My tires crunched as I pulled onto the gravel parking lot of the animal shelter, downwind of the landfill. Why is it that shelters always seem to be by landfills? Throwaway pets, next to throwaway garbage? I didn’t like what that said.
Well, the landfill had a recycling center, and I knew that the employees at this shelter were doing their best to recycle these discarded pets back into society.
After a stop at the front desk, I headed for the kennel area. As I stepped through the door, the noise slapped my ears. Disoriented, I paused. The open roof area above the wire runs seemed to amplify every bark. The employees wear earplugs when they’re working back here, the noise is so bad.
Imagine then, sensitive dog ears subject to this onslaught day after day as they wait in confusion. They don’t know why they’re here.
I knew why I was here. For twelve years, my Belgian Sheepdog had been my heart. He was aging now. I was afraid he wouldn’t be with me much longer. I was here for heart insurance. I didn’t believe I could ever have a companion like him again. I just thought, perhaps I could return the favor by giving another dog a good home.
Knowing that if I found a dog here today that she’d be with me for the rest of her life, I tried not to let my heart lead the walk down the lane.
One furry pup was so happy to see me that his whole back end was wagging. My intent though was to adopt an adult dog. The puppies always seem to get picked first, but I knew a grown dog could be a behavioral bargain. Often already housebroken and otherwise civilized, they can be much easier to integrate into the daily household routine.
The shelter was so crowded that many of the dogs were sharing runs. I paused to pet a lab mix with one finger through the wire. He was in with another dog.
She kept trying to come to the front of the cage, but the slowly wagging otter tail of her cage-mate seemed perfectly timed to slap her slender face every time she neared. He was oblivious, and her shyness made it very hard. Time and again, she circled and darted toward the wire and was rebuffed. In her frantic circling, she looked up and our eyes met.
And I knew, without ever laying a hand on her, that she was coming home with me.
I went back to the desk and through the “meet the dog” routine when they brought her out. Neither she nor I seemed concerned over that. She settled between my feet like she had been there forever.
Because she was picked up as a stray, I had to wait ten days in case someone claimed her, but the day came at last.
I was wrong. True canine companionship can come more than once in a lifetime.