Nearly two months ago a 4-year-old Shih Tzu found a new home: MINE! His name was Stormy and he spent the first three years in a Midwestern puppy mill. He was used for breeding and though he had some interaction with people, his life wasn’t filled with much compassion, love, or care. Then, in September 2016, he was brought to an animal rescue sanctuary in southern Nebraska. At Hearts United for Animals, Stormy learned people could be kind and they could be trusted. And though he had veterinary care (sadly, losing 28 of his 42 teeth) and caring interaction with people, he still had no experience living in a home and consistent, compassionate care. That all changed on September 10 when my husband and I drove back to Casper from Nebraska with the little guy in the back seat of our car next to our 2013 rescued springer/cocker named Mary.
He and Mary had opportunity to meet at HUA’s play yard. They spent more time together at the hotel where we overnight and during the long drive back to Wyoming. They are now attached, especially him to her. Renamed Jeremiah, our little adoptee follows Mary everywhere and cuddles with her on the couch, on the floor, on the bed – she is his big sister and best friend. He’s already learned a great deal from her, including walks on the leash can bring grand sniffing adventures; running through the back yard is great fun; and going outside to potty gets you treats. He’s also learned how fun toys can be. He still needs to learn to share with his canine housemate, though!
Jeremiah is a sweet companion. When I’m home working in my office, both he and Mary come and lay either on the futon beside my desk or on the floor near my feet (although Jeremiah much prefers to lay on a soft-blanketed doggie bed than the hardwood floor!) When I return home from my day job, gone about eight or nine hours, Jeremiah is usually waiting at the door, and the joy he portrays, dancing on his hind legs a move for which Shih Tzus are famous, raising his little feet up toward me to be held, hugged, and cuddled melts my heart. My blind dog Sage used to come through the house after hearing the lock turn in the doorway, welcoming me home with springer songs of AHOO, AHOO!! I love the devoted, loving way dogs (and cats) oftentimes greet us when we come through the door!
As I watch Jeremiah settling in and coming out of his shell, revealing his precious, somewhat precocious personality, I am thankful my husband and I adopted him. There are challenges to pet adoption, particularly when bringing home a puppy mill/kitten mill animal; however, watching them blossom under loving tutelage is very rewarding and observing them overcome their fears and mistrust is joyous! That joy is contagious. The first time I watched Jeremiah flat-out boogie across the back yard and witness him grabbing the stuffed toy, shaking it, then running through the house with it in his small, somewhat toothless mouth made me both laugh and cry. Knowing he might never have enjoyed such freedom, pleasure and joy was like an arrow to my heart. Rescue is a beautiful word. I’m grateful to the staff and volunteers at HUA for saving Stormy/Jeremiah and the countless other animals they’ve rescued in the 30 years of operation. I’m also grateful to the other puppy mill rescues, such as National Mill Dog Rescue in Colorado, and the thousands of animal shelters and rescue groups across the country.
November is Adopt-a-Senior Pet Month. Although Jeremiah was by no means a senior, when I inquired as to why this small dog had not yet been adopted, the staff member responded, “Likely his age – most people want puppies or 1-year-olds.” That shocked me – by no means is Jeremiah “old,” unlike the cocker spaniel my husband and I adopted in 2008, who was then 10 years of age. Cody lived to be almost 18, possibly because of the love and care we gave him. I hope Jeremiah lives to such a ripe old age!
During this special month of Adopt-a-Senior Pet, I hope you will take time to help rescue animals in some way: by adopting or fostering; by volunteering at your local shelter/rescue; donating necessary items; helping to promote adoption; helping at an event put on by your local rescue organization.
November is also Thanksgiving. If you have pets, take time to be thankful for the joy and companionship they provideas and for the numerous rescue groups who unite people and pets. Also consider being grateful for the many thousands of animals who provide not only companionship, but also necessary help for their humans, such as service dogs, therapy cats, and K9 and military animals. We are blessed by having animals in our lives, in our communities, and in service to our country.
Hugs to you and your pets from me and mine, and Happy Thanksgiving to you all!
Gayle M. Irwin is a freelance writer, author and speaker. She is part of the Chicken Soup for the Soul family, having published seven short stories in seven of the internationally-acclaimed books, including a rescue story in the August release "The Dog Really Did That?" She also has a story in "Memories from Maple Street USA: Pawprints on My Heart" from Sundown Press. She maintains a pet blog on her website, found at www.gaylemirwin.com.