December 4, 2013
Kate, an Unforgettable Underdog fan, recently sent in her story about her amazing rescue dog. I was so moved by the story, I had to read it twice, and cried both times…
My name is Kate. I have been involved in animal rescue, specifically special needs/puppy mill dog advocacy, for about five years now and it is my goal to continue rescuing and eventually start my own “real” rescue/foster network for shy and fearful dogs who don’t do well in shelter situations. I wanted to send you a story I wrote about my first rescue dog, Lavida, who was saved from a puppy mill in 2009. She passed away in my arms last November from cancer, and I wrote her this story a few days before she died. She meant the entire world to me and I miss her every day.
Nobody has ever complimented me on your looks. You are not a champion athlete, you do not have strong legs, and you don’t have beautiful fur that shines in the sunlight. You are small but robust, gangly and wobbly, and you barely have any teeth. The ones you do have are brown and slimy. But despite your dull coat not shimmering, you still love the sunlight. And despite your lack of teeth, you can rip apart a chicken leg and intimidate the champion athletes with your toothless snarl. You are my beautiful friend, and we were brought together for our need of friendship, not our good looks.
Lavida, you and I were united in the fall of 2009. Do you remember our first time meeting? I could paint every detail. You looked so small in that kennel. I heard you came from a place where your kennel was much smaller, and dirtier. I saw so much anguish in your eyes that it hurt my heart. We were left alone to bond in an empty room, with a table and a chair. You hid under the table the entire time, quivering in your sagging skin, rattling your bones. I sat in the chair, looking at the floor, letting you make the first move. We darted eyes at each other for a while, before I decided to move a bit closer to you. It was a slow, patient game of chase, until you had nowhere left to run but my arms. Our relationship has not changed. Today, you still run from me, but now your tail wags high- in a cheeky way, as if you are proud to have gotten to a place where somebody chases you for your love. It has become a game for us, and my heart is breaking tonight because you have stopped making me chase you.
Tonight, you let me approach you. That isn’t the Lavida I know. I wish you would get up and run from me, you silly little thing. Please make me work for your love- it’s all I’ve ever known! You are curled up in your bed, tired from a life far too eventful for someone your size. I apologize to you from the stars and back, that we could not have played our game of chase sooner in your life. I am sick to my stomach that these horrible humans stole your youth. We could have shared so many more bowls of cereal together, walked so many more circles around the neighborhood together, snarled at so many more stupid puppies together, and cuddled under the blankets during so many more thunderstorms together. We could have been together. It would have meant so much to both of us. But all things happen for some reason that none of us ever realize until the beauty is gone that we miss so much. My heart was lead to you because you were hurting. I fell in love with you because you needed me, and I you. Those barking puppies next to you did not need me- they would have loved anybody who came along. But a broken soul like yours needed somebody who was not expecting this to be easy.
And oh god, was it difficult. You spent the first 3 months hiding behind a couch. You peed on yourself if that meant you didn’t have to come out from behind the couch. And every evening, I would corner you and gently wipe you down and clean you up. I set pieces of deli meat in front you, and watched your eyes slowly look down, lick your lips, and wait for me to leave. The moment I did, I heard your tongue slapping the floor. And cheese- your first experience eating cheese! Probably the best moment of your entire life. I remember the expression of delight on your face- I hadn’t seen it before- as if to say “they didn’t have THIS in the puppy mill!” I was told at the shelter that you may never come out of your shell. Well, I guess they never offered you cheese. You CHARGED out of your shell!
Thank you for being so accepting of our new baby we welcomed this year. It’s almost as if you understand that he is a part of me, and therefore someone else who will be kind and loving toward you. He is on our side, and you instantly knew that. You sit near him wherever he is, in a protective manner, ready to fight anyone who dares to come close. Someday, he will read this and know there was a dog who his mother loved before he came along, who stepped aside and allowed him to take the spotlight. For that, Lavida, I am so thankful to you.
I will miss your obnoxious, walrus bark. For the most part, you were very quiet. But then, I’d come home and you’d be there in the living room, waiting to see who would turn the corner. You’d see it was me and out came the most awful, screeching, horrific noise one could imagine. But that bark was full of so much love, it couldn’t be contained. And for that, I’d say, scream on Lavida!
Lavida, I could go on forever painting the details of our bond, but you’ve given me so much in these past few years, and it will all stay in my head, and my heart, forever and ever. We have found a common thread between us, one that celebrates life after obstacles, love after pain, and salty foods at the end of a long day. We both have a lot of anger at the world, but have been willing to let that go to enjoy sweet moments together. I will probably live for a long time without you, and my heart will break repeatedly at the thought of what was done to you in your life. I can only hope and pray so hard that the few, short years we spent basking in the glow of our new lives was enough to erase some of those memories. All I want for you is rest. You are so loved.
There will never be another. I love you, I love you, I love you.
Do you have an awesome, special rescue story of a dog you saved? One beyond saving a cute puppy from a rescue or shelter (which is great too). I want to hear and share the stories like Naomi, or the seniors and the ones everyone looks past, that you gave a chance. Send me an email and I’d love to put them here and on my Facebook page!