I was so excited to take Haiku out for his mid-day walk to find a small package waiting in the mailbox.  It was my copy of the book you see here at the left, “Second-Chance Dogs:  True Stories of the Dogs We Rescue and the Dogs Who Rescue Us,” compiled and edited by Callie Smith Grant, and published by Revell Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group.  I’ve been involved in rescue for close to 30 years, actually, excluding the times when I was not an “official shelter or rescue volunteer,” for I’ve actually been in rescue most all my life.  I was always bringing home the stray pet or baby sitting someone else’s dog, long before the term “pet sitter” was common vernacular.

Ulysses, our Great Dane, was part of the family even before I was born, but Jo-jo the poodle was my first charge.  His mom was a single, early 20’s, cocktail waitress at the steak house across from my parents’ motel in what was still sleepy Central Florida (BD — Before Disney).  Her name was Bootsie, and yes, it was the 60’s.  I got to look after this 12 lbs. champagne colored curly-haired dog who became my little buddy.  In time Bootsie realized Jo-jo was getting more attention from me than she could give, and asked my parents if I would like to keep him.  Of course I did!

Next I brought home a female calico kitten from the neighbor of a friend’s litter, but Blondie, a young blonde Shepherd, was the first dog I would classify as a true rescue.  I’m so delighted that her story is in this GRReat anthology of other dog stories about animals and people whom have been rescued because their lives crossed paths. Thinking back, I think my dad was the one most rescued by this story.  I hope you’ll enjoy, “Finding the Way Home,” beginning on page 156.  Here I am, at right, with my beloved Blondie!

Every dog following Blondie has been a rescue, in the truest sense of the word, dogs that were found wandering, abandoned, about to be turned over to the pound or already there living out their last days.  Each one has left a unique set of paw prints on my heart and has a permanent place there as well.  They have set me on career paths, been my therapists and confidants, best friends, muses and have hopefully each made me a better human being by loving and having been loved by them.

Homeless dogs outnumber homeless people 5:1, and only one out of every ten dogs born in this country ever find a forever home!  Each year, almost 4 million dogs enter shelters, and believe it or not…in many cases, those are the lucky ones who haven’t been hit by a car and left to die on the side of a road, poisoned by food scavenged from garbage cans, gotten a leg maimed being caught in a trap or having been attacked by another animal.  Only 10% of dogs taken in at shelters have been spayed or neutered.

I honestly feel a rescued dog understands his good fortune and is grateful for the chance to prove his love and worth.  Some are doted upon by owners and love the attention.  Others want to be your best pal and run and play for all they are worth along with you.  Others have slowed down and are grateful for a warm place to sleep and a daily meal as well as to look up at you adoringly.  Now, I don’t feel it is perfectly fine to adopt a purebred dog, as long as you are adopting from a responsible breeder and not perpetuating the atrocities of backyard breeders, or even worse — puppy mills!  Responsible breeds know their breed, care for their dogs and will always take them back if for some reason you can no longer care for them.  Believe it or not, a quarter of all the dogs in shelters are purebred dogs, many with quite the pedigree whom have found themselves in some sort of predicament.

The one thing I urge everyone to clear from your minds is that shelter dogs are broken dogs.  That could not be more false.  Actually, more often than not, broken people have reliquished or abandoned these dogs who just so desperately want human companionship. Many failed to take the time to do their initial research, understanding how much time, energy, even money would be involved in adding a dog to the family.  Many did not teach their dog manners and then became furious when the dog peed on the carpet or jumped up on the kids.  Many also thought they could let the dog babysit their kids with tragic results.  These are all human failings, but the dogs ultimately pay.

To that end, I hope you’ll help a dog seen wandering scared and afraid; consider giving a home to one of the millions in shelters that need someone to care for them and speak and teach respect to others about never judging an animal by his or her age, fur color, breed or lot in life.  We could all become better humans by sharing our lives with a dog and giving to them just a portion of the unconditional love they give us in return.  Dogs are truly the role models for living a humane life!

Denise & Bonsai. Photo by Richard Oshen.

Dogs come into our lives to teach us about love.

They depart to teach us loss.

A new dog never replaces an old dog, he merely expands our heart.

If you have loved many dogs, your heart is very big.

–Author unknown



Look for my blog on this topic:  Thursday 9/6 3pm Eastern at www.facebook.com/sunny-dogink