March 9th, 2009
On March 2, a team of UAN’s Emergency Animal Rescue Service (EARS) volunteers joined The Humane Society of the United States and the Bowling Green-Warren County Humane Society (BGWC) in Kentucky to care for more than 125 dogs rescued from horrific conditions at an Adair County hoarding situation.
The following post was submitted by first-time EARS volunteer Dori Griffith of Indiana
The first time I saw you I thought you might be dead. A large solid lump piled in the back of the black wire cage. Pandemonium was erupting all about us yet you made no noise, no movement, not a hint of the rise and fall of breathing, not even a twitch.
Your large dark gray/black body reminded me of a girl I once loved, Flo, my Floozy. I gently opened the door and tapped the floor and called out to you, to see if you were sleeping, nothing, no response.
This was the first time I cried …
I reached out and touched your rump, I gently shook you, nothing, no response, you were cool to the touch, I was sure that you had passed. I said a prayer that you would meet my Flo, my Floozy at the Rainbow Bridge and run and play happily with her and all the other dogs, free from pain, free from starvation, free from parasites and the abuses of humans, light and happy.
I continued to cry …
The cage was large, I crawled inside, I stroked your head, your shoulders, your back. I scratched behind your ears, your soft, soft ears. I massaged them, being sure to hit all the pressure points for relaxation that I had learned about years ago for another of my life’s loves, Billy. I spoke to you, I told you about the Rainbow Bridge, about Flo and Billy, about the freedom and joys of being released from this aching, itching, mistreated body. I felt your scabs and scrapes and saw the awful patches of skin devoid of fur, chewed away at attempts to relieve the consequence of mange.
… and cry.
I heard a sigh, a very faint sigh. Surely it was coming from the dog in the next cage. They were so closely spaced that I could have touched your neighbors on either side. I looked over the cardboard barrier and they were barking along with all the others, barking and barking and barking.
Slowly I noticed your ears warmed up. I gasped as I felt the rise of your chest, then the fall; with a full breath you slowly raised your head. You did not look at me, you turned away, you pressed yourself against the wire cage and burrowed into the far corner as best you could.
This was the first time I laughed.
You settled back down and let out a sigh. You looked at me, though I’m not sure you saw. Your eyes were old, your muzzle gray, your brow furrowed. I left you to rest.
My assigned partner, Christine, returned with supplies and we continued down the row; one of us walked the dog while the other cleaned the cage, layered fresh newspaper and placed a clean water bowl inside.
We fed, walked, and cleaned cages twice a day. The dogs would bark and bark when anyone walked through the building doors, or came near their crates and as we fed them. But the moment everyone had been fed a silence came over the place and the dogs rested. We’d give them time to rest and digest then start the cleaning/walking process all over.
I always made sure to be the one to walk you, my big dark gray/black pile of heap. You would not move, not come out. I crawled in after you, petted you, talked to you. I wrapped my arm around you and under your chest then half carried, half dragged your large heavy body away from the barking dogs to a quiet corner where we sat and talked, I massaged your ears, your hips, your lame leg. You looked at me with those old weary eyes and I smiled through my tears as you piled yourself in a heap at the back of the black wire cage.
On day two, someone brought big boxes of treats and the dogs were happy.
These dogs quickly went from frightened, shaking, nervous wrecks to happy, enthusiastic play babies. They were excited to see us with anticipation of food, water and attention. They became more relaxed with a routine they could count on.
Most of them that is.
You liked treats, too, my big dark gray/black pile of heap. We gave you a treat and coaxed you out, this time you didn’t make me carry/drag you. Instead you leaned against my leg and moved when I moved, slowly and erratically but move we did. As the door cracked open the first shaft of sunlight traced across your nose, you lifted your head a couple of inches from its resting place on my foot. You sniffed the outside air and inched forward on your own. I opened the door fully and we walked out, side-by-side.
One step down and onto the grass. ”Ooh”! You exclaimed, “Grass!” You began to walk fully on your own. The warmth of the sun seemed to relax you; I petted you and stroked your blotchy coat. In the sunshine I could see the full extent of how mangy and scarred you were and how gorgeous you were, how absolutely gorgeous you are. We stood there together in the sunshine, in the quiet, away from all the other dogs, the noise, the chaos, just stood there soaking up the sun.
Later, at cleaning time you were up wagging your tail looking toward the direction of my voice. I opened your door and called out to you, and you moved toward me without being bribed with a treat. You let me put the lead around your neck and you gingerly stepped out of your black wire cage. We slipped out the back door, your face lit up and you sniffed the air, full on and deeply. We walked in the grass, you peed on my shoe, I petted your head and told you what a good boy you were.
That evening back at the hotel I called my sister, Leisa, in California. I told her about my big beautiful boy. I asked her to talk me out of adopting him. There are even rules in place against that. She reminded me that I couldn’t save them all, that I left a tag team of friends back at home to handle my responsibilities so I could go to Kentucky to help give these animals the opportunity to find their Destiny.
I cried in the lobby while asking other EARS team members to remind me of my determination to put my big beautiful boy on the truck to Delaware if I faltered in any way and begged to take him home with me. Six people agreed.
My last day on deployment was the most difficult and most rewarding.
You greeted me standing up, wagging your tail and jumping around in your kennel. I heard your voice for the first time today. A strong, loud, confident bark. You looked directly into my eyes and I was certain that you actually saw me. You were so alive, so active, so vocal that you seemed much younger that I originally thought. I was sure you were an old dog, an old blind dog. I lifted your lip and looked at your teeth for the very first time, funny I hadn’t though of doing this before now. Oh my, what beautiful, clean white teeth you had. You were not an old dog; you must be a young dog.
The only things left to do that day were a final cleaning and then load all of the dogs onto the transport truck for their trips to Delaware and Michigan.
At one time or another all six of the people who promised to remind me of my determination to put my big beautiful boy on the truck did remind me. One of them said something that got through my sorrow, and reminded me why I deployed in the first place. He said that my big beautiful boy had his “Destiny in Delaware.”
I worked the next morning somewhat in a daze, not really focusing on my job, not really talking to anyone. The next day was worse; I was very depressed and spoke briefly to one person of my journey, the only person who remotely understood my passion for animals. Susie from UAN called in the afternoon to inform me of the upcoming debriefing call and to expect an e-mail with details.
I remembered that Diann had asked me to submit a blog post from a newbie’s perspective. So I started writing. Well into the morning hours I was still writing. I needed to remember, to cry, and to laugh all over again. Now I feel confident that I can get back to my regular life and be more prepared to answer the next knock on my e-mail door. I will be back to help the animals and I will be more prepared for the emotional roller coaster that comes with it. I now know there are people out there who are kind hearted, compassionate, caring and playful.
This is the last time I cried.