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When Rescuing Dogs - They Are Not the Ones Who Are Usually Saved

Updated: Dec 27, 2020

I have been volunteering for the Chihuahua and Small Dog Rescue of Colorado for several years now and do my very best to not judge others when it comes to their treatment of the dogs we receive. But sometimes it's hard to do when you see them, skinny and shaking. Oftentimes you can tell that they have been abused and it makes you a little bitter and  judgmental.

Yesterday, I was asked to pick up a Chihuahua named Gordy at a shelter 45 miles from my house and take him 60 miles to another transporter who was going to take him to his new foster home. We were told by the shelter that we had to commit that day or he was going to be euthanized, so I readily agreed to take the trip to save him. We coordinated the transport to take place two days from the initial call and I was looking forward to helping another little dog find a good home.

Unfortunately, the day had arrived along with our first big snowstorm of the year. It was bitterly cold outside with about 5 inches of snow on the ground. The streets were very icy and I was not looking forward to the trip. I double checked to make sure we were still going through with the transport and was almost disappointed when I was told that it was still on. I tried to keep Gordy in mind but, I have to be honest, I work from home and did not want to go out into the cold weather, even for a dog.

As I prepared the truck to go out into the wintery conditions, I continued to question whether or not this was a smart journey. I used to have to go out into this weather every day, but when I stopped commuting, I realized how much I hated winter driving. I started to complain to myself about how inconvenient and annoying this drive was going to be and I prepared myself for the worst.  As I predicted, the roads were pretty icy and I had to put the truck into four wheel drive just to maneuver on the streets around my house. As I drove along, my husbands voice kept repeating in my mind that it isn't good to keep the truck in four wheel drive, Now I was worrying that I was ruining one of my husbands coveted possessions; however, I did not care enough to go back to two wheel  drive, because there was no way I wanted that big truck sliding across the road.

I drove onto the main Interstate and witnessed the remains of several spin outs in the median. I was nervous and wanted to turn back. It was silly to be out on such dangerous roads when I did not have to be. I passed a police car with his lights flashing who was beside a truck that had spun 180 degrees and was facing the wrong direction in the median. I noted that he was pulling a trailer and told myself that must have been his downfall and that I would not share a similar fate.

I started to relax as I noted the drivers around me were all driving safely and that I was able to move along at a pretty good pace. I was relieved the truck was doing so well as I made my way toward the shelter. I couldn't help but feel the worst was yet to come as I was heading into a winter storm warning.  The snow started to pick up and the roads were becoming icier. The drivers around me were beginning to slow down in seemingly random places and I was glad to get onto the exit ramp toward town. Moving along the icy roads was very slow. I just wanted to be home in my nice warm house, but the reality of the situation was that I was here, in the ice cold weather, driving along roads that would keep many people on the East Coast home.

As I pulled into the shelter parking lot, I was relieved to just be there safe and sound. I feared a long wait as this shelter was notorious for being very busy. The parking lot confirmed my suspicions and finding an open space was difficult. I walked into the shelter and saw several people sitting along the wall waiting for someone to help them. I was afraid that I would be waiting with them and that I would soon be driving in dangerous conditions in the dark.

As I announced my arrival at the check-in desk, I overheard a distraught old woman describe her lost dog to a shelter employee. I started to feel sorry for the woman as I could hear the desperation in her voice when she discovered her dog wan't there. I was glad that my dogs were safe at home and I prayed that this woman would find her dog safe as well.

After only a few moments another employee came out of the back room with this very small, skinny dog. I quickly realized this was Gordy. He seemed shy, but not scared. He was cream colored with tan spots all over his little body and his head. His ears were rather large and he reminded me of my own Chihuahua at home.

When I took him from the employee, I realized just how skinny he was. I could feel every rib, every back bone and even his hips. I guessed that he was probably all of five pounds and could stand to gain at least a couple more. He willingly came into my arms and I was surprised at how calm he was. I asked the shelter employee how they obtained him and she noted that it stated in the paperwork that he had been surrendered by his owner. 

I was appalled. She said they told them they were moving, and couldn't take him with them. It made me made that this family wouldn't try and  find a home where they could bring this little creature with them. Before she closed the paperwork, something caught my eye. There was a question asking them to "List favorite toys" and there they had written, "stuffed animals". If they didn't love this little guy, would they even know what he liked?

As I took him out into the cold air, I realized I should have brought a blanket for him. He barely had any fat on him and he started to shiver. I put a harness on him to secure him in the car seat, but quickly realized the harness was way too big. I thought it might work anyway, as I didn't have any other way of securing him in the truck. I turned on the truck to get the heat focused on the shivering Gordy and prepared for the 60 mile trip back down the Interstate. As I turned around to back out of the parking space, I realized that Gordy had slipped out of the too big harness and was now in the back seat trying to figure out how to get onto the floor. I knew I couldn't let him just wander around the truck, so I found another parking space and brought Gordy to the front of the vehicle again.  I had taken my coat off due to the fact that Gordy needed the heater on high and decided he might want to sit on that. I laid my coat out on the passenger seat and placed his skinny body on the soft suede. He curled up and seemed to be content. 

We started back on the road and as I moved along the snowy streets, I watched as Gordy decided to move into the back seat again. I tried to stop him and was surprised how easily he was to correct.  I started to realize that he was much calmer than most dogs that came from the shelter. It was then that I knew he hadn't been abused and may have even been loved.  We started along the street out of town and it became increasingly clear that Gordy did not want to stay in the passenger seat. The fact that my husbands truck was a stick shift along with the icy roads made it clear that I couldn't keep worrying about what he was doing. I pulled over and took his little body into my hands and brought him into my lap. I decided that the only safe place for him to be was here, where I could make sure he was safe while keeping my eyes on the road.

I was anxious to continue travelling as it was beginning to get dark and the roads were only going to get icier. As we continued back to the Interstate, Gordy stood on my lap, watching the world go by. Any time I needed to slow down or come to a stop, I instinctively put my hand on his body to stop him from falling off my lap. He was so skinny and I wondered what he was thinking.  We got onto the Interstate and I found myself worrying less about the road and thinking more about Gordy. By now he had turned himself around on my lap and his head was hanging off my leg. I looked down at him and I noticed sores on the inside of his ears. For the first time that day, I started to feel glad that I had risked the weather to come get him.

We drove at a slow and steady pace and I had talked to the other volunteer that was meeting us down the road to take him to his foster home. She had gotten off work early due to the weather and it sounded as if we were going to be at the meeting place at the same time. Everything seemed to be working out after all.

I glanced down at Gordy and  I realized he had light blue eyes reminiscent of a snowshoe Siamese I know. He seemed content on the ride and I began to piece together his journey to my care on this wintery day.  I think his family loved him. He seemed more like a shy dog than an abused or abandoned dog and his sweet nature made me think that they must have raised him in a loving home. The note about the stuffed animals made me think about them and the reason they had to let him go. It was obvious that he had been starving for a while but an owner that didn't care about him wouldn't have bothered to note his likeness for stuffed animals.

I decided that they must have tried to keep him, but that they were hit by hard times, like so many around us these days. They tried to provide for him, but found it difficult when they couldn't even provide for themselves. He was loved, I know he was. How hard it must have been to realize they had to give him up, knowing that the likelihood of him being adopted was slim in such a crowded shelter.  Watching him lay on my lap, content to sleep along the way, I noted he was oblivious of the winter driving outside our truck. He didn't know how difficult it was for me to get to him that day, or how much I dreaded each mile. All he knew was that he was warm and safe and figured this would be a good time for a nap.

Instead of feeling anger or dread at making such a trip, I started to feel privileged at having such an opportunity. How lucky I was to have met such a wonderful little dog. A dog that had no home and no idea where he was going, but still trusted all these people he was meeting along his journey. He had no idea that a wonderful foster mom waited for his arrival. He had no idea that he would soon have a full belly; all he cared about was that he was safe and warm right now.  I started to feel foolish at how I almost allowed my selfishness to take over so I could skip this trip today. Having such a small little dog on my lap along the way made it difficult to dwell on such a thought, as this little dog was teaching me what life is all about. He was simply moving with life where it took him. And even though he doesn't know that he is moving one step closer to his new forever home, he is just glad for a moment to catch up on his sleep on a warm lap.

I got home that night 3 hours after I started my journey and it finally sunk in that a life had been saved that day. And in the process of bringing a small, skinny dog from certain death to a safe home, I had the wonderful opportunity to learn from him. How lucky I was to meet such a dog.  In this world of material things and economic down turns and the worries that go with such a state, it's easy to forget how lucky we are to have the love of our animals. How easily we get caught up in worrying about tomorrow when a skinny little dog named Gordy can teach us that sometimes, it's best to just accept the help offered and move along with the flow of life.

I worry about Gordy's former owners and what they may be facing in these tough times. I'm confident that they took care of him as best they could and the pain of losing him must be great; however, I want them to know that Gordy will be alright because he was lucky enough to land in a shelter, that was nice enough to call a rescue, that happened to have an open foster home, that sent a transporter, who would rather have just stayed home that day...but didn't.

Written by Jennifer Andrade from A Dog for Life, LLC, which is dedicated to helping you have a closer and more positive relationship with your dog.

My website features many other resources that help you have a more positive and closer relationship with your canine companion. []

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