Bella Goes To the Park

I recently took Bella, a pit bull at the animal shelter I volunteer, to the park. It was a gorgeous day, and she deserved a reprieve from the mostly noisy and crowded shelter for a little while.

I’ve been spending some extra time with her for the last few months, so every time she sees me walking through the shelter, she goes to the front of the kennel and stares curiously at me, with a tilt of her head, because she thinks I’m taking it her out.

A fellow volunteer once commented that “when Bella looks at you, it’s like she’s looking at your soul.” I knew what she meant. Bella just has those soulful eyes.

 

          Bella 4

Usually, I walk Bella to a park close to the shelter, but this week I decided to take her for a car ride to a park she’s never been before. Lots of new scents! As we walked out of the shelter, the wag of her hard tail quickened when she realized she was going for a car ride. I rolled the windows down just enough for her to squeeze her boxy head out and feel the wind at her face. When I caught her trying to climb out the window, I abruptly closed the windows. No shelter dogs jumping out of moving cars on my time.

 

Bella 2

 

I parked the car, and since I was warned by the director of the shelter that Bella excitedly darts out of cars when taking her out, I proceeded cautiously. Bella, however, waited patiently as I hooked her up to a leash. Once out of the car, she was anxious to get to know this new place.

It’s always so wonderful to watch shelter dogs enjoying their time away from the stressful kennels. Bella sniffed the trees, ate some grass, watched curiously every person we passed, and acted a little too reactively to a dog. But once I got her back into a heel, she found her serenity. She didn’t tweak at all when we passed a group of about 15 geese just five feet away from the trail we walked. Bella was definitely intrigued by the feathered animals, but she seemed happy to pass them by.

Bella liked waking close to the water. She kept looking out over the water. I didn’t blame her. It was a beautiful view.

Bella 3

 

 

 

I will aim to take her for a car ride once a week and get her back to this park she seemed to love so much. My hope is that someday soon it will be her own family taking her for car rides and visiting her favorite park. Until then, I’ll love her like she’s mine.

 

Bella is a pit bull, and that usually automatically means that she’s going to have a tougher time finding a home. That’s definitely been true in her case, because she’s just too sweet of a dog to have been at the shelter for as long as she has. Pit bulls not only have to overcome the stigma attached to the breed, but they also have to endure the many city bans against the breed, as well as landlords who won’t rent to pit bull owners, and insurers that won’t insure properties with the breed.

These are the obstacles these loving dogs have to face while trying to find homes. Is it any wonder why most pit bulls don’t make it out of shelters alive? If you’re looking for a dog, please give the pit bull/pit bull mix sitting in a kennel at your local shelter a chance. Their time most likely is running out.

 

Please support your local animal shelter. Donate. Volunteer. Adopt. Foster.

 

 

John Boy – A Shelter Dog

Everybody hurts. Everyone gets sad. At times, life can seem so hopeless you wonder if it’s even worth living anymore. And then something good happens. You find inspiration in a place you weren’t looking.

A year and a half ago I started volunteering at a dog shelter. I wasn’t prepared for the profound impact it would have on my life. I went into it believing I was the one who was going to save lives, but I was wrong. Those homeless animals saved me.

My shelter takes in dogs from all different situations – dogs from other over-crowded shelters, owner-surrenders, dogs found amid the aftermath of natural disasters or roaming the streets as strays, or taken from abusive/neglected homes, or rescued from puppy mills .

Each dog comes with its own story, its own unique path, that led them to the cages lining the walls of the kennel I work. Some stories are worse than others, leaving you clenching your fists as you witness, first-hand, what the horrendous cruelty and lack of humanity residing within a person can do.

It forces you to question who the real animals are, and they aren’t the ones with four legs, a tail, and a wet nose.

The four-legged beings that I have the privilege to spend time with each week have demonstrated a level of compassion and forgiveness, so heartfelt and ardent, that I fear I will never, in all my life, come close to attaining the emotional intensity attached to the freedom that comes with letting go of the past, and truly allow myself to forgive and forget, while being open to new happiness without the weight of old baggage holding me down or the pain of worn-out, ancient scars running through my body.

Shelter dogs know how to move on. They are eager to love despite the fact that somebody had let them down because they ended up in a shelter. They forgive the hands that have hurt them and forget the dirty shed they were chained to their entire lives because all they want is a home and someone to love them.

The shelter I volunteer at is a no-kill shelter. However long it takes for a dog to find a home, that’s how long it stays. Unfortunately, there is dog who has been there almost as long as I have. His name is John Boy and he is amazing. Despite being passed up day after day, week after week, and month after month, he has not lost an ounce of spirit. Whenever I, or any other volunteer, pass his kennel, he pops to his feet and hurries to the front of his cage, with tail wagging, and watches us with eager eyes, hoping that he is next to go out. He loves his time outside, even in the bitter cold.

When I put him on his leash, he pulls me to the yard with an overflowing excitement he can’t contain, the way I imagine I dragged my mother from one roller coaster ride to the next. But John Boy isn’t hurrying to jump on a fast-paced ride filled with sharp twists and quick turns. He’s rushing toward the same yard, with the same familiar toys, he’s been going to for fifteen minutes a shift, four times a day, for almost a year.

There is nothing “upside-down-roller-coaster” thrilling about that, but John Boy loves it. He inspires me because even though he’s not where he wants to be, he still wags his tail. He still licks my hand. He still enjoys the yard. He still has hope.

John Boy wants to live and he is looking forward.

He deserves a home, like every dog in the shelter, but he’s one I wish for the most. Every Friday night I say goodbye to him hoping I won’t see him the following week, but I always do. I will miss him so much when he’s gone because we’ve bonded during his long stay, but I anxiously anticipate the feeling of joy that will rush over me when I pass his kennel and don’t see his nose pressed against the metal or the stub of his tail wagging side to side.

I can’t wait for the day I don’t recognize the name sprawled across his cage. I’ll smile big because John Boy will finally have found his home.

Millions of dogs are euthanized every year. If you are looking for a pet, please consider visiting your local animal shelter. There are many loving animals in need of a second chance. Most pet stores get their puppies from puppy mills that breed dogs under inhumane conditions. Please Adopt and Don’t Shop. Thank you for reading.