A shelter Thanksgiving story

Around Thanksgiving one year, I met a man who searching for his lost dog at the county shelter where I volunteered.

“Barney has been missing for a few months,” he said. “But I still look. I always hope he’ll be here.”

“Don’t give up. Sometimes dogs and cats show up a long time after they become lost,” I said.

“I doubt I’ll find him but I have hope. My whole family has been heartbroken over his loss.”

“How’d the dog get out?” I asked.

“Someone cleaned our pool. He inadvertently left the back gate open and Barney scooted out the doggie door. He apparently got curious and took a hike. I feel awful, just awful. We drove all over, put up signs, you name it. It’s my own fault that Barney didn’t have on tags. He’d probably be home now.” I didn’t have the heart to say, well maybe yes he would. The man obviously loved and cared for his dog unlike so many other heartless people I met over the years who surrendered dogs and cats for frivolous often stupid reasons.

Furthermore, I heard that story dozens of times. Pool repair men and women left gates open and curious dogs escaped. Those with tags, if caught, usually went home. Those without had a less certain fate.

“Take a look around and if you find your dog, you know what the routine is.”

If a pet owner found his dog or cat, payment of a fine was required. If the dog didn’t have a rabies vaccination, an additional fee for the shot was also required. No laws existed about cats. They didn’t need a license or a rabies shot to go home.

A few minutes later, the man blew through the door to the receiving area and ran up to me.

“He’s here,” he said. “I can’t believe he’s here. Miss, do you mind if I hug you. I’m so happy I have to hug someone and then call my wife.”

“I’m so happy for you.” I really was.

“Wait till I get home with Barney. My family will be so pleased, especially my wife. She’s so attached to that dog. We’ll have a happy Thanksgiving this year. And Barney will get a plate of turkey.”

Those small acts uplifted me and always encouraged me to go back to the shelter and volunteer. As I pulled out of the parking lot many days, I swore I’d never return. By the following week, however, my emotional wounds healed and of course I dove back for more sadness, aggravation and human drama. I couldn’t stay away.




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