One night, as I was ticking through the shared Google Document we had made to keep track of our potential pulls, sadly deleting rows formerly reserved by dogs who had now been adopted or euthanized since last check, I heard my phone vibrate. I looked up to see my co-worker’s name briefly flash across the screen. I unlocked the screen, and a smiley face emoji followed by a link that clearly indicated what I was about to click on was another Carson dog, greeted me. I sighed, and felt my thumb smack the screen above the link with a dull, apathetic thud.
What I saw made my heart squirm. Though it was listed as an Irish Wolfhound (shelter mislabeling — gotta love it), what was clearly pixelated before my eyes was a Wolf hybrid — a scared, skinny one at that. He was long, lanky, and obviously alarmed at his surroundings. He was listed as five years old, but seemed much younger. She knew how to pull my heartstrings, this girl.
I sighed again and texted back: “awe what a stud :)”
“Yep! You get to name him. So what is it…?”
I smiled, playing along. “Of course, he shall be named Bigby :)”, referring to the “human” alias of the Big Bad Wolf in my favorite graphic comic series, Fables by Bill Willingham.
“Done”, she replied.
A few days went by following that exchange, and sadly, the wolf hybrid soon faded from my mind. My impending nervousness over what resistance we might encounter at Carson trumped all conscious thought. It was, technically, the first pull after all; nerves were almost unavoidable. The country shelters were rarely known for being gentle. In fact, many people don’t realize justhow complicated the rescue process is. We are currently working on a mini behind-the-scenes documentary to try and educate the general public to the process, so I’ll spare you the gritty details… in the meantime, imagine the most frustrating Lottery you could ever play, except that instead of a cash prize, it’s animal lives on the line. It’s sort of like that.
The morning of the rescue, my co-worker made a phone call to the shelter and begged them to let us take the dog and her babes, despite the fact the mother hadn’t undergone the “mandatory” temper test required for all pitbulls and “dominant breeds” who enter the shelter system. After an hour of negotiating and near-tear exchanges, we finally got the okay from the higher-ups to head down and pick up our newest rescues. We had already picked out names — a flower theme — babies Ivy (black) and Lily (grey), Dahlia for the mother.
We arrived at the shelter, took a number, and waited with tense, shuddering legs as each person ahead of us was called into line. Some took minutes, others hours. Since I was on the Pull List and therefore had to be the one to fill out the paperwork on behalf of the rescue, my co-worker quickly made a beeline for the main kennels, to look at the other dogs and work off her nervous energy.
Our number was finally called, and I explained our situation to the clerk, and presented a bag of glaze doughnuts as a secret attempt at a “peace offering”, praying this show of goodwill would yield us a little TLC. Last time I had been to Carson, it had been as an accompaniment to my boss to help her rescue four dogs… we were there from open (10:00 am) to close (5:00 pm), with no breaks for food, restrooms, or anything else in-between. Needless to say, it has been frustrating.
The doughnuts seemed to work, however, and our paperwork was processed quicker than I thought it would be. As I was filling out the final page stating our promise to provide proof of spay when the puppies reached a certain age, my co-worker came walking briskly back into the office, smiling.
“You have to go see him.”
“Bigby. He’s the sweetest thing I’ve ever seen.”
I sighed. “No. We’re here for this, only this, you know that.”
Our paperwork was processed. All we were waiting on was a Care & Control Officer to fetch the dogs in question from the Staff Only medical ward for us, to load into our rescue van and take away.
“Fine. What’s his cage number?”
She told me, and off I went. I found the cage quickly, and one look told me what I had known all along — I couldn’t leave without him.
Cautious but curious amber eyes bore into mine as I lowered myself to eye level. The two dogs on either side of the cage were snarling, howling and salivating, but all I saw was the gentle, rhythmic thump of his tail against the cramped kennel wall as he tilted his head, his ears cast to the side as if to hide his true identity.
A Care & Control Officer was walking past; I called out to him, asking if I could take the dog out to examine him. I wanted to test his reactions; in the cage was one thing, the play-yard could be a make or break determination of his true temperament.
After signing a release of liability, I stepped into the play-yard, and the hybrid followed. As soon as the loop around his neck was undone, he came straight to my side, looking up at me for a sign of what to do. I smiled and got down on my knees to examine him. My fingers lost themselves in a Timber Wolf-esque coat, much like the sample pelts I had touched at the school field trip museums of my childhood — except this time, a skeletal, shaking body quivered underneath.
The dog bowed his head and pressed into my lap, breathing a heavy sigh. I kissed his head, once, and felt his back end start swishing back and forth.
A sharp, jarring voice snapped me back to reality: “Don’t put your face near his!” the Officer barked.
I ignored him, straightening. I knew as soon as the next words left my mouth, that our Lancaster rescue effort would have to wait at least two more weeks. I didn’t care.
“I’ll take him.”
The Officer nodded, and we walked back to the cage. It was here that I saw the only glimmer of negative behavior — the dog instantly flattened down to the cold, dirty concrete floor. I winced as the sound of scraping nails filled the kennel, discernible even over the rabid barking.
With a less-than-gentle push, the Officer corralled the dog back into his cage and locked the door with a deafening CLANG, walking away before I could thank him for his time. I shook my head and squatted once more, pressing my hand up to the cage mesh, instantly feeling fur against my fingertips as he desperately tried to nuzzle me through the steel.
“One more day, okay? I’ll come back for you, promise. Okay, Bigby?”
It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, walking away from that kennel. Dogs hear things like that all the time, and rarely is the promise delivered on. He had no way of knowing what I said was true.
I returned to the Office and signed for him to be taken to the Clinic for neuter the next morning. I would be back the next day in my own car to take him away.
As I returned to the loaded van, my co-worker folded her arms triumphantly. I saw her eyes flash playfully behind her pitch black sunglasses.
I rolled my eyes. “Yeah, yeah, you did. Now get in the car — let’s get out of here.”
CHECK BACK NEXT WEEK FOR PART III
“Jorden Samois is the current Outreach / Mobile Pet Adoption Coordinator for New Leash On Life Rescue, a 501c3 non-profit dog rescue and NKLA Coalition Partner located just outside Santa Clarita, California. She is the proud mom of three small former-shelter dogs, as well as two rabbits, also rescued from a shelter. She has a passion for and certifications in Canine Nutrition, which she uses to help New Leash On Life fulfill it’s non-rescue related mission of empowering animal owners through education and communication. Together with an amazing team of talented co-workers and volunteers, she strives to do her part to save lives and make kill-shelters a thing of the past. “