A letter to all my animal rescue friends. Because not enough of our rescued animals come with follow up stories.
Our black lab Major (the inspiration for this page) was rescued by Crystal, the head of Canine Hope for Diabetics who also happens to be an animal control officer. She had gotten a tip about a hunting dog trainer that was abusing a dog. You see, labs are known for and bred to have soft mouths, which means that when they go to retrieve game, they don’t crush it on the way back. Well, it turns out, Major didn’t get that memo. He has a habit of biting down, playing with, or chewing on whatever he retrieves. He has what is known as “hard mouth”.
Clamping down too tightly while retrieving, to render the bird unfit for the table.
This is a big no-no in the gun dog world, and rendered Major useless for this trainer. So she swept him aside. He spent the rest of his time with her living in a dog truck, much like an animal control vehicle. He was let out for an hour a day, but the rest of his time was spent in that small, stainless steel cubby, in the dark, alone.
Major was a year and a half old when he was rescued, which in the lab world is pretty much full grown. He weighed 35 pounds. Major is a small lab, but he is in great shape now, and he weighs 60 pounds for a point of reference. He has permanent calluses on his elbows from not being able to stand up. His coat was stained in urine. He was in really bad shape.
When Crystal picked Major up, we had already been in contact with her about our desire to have a shelter dog or rescue trained as a DAD (diabetic alert dog). She had been on the lookout for a suitable candidate when she saved Major. She has some preliminary tests she does when she first meets a dog to see if they are receptive to the diabetic scent, and Major was interested. And even though Major was abused and in bad shape, he had a great obedience training foundation to his credit, making him an excellent candidate. So she matched him up with us, nursed him back to health, and began his scent training. The rest, as they say, is history.
See, here is the funny thing about rescue. You never really know who you are saving. I mean, it’s obvious that you saved the life of that particular animal. And by getting them adopted out of the shelter, you have made room for another animal. So there is 2 lives saved. But the impact these animals have on peoples lives is immense.
I mean, some of these dogs go into homes where their new people have been struggling with health issues. Maybe they have been trying to quit smoking. Maybe they were trying to lose weight. Maybe they had a heart attack a couple of years before, and were still struggling with getting healthy. And then a dog comes along that likes to be active. That needs exercise. Whose to say that you didn’t save that persons life?
And then, what if the animal you save goes on to learn some kind of job. What if that dog has a skill that can be trained. What if that dog has a nose so powerful that it could detect chemical changes in someone’s body faster than any technology we have available? Perhaps that dog could give people a head start on implementing some life saving procedures, just enough time to be able get someone the help they need before they get into a serious health crisis, or even death? What if that dog that you rescued, did something SO amazing for his people at Christmas time, the happiest time of the year? What if the dog you rescued gave the parents of a beautiful little 8 year old girl a warning. A head start. Told them something really serious was happening almost an hour before real physical symptoms starting showing up, but by that time they were well on their way to avoiding certain disaster. They were able to keep things from spiraling out of control. They were able to get help.
It happens. All the time. You may not hear about all the stories, but they are out there. These animals go on to provide benefits so amazing to their new people that we just can’t stop. We have to keep giving them a chance. Finding them homes. Fighting for their lives. Knowing that they aren’t trash. Disposable. Replaceable. Worthless.
Because you just never know when the life you are saving may not just be that animals. The life you are saving may be your own. That life you save may be the life of your child.
Thank you to all my friends in the animal rescue world. You all are doing a job that pays nothing, that is dirty, smelly, and often times thankless. But you do it. And you can’t stop. It consumes you. You may not hear it enough, you may not see the end results often, but know that these stories are true. These animals you save KNOW they were given a chance. They pay it forward. And they will always remember you. Thank you. They may someday return the favor and save someone else’s life.
And to Crystal? Well, a thank you will never be enough. We love you. We love him. And we are thankful every day that you brought him into our lives. The rest of the Canine Hope team and families are pretty damn special too.