by Tanya M. Jackson
This little Sandy is a half grown pup, very thin; she has been a stray for a while. She looks like she might be part Cocker Spaniel and who knows what else. She has an orange and white coat, dirty and bedraggled, and burs and stickers are caught in her ears. She has a skinny scraggly tail and her ribs stick out but her face is adorable - a little dark mask like a raccoon accents her eyes. She is scared and shaking but very sweet.
It will be hard for her to adapt to the shelter, and a staff member asks me if I care to take her home. How can anyone say "No." When her five days of waiting are up - legally we must hold strays at the shelter for five days to see if someone comes to claim their lost dog - she hops in the truck and comes home with me. I call her "Honey Bun" - she looks like one: white bread and golden honey, a sprinkle of cinnamon. Her needs are simple.
She needs good food and needs to put on some weight. She needs a bath and needs all the snarls and prickers combed out of her sparse coat. She needs lots of love and we have that to give. Sandy stays with us for about a month.
She's a sweetheart and is really desperate for all the love and attention we can givewhich does cause some issues of jealousy with my own little dog. In time, however, they come to love each other and play together like two little sisters, wrestling over toys, playing tug of war, and emptying the toy basket all over the living room.
Sandy is house-trained, easy to care for and chooses to sleep in our bed with us (and Gretel and the cat), and generally makes herself at home. She quickly puts on weight and becomes the adorable little dog we knew she was all along, even when she was scraggly and dirty.
I really want to keep her. Friends of ours in the north are making bets that I won't be able to give her up. But I know I can't do foster care for puppies if I am going to have a hard time giving them up and decide to start keeping them. Owning a pet is a dedication, and an expense, and requires work as well as fun. I can manage one pet very well - best to keep the extra time that I have for foster babies who need me.
I have my own dear little dog - an unwanted baby herself when she was given to me - and we have our cat, a little feral kitten who came to us at the age of 7 weeks and now is the queen of the world. Her world, that is. So it is time to find Sandy her new forever home, and I take her to the shelter to show her off to people looking for pets.
I truly believe that there is a plan for us as well as for the animals we are trying to help. A mother and her grown son walked in the door and I was the volunteer available to show them our dogs ready for adoption. When people come to look, I always ask what sort of dog they are looking for - big, little, boy, girl, puppy, grown dog. That gives me an opening to find out what sort of "parents" they might be. I ask if they have children, other pets, a fenced yard. Sometimes they have no idea and are just looking. Sometimes they know exactly what they want.
The young man looked seriously at me and said "We are looking for a dog for my Dad. He has cancer and is going through treatment. His doctor says a dog would be good for him." "Does he want a dog?" I asked. "Yes," his wife replies, "he really does - we just want to see what is available and then we will bring him over to choose. I am a cancer survivor myself, and my little dog came to me just after I finished chemo treatment. She was such a gift to me, such a comfort. She was perfectly happy to curl up and nap with me for hours, and shower me with sloppy kisses if I seemed discouraged and depressed.
I knew that Sandy was the right dog for this family. She had the same cuddling/comforting personality. I brought Sandy out to show to the young man and his mom. He thought she was wonderful. Somewhere in the conversation I learned that the cancer was terminal and the treatment was just buying his Dad a little more time. I had to ask what would happen to Sandy after that. It was a hard question to ask, but I asked it. She knew that I had to ask. "Sandy will be my comfort then," she said. I knew I had found the right home for my little Sandy, my little Honey Bun.
A chemo treatment was already scheduled, and Sandy's new family asked if they could leave her with me for a couple days, rather than take her to their home and then leave her all alone while they were gone for the day long treatment. So I had a some more time with little Sandy, and I told her what an important job she had ahead of her, and how good a dog she must be when she went to her new home. I think she understood every word that I said.
In a couple days the whole family came to get their Sandy. The son that I had met, another son, and of course, Mom and Dad. Such a nice family, so caring and concerned that I would miss Sandy. (I can never squelch the tears when I say goodbye, but mostly they are happy tears.)
Sandy got her pretty new bandana tied on, I held her and posed with her new owner for a photo, and the family left with their new dog as the staff and volunteers at the shelter all gathered to say goodbye. Little Sandy with a big job ahead of her, had found her new forever family. A couple weeks later there was a call to say how well Sandy was doing in her new home, and I knew that everything had worked out just as it was planned! A lucky dog, a lucky family.