hold dear.  I am so proud of our family and I hope you are too.  We have helped provide hope and a measure of optimism to people and animals in a community that previously had very little.  Collectively we have made a difference.
Shelter stats
In addition to the dogs we have brought out of the shelter and into homes there have been great changes at the shelter too.  Many of you will remember that when we started working with Harlan they did not have a washer and dryer at the shelter so the dogs could not have blankets to lie on.  They do now.  While there were windows, there were no lights in the back of the shelter.  There are now.  There was no room for small puppies to be kept separate and safe.  There is now.  The ACO then did not have a vision to create a better future for the animals of Harlan County.  The new ACO does. 
We have been able to help bring Woodstock Animal Foundation to Harlan County to offer low cost spay and neuter.  So far over 2000 animals have benefited from those services.  The county government has seen the improvements at the shelter and the effort that Safe Hands, Starfish Rescue and shelter staff put into saving lives and they have joined in the crusade.  They have dedicated resources to improving conditions and circumstances at the shelter and to support the rescue efforts.  The shelter was just awarded a state grant for a new heating, cooling and air exchange system that should dramatically cut down on illness in the shelter. 
All Terrain Vehicle
So yes, we can look up the mountain, and there is a lot more terrain to cover, many more dogs waiting for their chance to be saved.  We know we can all make a difference in some way.  We all have choices to make, we can choose to lament and wring our hands or we can choose to act.  We can choose to do nothing or we can choose to build.  This group is made of builders and doers. 
Harlan bound so they are homeward bound
And so both looking forward and looking back we find ourselves preparing to embark on a trip back to where it all began.  It is time for our fall trip to Harlan.  It’s time for us to stand in the shelter, breathe in the Kentucky air, roll up our sleeves and get to work.  However, our trip is in jeopardy.  Safe Hands has always believed in doing all we can to heal the dogs and pups in our care.  We have also been unable to avert our eyes or hold back our hands from dogs suffering physical wounds in the shelter.  This year we have had a phenomenal amount of medical bills to heal broken legs and hips, amputated damaged tails, cure heartworm disease and parvo.  Sometimes, usually actually, we win.  Sometimes, we don’t.  We give each one the best chance they can have.  But this comes at a cost.
We need your help…
Last week, we spent our saved up “trip money” trying to save a dog that in the end we could not save.  This alone was devastating.  If we are unable to make our trip and unable to save the dogs we would bring back it will be even more devastating.  So once again, we are asking for your help.  If you believe in the mission of Safe Hands Rescue and the work we do to save the dogs of Harlan and to help the community there please contribute to our trip Chip In.  Any amount helps.  The chip in is posted on the top right side of this blog!
If you are comfortable please post on your Facebook pages or forward along.
Additionally the mailing address is:
Safe Hands Animal Rescue
PO Box 19623
Minneapolis, MN  55419
Thank you so much for everything you’ve done so far.  We hope to earn your continued support as we move forward to save more lives.
Lynne Bengtson, Co-Founder Safe Hands Animal Rescue
On behalf of all the dogs and pups!