Missy, a sweet little terrier, was the first of hundreds of rescue dogs I have adopted into homes during the past four years. This first adoption was the quickest and easiest.
It was rush hour and I headed towards the city of Rialto for the 50th anniversary party for my family’s business, Don’s Bicycles. Rialto, once a town of working class families and Orange groves, was hit hard by the economy’s downturn. Foreclosed homes and stray animals abound. Leash laws are not observed. My nieces spotted a little reddish brown stray dog, and they were excitedly waiting for me to show up. However, the dog started crossing Riverside Avenue, the busy main thoroughfare. We closed our eyes in horror, but were struck with amazing joy when she emerged alive and well through the onslaught of traffic. It was a miracle! I quickly scooped her up.
We drove the dog through nearby streets, asking residents if they recognized the dog. I put her on a leash to see if she would show us her home. She was frightened by the larger dogs. I sought out prospective adopters at the party. The next day I made my first trip to the Devore shelter, the San Bernardino County shelter that has jurisdiction over Rialto and several other Inland Empire cities. This grim shelter is on a dead end street at the base of the mountains. I would later learn the live release rate at Devore is heartbreaking. The shelter staff checked the dog 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 in case an owner came, but knew I could never leave an animal there. The wail of the kenneled dogs echoed off the walls of the nearby mountains, and I hugged the little terrier promising she would never know that fate. Any animal in a public shelter is at risk. The terrier’s owner never looked for her at the shelter.
Back in the Coachella Valley, 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 like that.” I quickly responded, “Guess what, you do!” and told the story of the lost dog. Missy had a new home!
Sherylle called the next day to report the dog was crying for me, particularly when they walked past my house. Her vet recommended Missy and I not see each other for the next month. We coordinated our dog walking schedule to be out at different times. A dog will always love and remember their rescuer, but I have only seen this extreme reaction happen twice out of hundreds of foster dogs placed in adoptive homes. Dogs almost always make an easy transition from one home to the next…it’s us humans who have a hard time saying goodbye. Sherylle thinks Missy’s initial attachment to me was because I rescued her from a particularly dangerous situation. In any case, now we happily greet each other and Missy happily returns to her own home.
Sherylle has not had a dog since 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 awhile made her think twice about getting a pet. It seemed like their activities revolved around the dog’s potty schedule, and she had concerns about walking a dog in the desert heat.
Missy became Sherylle’s dog on June 13, 2009. It was a close 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 describes her experience of having a dog in her life again, “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 walks Missy on the greenbelt and carries her across the pavement on hot days.
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 in 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 if you are too sedentary or reclusive. It’s a wonderful way to meet new people. Dogs are also good for your health, and having one can lower your blood pressure.”
Loving All Animals is expanding their foster program to include SOS, Seniors Offering Shelter. This might be a way for you to enjoy the company of an animal, even if you can’t make a permanent commitment because of personal travel or other reason. Maybe you are worried about expensive vet bills. LAA covers the cost of food and medical care for foster dogs. Whether you are young or old, contact Loving All Animals at (760) 834-7000 if you are interested in fostering or adopting a shelter dog or cat. There is a wonderful animal waiting for you now that will enrich your life.