I met a broken dog last week, and I could not take her home.
Some of you are already nodding in quiet understanding, despite how little the above statement discloses. For those who are not, let me expound. This was not an injured dog. No scrapes, bruises or breaks were to be found. She was healthy and well fed, her deep black coat luxurious to the touch. A Border Collie/GSD mix, she cut an athletic figure standing at the side of the rescue organization representative who was handling her at our local pet shop this day, and my guess was that she would find her way around an agility course with aplomb. A fine canine specimen in every physical sense of the word.
Her eyes told the rest of the story, and I will never be the same for having looked in to them. It took no more than three seconds to know all that she could not tell me. Fear, distrust and uncertainty poured from her expression, and you could almost sense that she was looking for her next place to hide. She flattened perceptibly as I approached her. I spoke softly and held her head in my hands as she averted her eyes, a reaction that I am not used to. Most canines seem to sense that I am a dog nut and tackle me as soon as they have the chance. Not so, this girl.
My wife and I exchanged knowing glances. These are the cases that kill us. I stepped aside to let Mrs. Author spend time with this shy, nervous girl, telling myself all of the while that the sooner we could distance ourselves from her, the better.
Do not think me cold or uncaring. You could not be more wrong. Instead, understand that we have lost three great dogs in the past six years, and two of those dogs came from deplorable conditions and had horrid histories. We committed fully to the challenge of helping these frightened animals feel safety. We put weight on them, trained them, showed them the way to true happiness and contentment. Our consistent love, patience and compassion taught them that they could expect good from humans, and that an outstretched hand did not indicate an impending strike. We gave them everything we had, as any who know us would attest. We helped each of them through prolonged medical battles until all was lost.
Nigel and Sola bore witness to the loss of our last great friend, an amazing male Border Collie. His story will wait for another day, but the pain we all feel from his passing will not. He was far too young when we lost him. Nigel and Sola were both impacted deeply, and never seemed to fully recover until Truffles came home with us. It hurt us as much to see them mourn as it did to lose the companion they were mourning. Our entire family was devastated.
I browsed the pet store that was hosting this rescue organization meet and greet. Mrs. Author found me, grabbed my arm and ushered me away after she had spent a few quiet moments with this sad and lovely girl. In her eyes I saw that familiar anguish. It pains us deeply to walk away from these cases.
We want to know that these hurting creatures will be cared for in a permanent home that allows them to find their way back to a place of peace. We want to see them thriving, fearless, healthy and well; and we wish that we could be the ones to shepherd them as they find their way. The disappointment that comes from denying ourselves the chance to do so leaves us feeling hollow. With each damaged dog that we walk away from, we leave behind a small, broken piece of ourselves.
I agonize over that dog each day, and she enters my thoughts with frequency. She nearly haunts me. I have looked at her online profile countless times, and imagined her frolicking in the river with our delightfully happy pack of dogs. I believe they would love her, as would we, and that they would not handle the loss well if (for any reason) things were to not work out. I know that this time, for many very good reasons, with the best intent, and my heart planted firmly in the right place, I must bid her farewell and hope.
I met a broken dog last week, and I could not take her home. Please share her story, so that the person who is meant to do so may find her. She waits patiently.
Mia is currently available for adoption at Good Karma rescue in Montpelier, Vermont. Her online profile is here. I rarely ask anything of our readers, but I implore you to retweet this story, share it on Facebook or anywhere dog lovers congregate. Help this girl find her forever home.