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Saturday should have been a good day. I drove two cute female boxers to Santa Ana and Jen and her helpers found one a new home at adoption day. But, driving back, I still had two dogs in the car, the young female and a 10 year old male named Maxx whose owner had turned him in because he was moving to a place that wouldn't accept a dog his size. The young female didn't concern me. She was young and small and would find a home. But, what would happen to Maxx? And how could a person have lived with this sweet creature for all those years and then just turn him in, tossing him out like an old sofa that doesn't match the new carpeting? 

Often in rescue work you find yourself overwhelmed and have to wonder if it's more than just concern for the dogs that has you troubled. That you live in a society in which people can abandon a loving companion like Maxx so easily may be my deeper concern and the reality I hate to face. Even the trip back to Los Angeles was hard for Maxx. His age made it difficult for him to get comfortable in the car, though he didn't complain. He's not as agile as a young dog and if I'd make a quick stop he would lose his balance. But when he would get settled again he'd nuzzle against me or kiss my hand to let me know it was alright, he understood. Sitting in traffic, I phoned a friend who I thought might at least foster Maxx so he wouldn't have to adjust to the kennel. My friend was dog sitting for another friend and couldn't take Maxx, but invited Robert and me to dinner that evening as a consolation. It was little consolation as I had to leave Maxx at the kennel. 

Adjustment to kennel life isn't bad for a young dog who you hope will stay there a short while until he or she finds a new home. But for an older dog, one who is tired and a little fragile, it's a tough place. And for an older dog, who has much less chance of finding a new home, the stay at the kennel could amount to a life sentence. Jennifer and Ursula were at the kennel when we arrived. All three of us were heartsick, but Jennifer and Ursula pushed on with their work. You have to in rescue. But I couldn't. I sat immobilized for a few minutes before heading home, thinking of Maxx, wagging his little nub tail timidly as his new neighbors barked at him as he went into a run. Tom got him a big bowl of food and water and Maxx gave him a thankful look with those big brown eyes and again timidly wagged his little tail. Thinking of Maxx, alone and scared, haunted me all the way home. I called my friend again and canceled dinner. I'd made a pit stop at home on the way to the kennel and Robert had met Maxx. He was concerned about him, too. We'd considered fostering him, but with three boxers of our own, we're at the legal limit in Los Angeles. Besides, the last dog we got from rescue is a young female who's still a little rowdy. Maxx might not find much more peace at our house than at the kennel. 

By Sunday morning, Robert had an idea. He'd spoken to the manager of a friend's apartment building recently about his 20-year-old Wheaten terrier and the guy had mentioned adopting another companion dog, but one old enough that it wouldn't overwhelm Chris, the terrier. We'd both met him and knew he was a great dog owner, but what was his name? Tom something. We decided to drop by the building and leave a note. We ran some errands and by the time we returned home, Tom had called. It was possible he could take Maxx, but he wanted to make sure he got along with Chris first. There was hope! I contacted Ursula Monday morning. She, too, was concerned about Maxx at the kennel and had worked Sunday on arranging a place there where he could be at peace. We made arrangements for me to pick Maxx up that afternoon. Robert phoned Tom and set a time. We both juggled our schedules so we could be there when Maxx made his audition. We knocked on the apartment door with fingers crossed. "Please get along," I thought. Tom answered and greeted Maxx heartily. Maxx wiggled and wagged. He was a hit with Tom, but we still had the ultimate test - Chris. Tom called for Chris. "He's half deaf," he explained, as Chris made his way in. Chris walked up to Maxx and the two stood nose to nose. A few sniffs and Maxx's little brown nub was wagging. A few more and so was Chris's little fuzzy white nub. Old dogs, it seems, realize that life is too short for all the bravado and posturing of youth. Old age is a time to cut through the pretense, to relax and to get along. That seemed to be the tone as Chris took Maxx to explore his new home. Tom's apartment is 1900 square feet with a ground floor terrace bigger than most back yards. We sat in the garden and talked while Maxx poked through each room. Finally, he returned to the terrace and lay down at Tom's feet as if he'd done it a thousand times before. He was relaxed and at ease and at home. Maxx gave us good-bye kisses when we left, but made no effort to leave Tom's side. It was as if he somehow knew that this was his place, his home and his new best friend. Robert gave me a high-five as the apartment door closed and we both felt a pure and simple sense that can only be described as joy. 

It's a feeling I associate with childhood where excitement and happiness and thrill and peace all come upon you at once. It's a feeling I don't feel enough as an adult, I realize. It may have been a bad Saturday, but this certainly was a good Monday. * * * * Reflecting on that weekend and my reluctance to admit that I live in a world in which a fellow human being could discard a loyal companion like Maxx and in which indifference to the plight of other souls, both human and animal, seems to be the norm, I realize that that is only part of my reality. Along with the uncaring owner was Tom, who opened his heart and home to Maxx. There were Jennifer and Ursula, along with Tom and Cathy at the kennel, who work tirelessly to place hundreds of dogs but still had the time to show individual compassion to this one. There's my friend Jane, who got me involved in rescue. She and her husband not only offer financial support to rescues across the country, they spend countless hours sewing blankets to make the dogs more comfortable as they wait for homes. Jane spends her days working the national rescue lists, trying to find homes for dogs she'll never even meet. This Saturday I'll drive a load of boxers needing homes to Palm Springs where I'll meet a woman named Arlene. She'll get up in the middle of the night to drive from Phoenix, where she'll return with the dogs. Volunteers there are working to find loving homes for them. There are countless others, names that appear on emails of people I may never meet. Rescue is not a social club where you meet for lunch once a week and make business contacts. It's a working organization, sometimes not that organized, of people working not for any monetary gain or notoriety, not for social status or praise, but to save the lives of innocent animals. They work to give these animals a second chance because they are decent and caring human beings. They are people whose lives have been touched by the love that only a dog can give and this is their way of returning some of that love. 

So, this is my reality - a world where there are those who abuse and neglect, but also a world where there are those who care and love; a world where there are those who abandon, but where there are those who rescue.    



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January 2005 Newsletter



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