If I close my eyes I can still see him clearly. Huge smile. Gorgeous face. Giant blockhead. Painted like a cow with beautiful blue gray spots. His name was Rocky and he was such a happy pup. Full of life. Bouncing around his kennel, taking treats gently out of volunteer Ryoko Matsui’s hand. I fell in love the minute I saw his photo. He even liked cats and other dogs. He was a stray that ended up at the shelter. Everything was in place to bring him home except one thing. We really weren’t ready for a second dog. We already had Gabby plus 3 cats. No room at the Fusaro Inn.

I put him out of my mind- for a while anyway- but I found myself going back to his adoption page. Finally I couldn’t stand it and begged the husband to just let me meet him. And let’s face it, meeting him meant I was going to bring him home. The husband reluctantly agreed and I made the call to the shelter. I was put on hold for what seemed like forever. Finally, the shelter volunteer came back on the line. “I’m sorry,” she said, Rocky is no longer here. He was put down yesterday.” I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. Tears welled in my eyes and a lump immediately formed in my throat. Devastated, I hung up the phone.

I still feel guilty about Rocky. If only I had made my decision one day earlier. Twenty-four hours too late. A single day. I cried as I watched his video one last time. Since Rocky, there have been others. It’s one of the horrible realities of working with rescues. I try not to think about the ones who never made it. And when they do pop into my head, the sadness overwhelms me.

There was beautiful Sky, a husky that was so malnourished and covered with mange she didn’t even look like a dog. The scabs were thick and she had almost no hair. Danielle Rollibard, founder of I.C.A.R.E Rescue saved her from her from the shelter.

“Sky was the sweetest thing ever – every part of her body had scabs and sores on it,” remembers Danielle. “The shirt I wore to pick her up from the shelter was covered in blood from her poor little body.”

Sky had never known love and all she wanted to do was be held in Danielle’s arms. I had made plans to photograph her for the I.C.A.R.E website. Just like Rocky, I never got to meet her. Danielle tried her best to save Sky. At least she died knowing she was loved.

There are so many others that don’t. They die alone in shelters. In backyards. In trash cans. Yes, there are people out there that do unspeakable things to animals and when they are done with them, throw them away like garbage. No dignity. No respect. Never having been loved. Never feeling safe. It’s these lost ones that I want to remember.

Paula Hsien volunteers at a local shelter and makes it her business to valiantly work to save as many dogs as she can. She remembers each and every one.

“During their stay at the shelter, they brightened our days with their beautiful smiles and unconditional love. They made us laugh with their silliness and playfulness. Even though they are no longer with us, they will be remembered, for they have left their paw prints on our hearts forever.”

“Vixen was quite a social butterfly. When we’d go out for walks she would greet everybody. She’d follow me around or would just sit next to me.

Manouka was a happy girl and a big ball of love. My heart was torn into pieces when I found out that she was euthanized because the shelter lacked space.

Mali came in as a stray. She gave me little kisses on the hand. The fact that she was willing to give me a chance tells me that she still had lots of love in her heart.

Honey was a sweet girl who won the hearts of many volunteers. She was super playful and full of energy.

Rayna was such a good girl. She’d sit and wait for me patiently when I passed out treats. She loved to give kisses.

Dolly was dumped at the shelter because she was too old. A lifetime of giving love and she died alone in a shelter without her family.

Brittle loved to be around people and was just a sweet boy with kind, soulful eyes.” The list could go on forever.

Without people like Hsien, Rollibard and Matsui these dogs would never know human kindness. I don’t know how they do it, but I’m glad they do. And so it’s time I remember Rocky and Georgie and Jazz- three dogs that touched my life and left way too soon. And I thank the selfless men and women that can’t turn their backs on their plight. Memories like these need to be remembered. These loving creatures that were here for just a moment, but made a lasting impression- their short lives do matter.

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