53: Second Chances

53: Second Chances

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dog Did What?

Second Chances

Go forward confidently, energetically attacking problems, expecting favorable outcomes.

~Norman Vincent Peale

“Mom, can we get a dog for Christmas?” my daughter Piper asked.

“We already have two dogs, honey.”

“But she’s so cute.” Piper thrust her laptop screen in my face, and the dog’s oversized gremlin-like ears elicited an “awww” from me.

Piper smiled, now hopeful.

“Well, I’ll certainly give her cute,” I admitted. “But we can’t handle another dog. Besides, getting a dog as a gift is never a good idea. It’s impulsive. And most of those dogs . . .”

“I know, I know, end up in shelters.” Piper knew the spiel from my previous dog rescue days. “But we’d never do that. Right?”

“That’s right.”

“I’ll take care of her. I promise.”

How many kids make that promise, only to ignore the dog once the novelty wears off? Wasn’t that a common excuse for dumping dogs at the shelter? I raised my brows.

“Mom, I will. I promise.” Piper pulled up a second photo of the red and white Corgi named Penny, and her stubby legs and soft brown eyes tugged at my heart.

I must resist, I reminded myself. I needed to identify a fault, so I scrutinized the picture. “Look.” I pointed to her backside. “She doesn’t have a tail.”

“Mom, Pembroke Welsh Corgis don’t have tails. That makes them even cuter.” Piper flashed another photo of a Corgi lying frog-dog style with a full view of its thick-furred haunches. “They call their butts ‘Corgi pants.’ Isn’t that funny?”

“Hilarious, but the answer’s still no.”

“The Queen of England has Corgis.”

My affinity for all things British weakened my resolve. “Really?”

Piper said, “Yep.”

Luckily, my sensibility immediately resurfaced. “No third dog. Period. End of discussion.” I turned toward the kitchen to prepare dinner.

“Penny’s a rescue.”

She had to go and say the “R” word. I sighed. Piper could sense I was softening, so she brought it on home. “Mom, doesn’t every dog deserve a second chance?”

As an advocate for shelter dogs, how many times had I said those same words? “Yes, they do. But it will have to be someone else who gives it to her. We have our hands full with Frodo and Dexter. It wouldn’t be fair to Penny.” Did I really believe that? She’d have knowledgeable and responsible dog owners, an established pack family, and a loving forever home. What was my real hangup?

Piper sulked in her chair throughout dinner. She had talked about becoming a vet or a dog trainer. Maybe Penny was just what she needed: a dog of her own.

After dinner, I went into my office to work, but I was moved by Penny’s plight—her heartbreaking story unfolded on the Internet. A puppy mill survivor, she was terrified of noises, daily activity, and people. She’d require much patience and training. I recalled my days in Greyhound rescue—fostering the abused and neglected ex-racers—and the miracles that had occurred with consistency, gentleness, and love. Why had I stopped fostering anyway? Time? No. Effort? No. Burnout? Yes. I’d simply lost faith in mankind, and the sadness had overwhelmed me.

As Christmas neared, Piper no longer mentioned Penny, but she didn’t have to. The little dog still needed a home for the holidays, and I knew we could provide the love and understanding she’d need to recover from her past trauma. But was I ready to jump into such an emotional commitment again? After much reflection, I decided to apply for her adoption and surprise Piper if our application was accepted. We interviewed with Linda, the founder of the adoption group, and she believed us to be a good match for Penny. Dexter and Frodo accepted her into their pack without incident during the mandatory home visit. A few days later, Penny had a new home for the holiday.

Spending the first few months in various hidey-holes throughout our house, Penny slinked into the kitchen for meals, only to retreat back into the darkness. She ducked her head and crouched whenever we reached to pet her. At times, we sat in the closet entryway, speaking her name softly and reassuringly, hoping to gain her trust. We allowed her to set the parameters of our interaction: how much and how long. The phrase “Where’s Penny?” became our household mantra. While I pulled Penny out of the nooks and crannies of our home to take her outside each evening, Penny pulled me deeper into the world of Corgi rescue. Hundreds of dogs like Penny hid out of fear, and I could no longer hide from my duty to help them.

It started slowly with monetary donations, attending adoption affairs, such as meet-and-greets, and supporting Corgi fundraising events. We connected with the Corgi rescue folks, and Penny started to flourish after Piper enrolled her in obedience training and agility. As our love for Penny grew, and we witnessed her healing, I knew I had to offer more. As a professional writer, I had a skill the group could utilize. I’d help to become the voice of those who couldn’t speak. I began by writing the text for the rescue’s new website. The factual information wasn’t sad: the application process, tips on feeding and grooming, agility opportunities, the various dogs available for adoption. I can do this, I thought.

“Would you be willing to write the dogs’ bios for our annual calendar?” Linda soon asked me.

Wait. Bios would require telling the dogs’ stories, their disturbing histories with the sordid facts of their abuse and neglect before they came into rescue. Facts that I didn’t want to hear, stories I didn’t have the strength to tell. But how could I say no? It was my chance to give back to the rescue for the love and joy that Penny had brought into our family.

Linda provided me with the heartrending details of the rescued dogs, and I wept as I read of their mistreatment: broken bones, soft tissue damage, heartworm disease, fleas, severe anxiety, and malnutrition to name a few. There was Sydney, once abandoned, frightened, obese, and suffering from severe tooth decay, who became an AKC Canine Good Citizen and now visits libraries during children’s story hour. And Finley, struck by two cars while living on the streets, who now chases rabbits in his back yard and provides love to his adoptive family. Grits spent the first fourteen months of his life in a crate because his family had no time for him but, once in rescue, earned his Master Agility Champion title and the myriad accolades that followed because Linda saw promise in his athleticism and intelligence. As I spun each dog’s yarn for others to read, the Corgis’ mental and physical scars were swiftly counterbalanced by their successes. These dogs had been offered a second chance, and I marveled at their adaptability and fortitude.

Today, their histories of cruelty and neglect no longer make me cry. Each year, as the calendar season commences, I sit down to the gut-wrenching facts and craft stories of hope that offer people a glimpse into the dogs’ strength and perseverance—the miracle of dog rescue. And, just like Penny, I’ve been given a second chance.

~Cathi LaMarche

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