It ends like this. A happy dog with a happy new owner. A picture taken in the yard of the foster family, who tearfully hands him over to his new family. Without the selfless dedication of dozens of volunteers along the "Underground Railroad of Shelter Dogs", this picture never would've been taken.
One month ago, this could have been him. He was waiting in Monongalia County Canine Shelter, West Virginia when a woman I will never meet, who works with northern rescue groups found him and scooped him up. He was cowering on the floor of his cage and even though she didn't know where he'd go, she brought him to her home to await a northern foster home. This is where the "Underground Railroad" of Shelter Dogs kicked it. A New Jersey-based group, called Roger's Rescues got involved and agreed to foster him until he could find his forever home.
A veterinarian I'll never know, from Paw Prints Veterinary Clinic in West Virginia, along with a team of technicians, neutered, heartworm tested, vaccinated and dewormed him.
This was the first picture I saw of him, in his cone, after the neuter.
After recovering from his surgery, volunteers drove him and other dogs, in a van similar to this one, over 400 miles from West Virginia to Flemington, NJ, where he met his foster mom, Beth. She had visited my home the week prior to for a home visit, part of the application process for Roger's Rescue.
This is Beth, walking him after he got out of the transport van. She brought him to her home, so she could evaluate him. He was her 43rd foster dog. Foster families are an integral part of this process as they end up intimately knowing their foster dogs' temperaments, emotional "baggage" and unique characteristics. When they connect with potential adoptive families, they are able to describe these dogs to them. These foster families never know how long their commitment is doing to be to these dogs and if he was hard to place, she would have cared for him for as long as it took, to find him a home.
A volunteer created a "Dogster" webpage for him to further advertise his arrival in the NJ area. Thousands of similar profiles, powered by PetFinder, exist for other adoptable dogs, waiting in foster homes and shelters.
This is where I was brought in. Beth invited me, Jasper, Guapo and the kids to her home, to meet him last week. I knew right away, just like I did with Jasper, so many years ago, that he was to be my next forever dog.
As I fall more deeply in love with him, my gratitude for the people that helped him along the way, will also grow. I don't know how "normal" it is for them to be part of this process, but I will never forget the sacrifices you made in time and resources to complete this story.
And finally, thank you to Beth, for allowing her 43rd foster dog to become our new Once-In-A-Lifetime Dog.
Has your rescue dog ridden the Underground Railroad? Who would you like to thank and why?
He's been by my side for 13 years. I know I don't have another 13 years with him. I wish I did. But it doesn't take a veterinarian or even a "dog person" to know that the odds of Jasper, my Bernese Mountain Dog mix living until he's 26...are zilch.
I try not to look at him as impending heartache. His still wagging his tail, eating, asking to go for rides, snuggling and overseeing my ICU when he comes to the hospital with me (see above). But he can't climb stairs or jump into the back of the car anymore, he needs regular arthritis medicine and massage to move smoothly and he's now deaf.
If I could clone him, I would. I know many pet owners share that desire. But I think I've come with the next best thing.
Meet Calvin, a one year old border collie mix (see below). He was recently rescued by Rogers Rescues, out of a shelter in Kentucky, and is now in a foster home in my town.
I think I just might be adopting him tomorrow. We met him yesterday and he's amazing.
What do you think? It will be a strain for a while with two senior pets (Jasper and Thea, my 17 year old cat) in the house, who need significant care, two young kids and a frantic schedule.
But, as crazy as this sounds, I'm hoping that Jasper imparts his wisdom on Calvin before he leaves me.
Am I nuts?
On the Floor in the Veterinary ER