BY JANET McAFEE
Missy, a sweet little terrier, was the first of over 1,000 rescue dogs I have adopted into homes during the past nine years. This first adoption was the quickest and easiest.
On June 11, 2009, I attended the 50th anniversary party for my family’s business, Don’s Bicycles of Rialto. Once a town of working class families and orange groves, Rialto was hit hard by the economy’s downturn, and foreclosed homes and stray animals abound. My niece spotted a little reddish brown dog running around Riverside Avenue, a busy main thoroughfare. The dog started crossing the street. We closed our eyes in horror, not expecting her to survive. Miraculously, she emerged alive through the onslaught of rush hour traffic. I quickly scooped her up.
We drove the dog around the neighborhood to see if anyone recognized her. I took her to the San Bernardino County shelter at Devore, a grim building in a remote area at the base of the mountains. The shelter staff checked for a microchip (there was none), and checked to see if anyone reported a missing dog of this description (no one had). I left my contact information, but knew I could never leave an animal there. The wail of the kenneled dogs echoed off the walls of the nearby mountains, a grim reminder that the animals in public shelters are in jeopardy. I hugged the little terrier, promising her a good future.
Back in Palm Desert, I was determined to find my new charge a home. I walked the dog over to meet my neighbor, Sherylle Delaney. Sherylle opened the door and exclaimed, “I’ve always wanted a dog that looks like her!” I quickly responded, “Guess what, she’s yours!” Missy had a new home!
Sherylle called the next day to report the dog was crying for me. Her vet recommended Missy and I not see each other for the next month. We coordinated our dog walking schedule for different times. A dog will always love and remember their rescuer, but I have only seen this extreme reaction happen twice. Dogs are resilient, and usually make transitions easily. Sherylle suspects Missy’s strong attachment to me was because I rescued her from a dangerous situation. These days, Missy and I greet each other and she happily returns home.
Sherylle last owned a dog in 1975 when she moved from a house into an apartment. Sherylle became a home owner again in 1998, but having her Dad and his dog stay for a while made her think twice about getting a pet. Their activities revolved around the dog’s potty schedule. She had no intention of becoming a dog owner again since that required walking it during our dreaded desert summers.
Missy became Sherylle’s dog on June 13, 2009. It was her friend’s birthday, and Sherylle called to wish her a happy day, adding, “I didn’t get you a present, but I got one for myself, a new dog!” She explains, “Adopting Missy was the best thing that’s ever happened to me. Having a dog gets me outside and exercising more often. It’s been interesting to meet the other neighbors who have dogs. Missy keeps me amused. I’ll be reading the newspaper, and she walks right across it to get my attention. She’s always happy!”
Sherylle offers advice to other seniors who are thinking of getting a dog. “If you’re in your 70’s, get one of the older dogs over 4 years old from a shelter. I was 70 when I adopted Missy, and probably wouldn’t have selected a dog that was only a year old which Missy was at that time. Most dogs live for 15 years, and you need a plan in case anything happens to you. Getting a dog gives you a new lease on life. It’s a wonderful way to meet new people. Dogs are also great for your health.”
Whether you are young or old, contact me at Loving All Animals at (760) 834-7000 to foster or adopt a shelter dog. Learn more about our programs and adoptable dogs at www.lovingallanimals.org. Dogs approach everything in life with intensity, energy, and optimistic joy, and their spirit is contagious to their humans. There is a wonderful rescue animal waiting for you that will enrich your life!