I don’t know how to love just a little. All my life it’s always been all or nothing, be it man or beast. So, it’s quite easy for me to fall in love with the dogs that come into my life as part of this “death row” dog mission, and it doesn’t take long. It’s a bittersweet moment when I hand them over to their “new” home. For me to turn my back on these dogs is not an option, despite the pain of letting go.
Maybe it goes back to those moments in my childhood when I used to find baby birds and rabbits . . . I was so excited and loved caring for them. Unfortunately, most of the fledglings didn’t make it but it didn’t stop me from trying with the next one. Maybe it’s all the dogs in my life that I walked home to the Rainbow Bridge, and I would have given anything to have had even a few more days, let alone years, with each of them. Then, maybe it’s simply my strong belief that life is an extraordinary gift and every living being deserves a chance to live and be happy.
I only had to look into Kiki’s eyes to realize that I was not leaving the dog pound without her. Her owner surrendered her and her friend because they were moving and didn’t want to take them. That was bad enough, but the coup de grace was the humane society rescuing her friend and leaving her behind. People forget that dogs have feelings, too.
So, Kiki lived with us for a week . . . blended in perfectly with the rest of the pack, and she was happy to belong to someone. The only argument she had was with Lily, my “energizer bunny” who has a tendency to get on everybody’s nerves. Kiki’s calm and easy demeanor was such a pleasure, especially for such a young dog.
We went on a field trip to Petco where she got to pick out toys and treats, and where we had the opportunity to meet potential adopters, LeNora and John. They came with good references from a friend, and I wanted to see the interaction between Kiki and them before I agreed to let her go.
Kiki liked them immediately . . . they both took time to talk to her. John walked with her through the store. As Kiki sat in her lap, LeNora looked up at her husband and said, “I want this dog,” and I could see that this man was going to give his wife whatever she wanted. Kiki would be going to a home where love is the norm.
You can’t fool a dog . . . they see through any front you try to put up. They either like you or they don’t, and I certainly trust their judgment of people. It was clear that Kiki liked them. So we made arrangements to meet in a few days after Kiki had her vet visit. As we parted, I overheard LeNora telling her husband that they needed to get her a new bed as she was looking at some of the dog clothing and toys. Yes, I thought, this was a good home.
The following Thursday, we met at the park, a neutral place, so that Kiki could meet their 12 year old Dachshund. Kiki’s tail never stopped wagging as she greeted them and her new doggie friend. Then, it seemed to kick in for Kiki that I was leaving her with them. She turned and grabbed my leg with both of her front paws. As I was trying to get the paperwork out of the truck, she tried to jump back into the truck. She even snarled at their dachshund to everyone’s surprise. Kiki certainly wasn’t making it easy for me.
Much like the toddler who doesn’t want to go to day care, Kiki didn’t want to leave me in that moment. But I had to be the “grown up” because just like with children, what they want isn’t always what they should have. I knew in my heart that this was the right home for her and LeNora settled any doubts that I might have had at that point when she stroked Kiki’s head and softly asked her, “Tell me where you think you’d like to sleep?”
Most dogs have little opportunity to choose anything, let alone their perfect home. So, their opinion very much matters to me. But I also know that I have to trust what I’ve learned from these dogs and get myself out of the way. They are such experts at reading energy. Kiki knew I was feeling some sadness, and in her devotion, she felt she needed to be a comfort to me.
Living with dogs and loving them, I have no doubt that each of them leaves a place in a little corner of their heart for me in case they have to find their way back. They certainly take a piece of my heart with them. I can only trust God and the Universe that the perfect home for these dogs will show up when they’re ready and that we’ll recognize it when it does.
I smiled as I watched them drive away . . . Kiki in LeNora’s lap . . . I knew she would be loved for the rest of her life.
Wishing all of you, Lenore, John, Kiki and her new dog friend, a long life of joy and love!