There are good people in this world. I have met them.
Last week, the Rockingham County Animal Shelter put out a plea to area residents. The Shelter was overflowing with dogs and many healthy animals were going to have to be put down. The overcrowding resulted in part from an elderly man who died and the 10 dogs at his home were brought in, plus there are 2 mother dogs there, one with a litter of 7 and one with a litter of 8. Two different TV stations covered the overcrowding s did the Greensboro News & Record. And God bless them, people responded.
Friday was a madhouse. Forget cleaning cages. The first two hours were spent just trying to keep track of people who came in the door. I can't cover everything that happened, but here are a few of my favorite stories:
Story 1 - You Pick
A couple in their early 60's arrived. They said they saw the TV report and lived on a farm with 4 dogs but decided they could make room for another. "We just have to help," said the woman. "Wonderful," I said. "The dogs are in here," and I started walking for the door.
The woman shook her head. "Oh no. We can't look at the dogs. It would break our hearts. " Her husband nodded his agreement. "Why don't you just pick out a dog you think would be good for us?"
Oh my God. That's like picking out a child for someone to adopt. I think my panic must have shown on my face because the man finally agreed to go into the kennel with me. We found a beautiful, hyper puppy they loved, but it was part Rotweiller and their landlord didn't allow Rotts or Pit Bulls. So we pulled out a Lab puppy mix, but the poor thing was petrified. It ran and hid in the corner and no amount of treats or petting or coaxing could pull him out. All that was visible for 40 minutes was his little backside.
"Do you want me to pull some other puppies out?" I finally asked.
"Oh no," they said. "We'll take this little guy. He just needs some love. We like dogs that might be a challenge to place."
If it was within my power, I would crown these two wonderful people royalty.
Story 2:- Donation
A woman came in and handed me an envelope with a check donation. She apologized profusely for not being able to take a dog, but her family already had 3 dogs and 2 cats. "I'm so sorry," she kept repeating, near tears. I assured her the money was needed and she was doing a wonderful thing. "I'll come back and volunteer," she said. "I want to help." I hope she does come back. Volunteers are always welcome.
Story 3: Tough Guy
Right after we opened, a rough-looking young guy walked in. Maybe 22 years old, he had scratches and bruises on his face, knuckle rings, baggy jeans, crew cut, and just looked... rough. I asked how we could help him and he mumbled something about seeing his dogs. I had no idea what he was talking about but we were swamped, so I just waved him toward the room where we keep the dogs. A few minutes later, I followed him in there. He didn't hear me enter (not surprising, given all the barking). He was standing in the very last cage with a dog that had been labelled "aggressive." The dog was as tall as he was and was standing up, paws resting on the man's shoulders. The man was hugging the dog and their foreheads were bowed in and pressed together. The man was sobbing.
I'm tearing up even typing this. I had no idea of the situation, but seeing this man hug his dog and cry and the dog hugging him back as though comforting him, their foreheads touching... I will never forget that image.
I slipped out of the room and the man followed a short while later. His eyes were still wet. I motioned him outside, away from everyone. I didn't quite follow the story he told me. Something about his mom lost her job and they'd had to move and a few other things, the upshot being, his two dogs were taken. "And they got them labelled aggressive but they're real sweet with us," said the man. "Good with the kids and house and stuff. Ain't never been mean."
He looked into the distance and his eyes filled again with tears. "I only got money to get one out." He turned to me in desperation. "You think she'd hold on to my other dog until I get money together for him?" I have never seen such pain in a person's eyes.
It was all I could do not to go running for my wallet. I told the man I thought there was a good chance they would hold a dog they knew someone was coming for, but he'd have to speak to the shelter supervisor.
I lost the young man in the chaos of the rest of the day, but later I saw the shelter manager walk into the cage where he'd been hugging the dog, and inject a syringe into the dog's leg. The man then carried the dog out. Was it a sedative? Is his other dog being held? I wasn't able to find out before I left.
But working Friday at the shelter reinforced my belief that people are good and they want to help. People who hadn't planned on dogs decided in the space of a 30-second TV spot to open their home to an animal. I love the bond animals create. It's a cause around which I truly believe the vast majority of us can unite. Most people have had a pet or a positive experience with an animal. No one likes to look at a hopeful furry face with gentle eyes and think of it having to be killed not because it's sick, but because there's "no more room." A love of animals brings people of every race, background, religion, and education level together. It was amazing seeing all these people mix at the shelter. And they were all there simply because they loved animals. They wanted to help and do the right thing.
Friday was a good day.