By Janet McAfee
Rescue dogs are the best dogs, loving, grateful, and wise having already triumphed over adversity. There is also magic to some of their rescues, a strange sequence of events and timing that makes one think divine guidance is behind them. It was July 2, 2010, a Friday evening around 4:00 pm when Pat Bonham called me. Pat, a fellow independent rescuer, was driving to Devore, a bleak high-kill San Bernardino County Shelter, to save a 6 month old black lab puppy due to be euthanized at 5:00 pm. Would I help find a foster home or adopter? I recalled seeing the same dog several days earlier. He was in the same kennel where I found and rescued my own dog, Enzo Ferrari. I locked eyes with the black lab for a few quick moments.
I began making frantic calls. No one was available. Then I called my friend Jackie Klof who lives with her fiance Steve in a home with a large back yard. They have two large dogs. Jackie responded, “I’m up on a ladder painting right now and we really don’t want another dog.” I didn’t tell her the lab had less than an hour to live, although she sensed the urgency in my voice. Meanwhile, Pat called ahead to Devore to let them know she was on her way to rescue the dog. The shelter staff person told Pat the dog was already euthanized. For some inexplicable reason, Pat didn’t believe her and called back to speak to a supervisor. The lab was still alive, but next in line for the euthanasia room. Pat kept driving, still unsure where she would take such a large sized animal even if she got there in time. It was 10 minutes to 5:00 pm, the clock was ticking, and the tears streamed down my face.
Meanwhile Steve arrived home from work. Jackie and Steve’s household was in chaos as she later described it, “We had guests here, my Dad who was seriously ill and his caregiver were staying here, and I had just been bitten by a bee while painting. I told Steve about Janet’s call, and he figured out ‘They’re going to kill that dog’! That did it. We called Janet back to see if the dog was a male and a good match for our two female dogs.” Thankfully, the answer was “Yes!” It was now 4:55 pm and with only 5 minutes to go the young black lab was whisked into the warmth and safety of Pat’s car.
We thought we were “home free”, but more challenges were ahead. Once Pat arrived at Steve and Jackie’s home, Steve thought the dog looked sick and they didn’t want to expose their other dogs to a contagious illness. It is an unwritten but understood rule of rescue that once we pull a dog from a public shelter we don’t return them, no matter what obstacles or medical concerns arise. Jackie called their vet, and he reopened his clinic to examine the dog. Thankfully, Calvin had a minor case of kennel cough, but the dog was now homeless and was boarded overnight at the vet clinic. Around 11:00 am on Saturday, my phone rang and it was Jackie, “Don’t ever phone me with a message like that again. The dog’s name is Calvin, and I’m on my way to pick him up right now.” Great news! Jackie explained, “I barely slept last night thinking of that dog’s face. I talked to Steve and he agreed we would keep him.”
They had to carry Calvin into the house, and when he arrived in his “doggy proof” room the young dog laid spread eagle on the floor, flat lined and unresponsive. He remained that way for the next seven days, eating when hand fed, “flat lined” except when carried out for potty breaks. Their dogs gently sniffed at the newcomer though he failed to acknowledge them. One time they checked in on Calvin to find him staring curiously at himself in the closet mirror, and Jackie joked, “He’s a bit of a narcissist!” Jackie went away for the weekend, and received an excited phone call from Steve, “Wait till you see Calvin when you come back!” Steve patiently worked with the dog, getting him to walk into the back yard on a leash for the first time. Finally hot dogs did the trick! Soon all 3 animals were romping merrily after hot dogs Steve threw in the air.
Calvin overcame an abusive past, and blossomed into a joyful dog. Calvin looks a lot like a dog Jackie had decades ago, a black lab with a touch of Rottweiler, a dog she dreamed about having again. “It was meant to be” is an overused phrase, but there was a magical higher power at work in Calvin’s rescue. The Bible calls on us to care for other living creatures. God never intended that we would round up and execute stray animals whose only crime is being homeless.
Black rescue dogs have a hard time getting homes. Large dogs have a harder time getting out of shelters. Calvin is one of the lucky ones, a miracle dog who seemed to orchestrate his own rescue, arranging the timing of the events that would save his life. Over a year later, I met up again with the adult dog Calvin and was flattered when Jackie said he was “mesmerized” by me. Jackie reports that Calvin’s life today is full of happiness. Jackie reports, “Calvin loves his home, adores Steve and I, and loves our other dogs. Calvin is even more special because of how we saved him. We are blessed to have him.”
I’ve rescued hundreds of dogs since Calvin through the Loving All Animals’ Mobile Mutts program, each with their own unique personality, and all fabulous and deserving of great homes. Create your story by going to our local county shelter and adopting. The Coachella Valley Animal Campus is located at 72-050 Pet Land Place, Thousand Palms, (760) 343-3644. You can view their adoptable animals online at www.rcdas.org. You can visit with any available animal in a visiting area, and possibly find your new best “furfriend”.