Tuesdays with stories: hope for shelter dogs

Dispatch from the Santa Fe Humane Society, February 8, 2011

At a municipal animal facility, sometimes a simple story of hope can be hard to come by. I’m counting on this first Shelter Dispatch of 2011 to turn into just that, though for the moment, it’s only achy observation on a snowy Tuesday night…

This afternoon in the receiving building, I met two animals who deserve so much more than what they’ve been dealt. The Pit Bull in the first kennel of the middle run is unbearably skinny, and the sign on the door instructs “food at all times.” His scrawniness, however, isn’t the first thing you notice: the dog is completely mange ridden. From mid-torso down, it’s just exposed, raw skin.

For petting, I try to stick to the places that still have hair – but even where there are patches of fur on his head, the skin is scabby and irritated. If it itches like crazy, the dog doesn’t show it; he’s gentlemanly and doesn’t complain. We sit on his blanket, and he listens earnestly as I talk. I tell him that his next home will be better, that his new person will never let him down.

But I know better than to promise.

Across the aisle, a black Pit Bull puppy is led into a kennel. His ears are freshly bloody – wet, jagged, and bright red from a cropping job that must’ve happened within hours of his arrival at the shelter. I can’t imagine the agony.

He licks the peanut butter off a nylabone I hold for him, and my only thought is, please let this take his mind off the pain. Maybe one day his memory of being maimed will fade – god knows I’ll remember for both of us. He eventually settles into the blankets lining the floor. I leave him with a handful of treats and wish him good night, telling myself that a night here is better than anything he knew before…

At the shelter, stories of hope are sporadic at best. So I cling to the notion that these dogs’ sagas will be among them. And in the meantime, I’m thankful for Ann, Martha, Lyn, Kathi, and Marilyn – fellow volunteers and among the most compassionate humans I’ve ever known. Your camaraderie means everything.

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