“A dog is not a thing. A thing is replaceable. A dog is not. A thing is disposable. A dog is not. A thing doesn’t have a heart. A dog’s heart is bigger than any “thing” you can ever own.” 
Elizabeth ParkerPaw Prints in the Sand

After losing three of our pack of eight in the last year, we promised ourselves that we were done adopting for a while, and that we would keep the pack at a manageable number of five. Then we heard about Bella, and how she and her brothers and sisters were found in a ditch on a back road in Kentucky, just weeks old, left to fend for themselves.

If you are wondering how Bella and her siblings ended up at a shelter in Upstate New York, technology is the answer.  Shelters across the country are now taking advantage of the internet to connect and communicate with each other to see who has excess capacity, and make sure the dogs go to the most appropriate location.   If no shelter is available close by, the dogs will go wherever there is room.   In this case it meant Safe at Last Shelter in Fultonham, NY.

That same technology is used to match people and pets.  Petfinder is a website that has connected thousands of shelters across the country.  From pigs to fish as well as from dogs to cats, you can search by geography, breed, even age.   Looking for a black Labrador puppy?  How about a parakeet or a pig?  You can find them all on Petfinder.   We were “just browsing” when we came across Bella.

If you have never adopted a pet before, you might be surprised at the background check that many shelters require.  We had to fill out an application, and provide 3 references.  We also had to provide our veterinarian’s information.  Finally, we had to be interviewed.  Was our household an appropriate place for a dog waiting to be adopted?  We think our pack would vouch for the “dogginess” of our home, but it remained to be seen whether or not we would be worthy.  Would we be declined?

We finally received word that we passed the background check and, after toasting, reality set in.  The timing wasn’t right for us to adopt, and we were still getting over the loss of Nessie, Inky and Janie in the last year or so.  We were also looking forward to having a manageable number of dogs – perhaps someone wouldn’t balk at watching just two or three dogs someday!  We might be able to have a life outside of home! When we told Cindy from Safe at Last, she said she understood.  We told her we would let her know if or when we decided to adopt.

As it turns out, Cindy was quite a salesperson, because I received an email from Cindy about a month later.  One of the Kentucky puppies was left and, while she said that she wasn’t trying to pressure us, she just wanted to let us know that all of the others had been adopted. Bella, having “black dog syndrome”, really needed a home.  That’s when we made the fateful decision just to “go and take a look”, so as not to let Cindy and Bella down.  Right – just take a look at a puppy that needs a home.  It’s like going to a gourmet restaurant just to look at the steak.

When we arrived, Cindy led us into the living room on the first floor and set Bella down.  She really wasn’t very interested in us, and wanted to go out into the fenced-in area to play with her foster sister.  Every time we picked her up and sat her down next to us, she wandered off.  Cindy explained that she was the most docile of the litter, and she thought that she would be a mellow dog.  We wondered if she had a heartbeat, she was so mellow.
While Bella was in the play area, Joy and I talked and, in spite of the temptation, we decided to wait.  We broke the news to Cindy, who was waiting upstairs.  As we turned to leave, Cindy, again using impeccable salesmanship, asked if we would like to see Bella play outside with the other dogs.   What would it hurt?  Besides, we weren’t going to change our minds, right?  Bella and a big golden retriever followed us out the door to play fetch.

All it took was two throws.  We watched as Bella wrestled with the much larger, adult dog to get the stick, her gangly legs and cute, smiling face could win over anybody.  “OK, when can we pick her up?” I said.  The next thing we knew we had Bella and all of her belongings in the back seat of the truck.  I think Cindy didn’t want us to change our minds!

Now, Bella has fit right in.  She is a one puppy terror machine, chewing anything and everything – books, shoes, rolls of toilet paper.   At the end of the day, I guess we wouldn’t have it any other way.   It does us good to help an innocent animal, and besides, we get so much more from them than we give.  I’ve resigned myself to the idea that I’ll always have a pack.

“It came to me that every time I lose a dog they take a piece of my heart with them. And every new dog who comes into my life gifts me with a piece of their heart. If I live long enough, all the components of my heart will be dog, and I will become as generous and loving as they are.” 
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Bella learning the lay of the land.

Annie teaching Bella the lay of the land.



Black Dog Syndrome

Safe at Last Animal Rescue


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