Okay so just to be clear the individual I’m talking about is a dog. And she annoys me in a really good way. A few months back we got in dogs from Houston as a way to help with Hurricane Harvey. Bella was one of those dogs. After some testing our veterinarian determined she was heartworm positive. That meant a long course of treatment and lots of exercise restriction. Soon after her diagnosis she moved into my office…that’s when the real fun began.
For the first week Bella didn’t do anything out of the ordinary. She was well behaved and proved to be crate trained. And then she got comfortable. Pretty soon she started eating everything. Books. Trash. Expensive Nikon cameras. A couch. I always dreaded coming in the morning to see what she had gotten into. But even through all of that, I loved her. She was the most human-like dog I had ever met. She seemed to listen to what I had to say and really absorbed it. She was smart and quirky and crazy and I loved every bit of her. It didn’t matter that she destroyed most of the things in my office because every morning I would walk in and she would bring a smile to my face. Today she joins her forever family and I have mixed feelings. I know that this is the best for her but it breaks my heart all the same. She has been a part of my life for months and I will feel a void when she isn’t there anymore.
We do a lot to help animals forget they are in a shelter. Enrichment programs, fostering, you name it, is all to help these animals cope with the hardships of kenneled life. I used to go into work on the weekends and take a dog out of the afternoon. It gave them a break and got me out and about. But after awhile I got lazy. By the time Saturday came around the last place I wanted to be was at work. So this weekend I decided it was time to do it again. I wanted to go hiking and what better company in an outdoor adventure than a dog.
In the morning I picked up a friend and we headed to the Humane Society. We grabbed Enya and off we went. 5 miles, multiple dogs, people and new places to sniff later we had made it back down the mountain. She was happily exhausted. We decided to top off the day with a trip to local eatery where Enya got her own bone that she chomped away on until we were ready to head back to the shelter.
As we hopped on the freeway she tried to climb in my lap but instead settled for resting her head on my chest. My heart melted. That’s when I realized what this day must have meant for her. A day away from all the chaos of shelter life must feel like such a relief. A day where you get all the attention and love you want.
I am extremely fortunate that I get to take my two dogs to work with me every day. I don’t have to spend the day wondering how they are and what they’re doing. Or, of course, the number one question all dog owners have while away from their pooches…do they miss me? The weird thing about me is that I seem to have the opposite problem than most dog owners. As soon as I drive away from work I start wondering about the dogs that I left behind in their kennels.
Questions start firing off in my head. Did I remember to give Spots a fresh blanket? Are Ruth and Rufus warm enough? Did Peanut get her pain medication? It is as if I have the separation anxiety most people have from their own pets but with all of the dogs in our care. It is sometimes so overwhelming that I lose sleep over it. I have restless dreams that consume my brain all night. And when I get to work in the morning I rush to check on everyone I was so concerned about. Most of the time I was worried for no reason. They are all fine and I breathe a sigh of relief.
I guess that is what happens when you are responsible for so many living things. Some days you worry more than others.
What is your greatest fear? Is it spiders? Heights? Now imagine being tethered to it and you can’t get away. Talk about terrifying. That is how I imagine Gardenia felt when I got her out of her kennel today. I was the scariest thing in the world to her and she was connected to me. She fought the leash and did all she could to get away from me. I tried everything I could to calm her down but nothing worked. I felt terrible.
I feel like we often expect a lot out of our pets. We want them all to do exactly as we say, be friendly towards everyone and easily adapt to any environment. But they have fears and anxieties just like we do. I love working with those dogs that need a little extra work and watching them blossom. I love gaining their trust and changing their view of humans. It is sometimes a very long road but we always get there. And when I talk to their new family I get to tell how they started out just like Gardenia but through time, patience and a lot of love they have become the confident and amazing dog of their dreams.