I took a few years’ sabbatical from writing — my first love — to work with animals, a field that I quickly discovered is also very close to my heart.
It didn’t start off very smoothly, however, I must confess.
My first day at the Madison County Humane Society left me wanting to retreat back to my trusty reference books and ever-faithful pen and paper for solace.
At least my laptop never tried to eat my face.
One dog, in particular was a black Chow mix named, Reno. This dog was 7 years old and had been dropped off at the shelter with his litter mates as a young puppy. He had spent his entire life at the shelter.
What we do know about their background is they had been kept in a garage by an elderly woman who didn’t know what else to do.
They had been severely under-socialized and it stuck with them into adulthood.
All of the dogs were at varying social levels, but all 3 were vicious barkers with 98% of people they came into contact with & would never let anyone get too close.
The humane society was divided — mostly according to age and temperment:
*The big dog room
*The more active, small to medium-sized animals
*The “special needs” pets — which held animals with varying issues from newborn kittens to senior dogs to the very grumpy dogs and cats.
This was Reno’s room. This was also the room I was assigned to — to be responsible for and to clean.
Oh boy…that first day. I almost didn’t make it back after lunch.
After cleaning my area in the morning and setting up lunch for my designated dogs, it was time to bring the dogs back inside to eat.
Reno had sniffed me on the way outside, but didn’t pay me much attention earlier that morning.
In his 7 years at the shelter he had (more than) gotten used to the routine of going outside. Right at 8am. Like clockwork. Every day.
When the time came to bring him inside with a leash, he barked, growled and showed his gleaming teeth at me…as if to say, “Watch it, Pinky — stay outta my way or you’ll be sorry.” His aggressive-sounding bark was deep and intimidating, and reminded me of Cujo. &
I could just picture him rubbing his paws together and saying in a super-creepy voice, “Come here little girl..” and laughing like this, “mwahaahaaHA”.
Thankfully, something told me to stick it out and I’m soo glad it did. It was an experience, like many others, that forever changed me.
That first job at the humane society made me realize and discover my deep-seeded passion for working with animals.
After that, I worked for a handful of dog daycares, which is an entirely separate post..or posts.
Anyway, back to the jist…
Well, like I said, I went back to work after lunch (a tad bit reluctantly, I might add)…and Reno was there..waiting for me.
The shelter manager knew that this was an obstacle that had to be overcome if I was to stay on, working there for longer than a week. So she formed a plan:
We would go into his outdoor kennel with him to get him more familiar with me. I would be taking care of him on a daily basis. IF we could get past the initial scary introduction.
When we got inside, I was shocked to see that Reno appeared timid.
Even though the shelter manager and another employee were in there with me, I still felt quite sure he was going to rip my head off of my body. But as I stood there in what was HIS territory and watched him cower away, I suddenly realized how wrong I had been.
I came in, armed with treats <which, btw is the BEST way to get to know an animal and I get that, I do because I myself, am food driven, as well>.
As he drew closer, I slowly got down on my knees. Thankfully, I’d been a tall girl all of my life (I’m 6’2″). And I was already aware that my height could be intimidating to animals or small children…or anyone with a fear of tall people (whatever that phobia is called)..I digress.
I’ll never forget looking into Reno’s eyes that first time he took a treat from me. A combination of fear and utter curiosity.
At that moment, it all became clear –he didn’t want to bite me. It was fear, coming out in the only way he knew how to express it. He and his brothers had figured out a long time ago: ‘If I bark and sound mean, people will stay away’. & it had worked for them, except when it came to finding someone to adopt them.
From that point on, Reno and I became very good friends. He always greeted me with a wagging tail, eager to give kisses and to be adored, which is exactly what I did.
I’ll never know what happened to Reno and his siblings to make them this way, but one thing I know for sure is: I will always have a friend in that big, scary dog that wound up being just a big teddy bear and one of the sweetest animals at the shelter that I still, to this day, hold very close to my heart.
Like so many other strays and homeless animals at the humane society and countless shelters across the country — these animals don’t have a voice. They can’t tell us where they’ve been or what they’ve been through. But every dog, every cat, every living, breathing thing has a story.
And this blog is a little piece of my mind to give you a look at life — my story, from my perspective.
I hope you enjoy reading — since I’m dipping my toes back in the pool of the written word after being away for such a while, any comments or suggestions would be much appreciated.
Thanks for reading — two “pinkys” up for you!