It’s the last day of my first week on the Daniel diet, and I am beyond sick of it. I am sick of being hungry, and desperate for the taste of brie on my tongue. Will you think less of me if I just quit? Why should I care what you think? And yet … I do. It’s disappointing not to get more comments and messages of support, but that’s a new blogger thing, I guess. And every now and then there is a comment, and that’s how I know you’re watching. I’m not just shouting into the void; there’s someone out there. Plus, my mother reads this blog. So does Himself – and he expects me to fail; I shouldn’t blame him (although I do, of course) because he’s seen it happen so many times before. But not today.
So instead of eating, or thinking about eating, or writing about eating, I will tell you a story.
I got involved in dog rescue the way I make pretty much all the major changes in my life – on blind impulse. First there’s the growing pressure of dissatisfaction with the status quo, then an opportunity emerges, promising change. Maybe something better, certainly something different. I teeter on the brink, pushed one way by fear of change and the other by fear of not-change. I remind myself that I need to “seek God’s will”, think strategically, weigh the odds, seek advice. And then I leap, and deal with the consequences as they march up and smack me.
Hey, it’s a method. It works. And yes, I get bruised and quite often I break, but I also see glory.
So … Dude. Actually, there’s nothing all that special about Dude’s story. He’s just one among thousands. He turned up at our local shelter, an unclaimed stray (in other words, dumped). And there he sat, for months, until we bailed him out. I was responsible for evaluating the dogs our rescue took in, and it was clear from the start that he would never be adopted from the shelter. He’s kinda funny-looking in a pop-eyed way, and although he has the softest coat, you couldn’t know that when he was incarcerated. First, he wouldn’t let anyone touch him; he was one desperately scared boy. And second, he stank the way all shelter dogs do – of pee and shit made of cheap dog food and harsh cleaning chemicals. No normal person would want to cuddle that.
Fortunately (sometimes), rescue people aren’t “normal”, so he got to go stay with a volunteer foster mama. She had a securely fenced yard that he couldn’t escape from (he tried), and a couple other dogs who showed him the ropes once he quit showing them his teeth, a cat who made him feel safe, and an unending stream of teenagers who just kept treating him like a normal dog until he learned to behave like one.
One of the things I was especially proud of with our rescue was that we never rushed our dogs through the process. Sometimes a dog that’s been unkindly treated or injured needs extra recovery time. If you’re lucky you might find an adopter who’s willing to put in the work, but most people want their new dog to be ready to fit in with their family. We also took our time about ensuring that the home we chose for each dog was the best fit we could manage. If a family wasn’t the right fit, they didn’t get that dog.
Dude was with his foster family for a whole year before he went home “for good” to an older woman who lived with her 50-year-old daughter. I drove him to their home myself, and it was just perfect! A big yard with trees full of squirrels, a cozy little house with a dog bed in every room, and two active, healthy moms to dote on him all day and every day. I checked in a couple times in the months that followed, and he was happy and well-loved.
But sometimes forever doesn’t last. A few weeks ago I got a call from Dude’s adopter’s other daughter. Something happened to her sister earlier this year – something bad; I don’t know what. (Yes of course I googled her name.) She’d moved out of the home. And then mom started failing, and moved into a retirement complex near the other daughter. She had her own apartment and Dude went with her, but within weeks of moving in she slipped into dementia and had to go into a high-care facility. Dude was homeless.
The daughter told me, “When I went to help Mom get packed up, your business card was on the fridge, with Dude’s name on it. Can you help?” Well, retired or not, we’d made a promise to that dog – and to every dog we rehomed. We promised they would never be homeless again. So he’s back with me, until the people who now run the rescue find someone else who promises to love him “forever”.
I should be glad to know he’s okay. Well of course I’m glad! But … I’m also haunted. In the five years Himself and I ran our rescue, we placed at least 600 dogs, all with the same promise. Are they okay? What if something bad happened to their people, and whoever cleaned up their mess didn’t know about us? What about all the refrigerator doors that don’t have our card?
That saying, “If you save someone’s life, you are responsible for them for the rest of their life” – it’s not real. It’s a literary construct – fake Confucianism – and anyway, I’m not Chinese. But.
I saved their lives. They’re lodged in my heart.
Are they okay?
Your turn. Have you saved any lives that have then moved on to be lived away from you? What about the creatures who depend on you – is there a plan in place if something bad happens to you?