I know that all of us who are on social media websites are often overwhelmed by the number of animal rescues and pet adoption agencies for pets to find homes. Hey, I am an animal lover, and I fully support every single agency that works for the best interest of all animals…..I love every moving critter…except one….snakes. Snakes petrify me….even the little rubber ones people toss around at Halloween……EKKKKKKK……I have yet to see the good in any snake. I do not know their purpose, their plan or their mission. I do know they need to manage their existence wayyyyyyy over there… far away from me! I digress.
Let me introduce you to Rusty. Rusty is one of my three dogs. He is a spoiled, bone fide rotten to the bone, daschund. I was scrolling one day on Facebook, snooping around into my friends lives, catching up on the gossip and having a big time reading up on my neighbors juicy drama. Then , without warning BAM. There he sat, staring at me with those big brown eyes, with such a sad face, peering into my eyes from his cage. I am telling you the truth, he looked me square in the eye, straight through the computer monitor…..I scrolled down….back up….down…back up….down…..finally I shut the lid to the laptop, squishing all those captured inside.
The next day, I returned to the website….having to see who was doing what with who, who was mad at who…blah blah blah….when suddenly, BAM, there he was again. Staring. Staring right through me. He looked so sad. His cage looked unkept….I cicked on his picture as I said aloud to myself, “Self, you have two dogs, you do not need a third. There is barely any room now in the bed. The next size up is a California King. California Kings take up a lot of space. Self, the answer is no.”
“Must be gone by end of week or will be dropped off at local shelter. 300 dollars in cash, rehoming fee. Includes cage, bowl and collar. Used as stud. Papered.”
Let me get this straight. The dog has to go, but the owner is demanding 300 dollars for a dog he/she no longer wants???? I’m not an expert on dog bowls, collars or cages, but if those three things add up to 300 bucks, they must be gold plated and silver lined. Seriously. 300 dollars? Like one hundred, two hundred, three hundred dollars?
I closed my laptop. No way. No. Nada. Zappo, Enchilida, Gracius, Zero, NO. However you say NO in any language, NO. Three days later, I met the owner in the parking lot of a pet store, paid her three hundred in cash, tossed his worn collar and soup bowl in the trash as I marched inside the store to purchase him all new stuff.
His “papers” that came with him said his name was “Rusty”, so Rusty it was. I sent him directly to the store vet clinic while I shopped for all his new accessories. I loaded the cart with a new pet bed, an assortment of bones and chews, a shiny bling bling spike collar, balls and squeaker toys. As I stopped to purchase my coins for the name plate maker machine, the clerk asked about my new “puppy”.
” Looks like someone is getting ready for a new puppy. What kind did you get?”, she asked.
“Oh no, its not a puppy,His name is Rusty, and he is three years old. Someone was selling him online, so I bought him.” I felt awkward, explaining the whole thing. Then she caught my attention. She began speaking…..
“You know its sad when dogs get old. Nobody wants them anymore. It’s kind of like old people, you know. Dogs end up in pounds and old people end up in nursing homes. They don’t have any use for them once they get old. It’s real sad. But I bet you are excited”.
Excited? Really? She struck a nerve. A bad nerve. I am sure she didn’t mean to sound as she did, but goodness me, she picked the wrong person to say that too. I paid her without uttering a word, snatching my gold coins to put in the machine. As I stood there, watching the etching his name, I pondered her words. In a way, she is right, in others, not so much. The patients in my facility are there because they need care. Most have visitors, some none. Some families are there every day, some I have never seen since the day they placed the loved one in my care. Maybe this outsiders beliefs are right about some, but not all, of the patients in long term care facilities. But sad? I disagree. Those of us who choose to work in long term care choose to work there. We care for, love and attend to them with dignity and compassion. We become the extended family. This is now their home, and we are there to serve them, cater to, and care for them. Those who have been “dropped off and dumped” at the facility, well, maybe they can be compared to a homeless pet. But you know what? There are countless others in the world just like me, who will respond to the need, offering love and understanding for the rest of the journey.
As I returned to the pet clinic, the vet handed Rusty to me, with a clean bill of health, except for some worms. Walking out to the car, Rusty seemed confused, as if he were looking for his owner. I picked him up, placed him safely in the jeep’s passenger seat and headed home. Once there, he seemed shy and shaken as he met Minnie and Retta. After the sniffing and tail wagging was complete, they ran playfully in the yard, romping and chasing squirrels. At bedtime, Rusty found his new sleeping spot. My pillow. I am sure the new found softness was a welcome change from the towel- clad metal cage he had been accustomed to. Rusty was happy. I was happy. Pillowless, but happy.
Three years have passed now, and Rusty is the king of my home. He bounces off the furniture, steals food from my plate, pees on my floor, chews on my shoes…….but he is a good boy. He is no longer a “stud”, has no special talent, doesn’t know any tricks and at times is an attention seeking hog. Buy you know what? He is my dog. I love him and will take care of him for the rest of his little short legged life.
Every story should have such an ending, a good one. The elderly in our facilities should have active family members who visit, love them and meet their needs. But if they don’t, there will always be people out there like me…..Rusty