Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Humane Society Story

The Greenville Humane Society has asked me to submit a success story to use to promote adopting a dog. They've love the basics of it so much they are also sending a professional photographer over... See what you think of what I wrote and I'll let you know how the session goes. If nothing else, I'll learn a great deal about photographing Shadow!

“What do you want to foster?” Sue, the Foster Program Manager, asked as she flipped through my application form. It was Saturday afternoon. She was likely on her way home and probably put in more hours than she was being paid for, but she took the moment to come see me in the lobby at the Greenville Humane Society.
“A dog,” I answered, “I don’t have the time to give to a puppy.”
“What about a large, rambunctious dog? I’m talking about a 67 pound lab.”
“We had an 80 pound Shepherd once. I think that will be okay.”
“Where will he stay when you are not at home?”
“We have a back porch that should be safe and if he’s found trustworthy, he could have reign of the house.”
Sue laughed out loud. She paused and looked hard at me. “Let’s go meet him and see what you think. There’s no pressure here.”

I giggled to myself. I had not thought I could receive a dog the first day. This was moving rather fast. We had lost our shepherd 3 months earlier and were planning an extended trip later in the year. Adoption at this time was not in our plans, but we really missed having a dog in the house. Fostering seemed like a good compromise.

Sue opened the door to the isolation room for those with kennel cough. This beautiful black Labrador Retriever leapt as high as the kennel would let him. My heart leapt in return. I asked a few questions and then finally said, “I think we can do this.” Sue looked at me again. “Okay, but in a couple of days if you want to bring him back, that’s okay. Don’t suffer this week.” Armed with a crate, harness, collars, food, medicine and chew bone, we headed out to my car and started home. I called my husband, “Honey, I’m bringing home a 67 pound lab!”

Quickly, we began to learn a great deal about him. He was house trained. He knew a number of commands like "sit", "lie down", "no", and "come". He knew what to do on a leash after he was reminded he was expected to behave on one. He took his medicine gently from hand even though it was wrapped in deli meat. He was playful, energetic AND knew how to play gently. He could not be trusted in the kitchen if no one is in there. We lost two hamburgers Saturday night. He was a well pampered dog! The worst thing that had ever happened to him was the crate. He expects to sleep on the bed with us and to sit on the couch with us. He thinks it's completely natural for him to be everywhere doing everything you are doing. He will leave me in the backyard for A/C. He expected human food. He recognized a box of milkbones.

It was a fun first day learning all we could about each other, but then that evening we put in a movie and he laid down. There was no demanding that we pay attention to him. I watched him sleep, tallying the things I had learned about him, and could not fathom how someone could invest so much time and energy in training and let this lab go. I also mused that Sue would not recognize him.

Sunday the fun started all over again. He followed me everywhere. I told my husband, “If he was mine, his name would be Shadow.” All that was left on my list for that day was to practice playing my harp. I wondered how this was going to work. He had walked by the instrument a number of times, acknowledging it, but never touching it. My husband sat on the back porch and called the dog to him. They stayed out there while I played a number of pieces I had used in harp therapy. They both fell asleep. Even when I had finished it was a full 20 minutes until the lab woke up. There’s not a higher complement as far as I’m concerned.

Monday I went to work with pictures and a top 10 list of things to love about this dog. My goal was to find new parents that would head over with me on Friday to adopt him as I turned him back in. I emailed everyone I knew with lake houses touting him as an “instant dog - just add water”.

I ran home at lunch to check on him. I peeked through the window and found the back porch completely in tact with the dog sleeping on his back in the open crate. I knew right then this dog would eventually be trustworthy with free reign in the house. That fact is a deal maker or breaker with me.

Monday night, my husband and I talked and talked. With what we knew about him, and his friendly spirit, this dog would not remain on the adoption floor long. There was really little that he would need to be trained on. Then, we admitted how well he fit with us and our life and decided to accept the gift we had been given in him. I started at that moment calling him Shadow.

We became the new parents that would head over as I turned him in that Friday. The learning did not stop there. What has thrilled us immensely is that he loves children and must have been raised around them. Our neighbor has a 2 year old son. Shadow ignores all the neighbor's dogs, but will stop everything to see the boy. They run up and down the fence together. The boy one day reached his hand through the fence and had his hand all over Shadow's mouth before anyone could do anything. Shadow just stayed still. Then there was the 2 year old girl we met on one of our nightly walks. Talking with the grandparents, the girl and Shadow got bored. He laid down in the road and she proceeded to place Mardi Gras beads around his neck. We don’t have children and don’t feel we could have gained this by raising a puppy on our own.

I learn something new everyday about and from Shadow. I can only look back on that fateful Saturday with a grateful heart. What joy a dog can bring to the house!


Valerie said...

What a great story! Have you read Izzy and Lenore?

Shadow sounds like he's from there.

tommye said...

Beautiful story about Shadow's entry into your life!
I've been following along with your process through the blog and loving every entry.
Good to see you tonight!

Theresa said...

Jennifer, I think its beautiful. Five in the morning is just too early to puddle up dang you! I can't imagine anyone reading it and not feeling your joy.
A wise move on the humane society's part to feature it. It's a pretty special story. :-)

Life Looms Large said...

That is such a beautiful story!!! Well-written and gives lots of detail about both the fostering and adoption process. I can see why the shelter wants to feature it!

So cool that Shadow will get his own photo shoot!! I loved the part about how great Shadow is around little kids.

Your description of what it was like to foster a dog definitely made me more likely to try fostering myself sometime - if Bailey lets me!!

It's cool that your creative talents are getting recognition - your tapestry on that postcard & now your writing in the shelter newsletter. Congrats!


Jennifer said...

Thanks you all - I'm glad you liked the story. I'll post later about the photo shoot - what a hoot that was!

Valerie, I have been following Izzy and Lenore (and Rose and Frieda) on their owner's blog at
Lenore has been a big help on seeing what things will make Shadow happy. I had not seen the final on the Izzy and Lenore - thanks for sharing!

Life Looms Large said...

Here's a kind of random response to your comment saying you might want to get a different camera....

Two ideas:

We've had great luck buying and selling cameras and lenses on Ebay. It takes some work, but once you know what you want, you can often get a better price that way.

Also, I don't know if you're doing any post-processing on your photos, but if not, there's a website called that lets you do different photo processing. It's free for some things, and $25 a year for everything. I don't use it because Jim bought Photoshop years I use that. But if we didn't have Photoshop, we'd consider picnik.

For me, improving my photographs this year has involved taking lots of pictures, learning to use both of our cameras a little better, and learning how to do some photo processing to make the pictures I get look as good as I can make them.

That's my long and rambling somewhat off-topic comment!


Leigh said...

Very well written! I can't add anything to the other comments. We got one of our cats from the Greenville Humane Society and only have good things to say about them.

Jennifer said...

Thanks Leigh! I'm glad to hear you've had good experiences with your cat as well. It's been a great ride and I don't regret it!

lyn said...

I've been meaning to comment on this post... it brought big tears to my eyes. Our old dog Roux died just after New Year's in 2008 & we decided to adopt adult dogs from local rescue groups because we know that adults aren't adopted as quickly as puppies. It was a new experience-- I've always started off with a puppy. It was very eye opening to come to the realization that there was past history we'd never know about Roger & Moka, but could only guess at. Now, after living with us for over a year they've "settled in" & we know about most of their personality quirks... I think!

Jennifer said...

Thanks Lyn. it is a new experience to start with a dog and we know we've been blessed with an extremely wonderful gift in Shadow. He was not abused and likely not on his own long - so his self-esteem is highly in tact. Theresa had recommended "Second Hand Dog" by Carol Lea Benjamin for me - and it helped a great deal in being patient and understanding some of the quirks - or more importantly encouragement in how to push through them. Maybe the next time it will be of use to you!