81: Leading a Sheltered Life

81: Leading a Sheltered Life

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

Leading a Sheltered Life

The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.

~Carl Jung

Spots all over! Five Dalmatian puppies, all motherless, and now my responsibility at the shelter where they were dumped. RUFF was a no-kill refuge for dogs in Florida and I had just signed up to volunteer—no experience, no skills, just a love of animals and a willingness to help. The pups were little more than tiny blobs of black and white, so needy that I had no idea where to start.

“Give them a bath,” someone suggested, and so I tried. Now they were wet blobs of black and white, like Oreo cookies dunked in milk. Their wriggling happy bodies were proof that I wasn’t a total failure at this volunteer stuff, so I continued to show up two days a week, dragging my husband along as well.

The five spotted siblings were quite the rambunctious bunch! And each pup had its own personality. Panda was the bravest of the bunch. As soon as he saw us coming he made sure he would get singled out for attention. Gary was laid back while Gidgit was a jumping fool. Rounding out the group was Chloe, the sweetest, and JoJo, the neurotic. All five needed exercise and plenty of it. We chased; we threw balls; we pulled toys. But more was needed, so we started harnessing the troops for walks.

The shelter contained about 200 other dogs who also craved attention. So my husband and I decided to start walking all the dogs for exercise. It was wonderful fresh air and exercise for us as well as the canines, but with 200 dogs and two volunteers you can imagine who got the most exercise. The answer was to recruit more volunteers to come every day. Thus was born the “Dogercise Crew.” We enlisted the help of spry seniors, nearby business lunchers, community service participants, and the local Air Force base enlistees. In short, anyone remotely ready, willing, and somewhat able. As we paraded down the street we gathered more walkers and socialized the dogs.

One by one the Dalmatians began to find their forever homes. Gary was the first to leave. He was so cute it was hard to pass his cage without envisioning him as part of a family. Panda left next. He was not the cutest puppy but he had an adorable personality. He weaseled his way into the hearts of a young couple who took him home.

Next, wild girl Gidgit went. But she was promptly brought back, because along with being a ten on the cuteness scale, she was off the charts for rowdiness. She had what we would call “behavior issues.” Chloe and JoJo shrank back from anyone at all interested in them, ending any initial interest quickly. Therefore life continued at the shelter for Chloe, Gidgit, and JoJo. We gave them as much love and attention as we could, but with 200 “clients” it wasn’t nearly enough, not like a family would provide.

Gidgit, as beautiful as she was, was given another chance with another family, a family with enough patience to see her lovely, lively exuberance for what it was—joy. Gidgit had her home. JoJo was highstrung and such a crazy mess that I didn’t hold out much hope for him. We took him to PetSmart to introduce him to possible adoptive families but he only keened and begged to go back home to his kennel, the only place he felt secure. We brought Chloe along too, and she hid under the closest chair. No one perceived her quiet love as an asset. Three years passed and these two precious babies were still housed at the shelter. We needed a miracle!

That miracle appeared in the form of a high-strung potential adopter. Jean was in the throes of a divorce, and just like JoJo, felt alone and insecure. We kennel helpers were not optimistic. In the past when someone looked at JoJo, he would cringe and cry and we would sadly return him to his cage. We told Jean that she would need patience in abundance. Jean came faithfully to the shelter day after day until finally she coaxed JoJo into letting her pet him. Then came another month of slowly turning JoJo into a normal dog—Jean and he adjusting to each other, taking walks, leaving the shelter for short forays, getting used to hopping in and out of cars, typical situations that other dogs enjoy, but had before seemed beyond JoJo’s tolerance. The day finally came when JoJo left the shelter for good.

That left Chloe, the last of the litter, still at the shelter five years after her birth. How could we find her a place? She was too dear to spend her life in a shelter. My heart ached for her. We had seen so many puppies and dogs come and go; some we assumed could not possibly be adopted because of their age or behaviors. Chloe had no problems except for being a shrinking violet. I became more frantic for her when we were told that the shelter would need to close its doors due to lack of funds. Where would Chloe end up? I couldn’t bear the thought.

About this time the adoption rules were relaxed to include people that had previously been interested in adoption but had been rejected because of age, physical handicaps or less than ideal living space for keeping a canine. An older couple stepped forward with the help of one of the shelter workers. They weren’t sure they could afford a dog, and weren’t sure they could handle one, but once they met Chloe all doubts disappeared. Chloe seduced them with her unconditional love. That same kennel worker who brought this couple forward promised to help the couple with any costs necessary to Chloe’s wellbeing. It was a match worth waiting for. Chloe was home! A chapter of my life had a triumphant ending.

Over a thousand dogs were adopted during our six-year tenure of volunteering at RUFF. All different, and all furry friends who left paw prints on my heart. At the top of that list were the five spotted pups that began it all.

~Linda Bartlett

You are currently enjoying a preview of this book.

Sign up here to get a Chicken Soup for the Soul story emailed to you every day for free!

Please note: Our premium story access has been discontinued (see more info).

view counter

More stories from our partners