By Anne Lewis
Many a parent has experienced the moment when their child has uttered the dreaded phrase “I want a puppy” knowing full well the ramifications and responsibilities of such an endeavor. The morning walks, the cost of veterinary bills, the inevitable “oops” that is found yet never claimed; not to mention the actual daunting task of selecting a breed that fits the needs or desires of their family. The concept is mind boggling yet many a parent will eventually heed this call from the family for a four legged friend to love and bring into their home only later to find they were not prepared for such a task. Instead of working through the issues with persistent training, guidance and love for the animal, many simply give in and take the dog to a shelter. Those are the better case scenarios. Others will be bad dog owners and abuse and neglect their pet, causing horrific emotional and physical damage to these loving, trusting animals. Again, these dogs end up in our local shelters through no fault of their own. All these dogs want is love and guidance and a chance to be a part of your “pack”, dog lingo for family.
Rescue shelters tackle the thankless job of housing and reintegrating these dogs with loving families that will give the dogs the lives they so richly deserve; lives of love, free from abuse and pain. It is a 24/7 occupation that receives little or no funding in many communities, and still, they continue to fight the good fight for the sake of the lives of the rescued animals. I admire the people that selflessly run these shelters immensely. They are the unspoken heroes of our communities providing a service for all of us that is valuable beyond measure and they ask nothing in return.
How are they providing a service for “all of us” one may wonder, especially if they do not have a shelter adopted pet? The answer is simple yet complex because these shelter animals are quietly all around us in our communities doing their loving best with their new families and they do not ask for praise, so we never really hear of all the good they do. It is much more newsworthy to report the negative so many news crews seek out the salacious stories, not the beauty and majesty of these animals. Ask many families that have adopted shelter pets and you will find a very different story. Our dog Thor is a rescue pet from our local shelter SOAR and we wanted to share just what a profoundly amazing member of our family and community he has become.
Thor is a Rottweiler-pitt bull mix that we adopted from the shelter just two years ago. He was one of the lucky unlucky ones in that he had been neglected and abused by his previous owner already in his short five months of life. He was lucky because he had been rescued, yet unlucky because of his abuse and the bad reputation the breed often suffers from due to being in the hands of bad dog owners improperly caring for or training these dogs. Many dogs of these breeds are hard to adopt out due to the misconceptions and unfortunately that will sometimes end in a perfectly loving animal having to be euthanized because of shelter overcrowding, etc. Although I say Thor was the lucky one to be adopted I have to say our family was the lucky one to be able to have Thor in our lives, truth be told.
Ever since his first tentative steps into our home he has steadily grown into an amazing invaluable member of our family, and our community. He has provided us with endless hours of love joy and amusement. Having suffered from PTSD for the past 18 years, I immediately felt my stress levels lowered simply by being in his presence, which in turn has healed my heart and my family in so many ways. The same may be said for all of our family, even our chickens, which he guards protectively having watched them grow from babies. Never once has he harmed another dog or human but he has chased foxes and coyotes from our yard and even survived a copperhead bite that could have easily been one of us had he not found it first. He took instantly to his training and is both hand and voice trained to follow instructions. He has sat beside us when we were sick and scared away intruders. He is truly a magnificent dog and we have SOAR to thank for allowing us to have him in our lives. He has been worth every minute of every day that he has been with us. We love him immensely, but that is only part of the story.
Saturday, September 3, 2011, Thor showed us all just how much of a valuable member of our community he actually is by doing something natural to him but heroic to us humans, he saved a life. Just as many rescue dogs become therapy dogs and members of local rescue teams Thor gave back to his community with his love and instinct.
As our family was preparing for the holiday trip to visit family out of town my husband, Colin, took Thor out to do his “business”. As it was customary, Thor followed instructions but for some reason kept turning and looking up the road. It being extremely hot outside, my husband called him back indoors, Thor, of course, complied but he kept looking back down the road. Once inside Thor began to scratch at the door at first then suddenly began to throw his front paws against the door trying to open it himself until my husband took him back out again.
Upon being let outside this time, Thor took off running down the street, and after my husband called for him to stop, he did, only to look back and bark, then continue out of sight. My husband Colin followed the dog, but Thor came back, and barked again, and then returned to the point of interest.
Upon arriving Colin saw that Thor had detected (almost a block away) that our elderly neighbor had fallen in her driveway after slipping, while collecting her mail. She was injured, and unable to lift herself. Colin then called 911, and then he called us to retrieve the dog, who had run to her, had sniffed her, and then laid down beside her, whimpering. Thor had never met Mrs. Simmons before and he certainly didn’t know where she lived but somehow he knew she was there and she needed help.
Ms. Simmons had fallen some time before she was found, and had been calling for help, getting weaker in the intense heat, and due to the fact that few people in the neighborhood were home, and the noises of lawn mowers in the distance were drowning out her cries for help, no one heard her. But Thor did hear, and he found a person who needed help, and then he returned to his master to alert him of the fact. Needless to say, Thor made a new friend that day and we are very happy to report Ms. Simmons is doing well and recovering from her injuries.
Thor and other rescue dogs that serve our communities are prime reasons why these animals should be adopted by caring people, properly socialized, trained, and loved, and SOAR being supported. You never know. An animal you rescue may save your life one day, or the life of someone you care about. Find out ways to support our local shelter, SOAR, by visiting their website. Every little bit you do really does add up to a lot in the end. You can make a difference and in your assistance, these loving animals can also continue to make a difference in our lives and communities.
OLIVER & STEVE
It’s hard to believe that this December will mark one year since Oliver (Class of 2010) has last lived with us at SOAR. After an incredible 6 years and 11 months, and a few trial home visits, Oliver left us for the greener pastures of the home of SOAR volunteer Steve Salerno, wife Nancy, and their three cats. Steve tells us he has settled quite comfortably into his new home as evidenced by his greeting visitors with that same protective “woof-woof” with which he welcomed visitors to his domain at SOAR. He has slowly adapted to alpha cat Larissa (SOAR Class of 2005), and her two cohorts Maxine and Shelly. This past February, Oliver celebrated his birthday – his 8th – outside of our gates for the first time in his life. Oliver arrived at SOAR as a “surrender” in late January 2004. From what we can tell a lady from Wilmington had adopted him (then known as “Jack”) from the New Hanover Humane Society only a couple of weeks earlier. Why she brought him to us seems unclear. But with us he was when Steve began volunteering in February 2005, and commenced to make him his special friend.Oliver’s ‘bark and back away’ ways discouraged would be adopters. Not actually aggressive at all, but often fearful and anxious around strangers, and in unfamiliar places and circumstances, he ironically made visitors and new volunteers fearful and anxious themselves. Steve gained Oliver’s confidence and enjoyed some success with a ‘tough love’ approach in working him through his insecurities. There were some rough spots along the way, like the time in July 2006 when Oliver nipped Steve in the back and ended up at Brunswick County Animal Services. Oliver’s future was looking very bleak, but Steve bought him another chance, and the way things turned out in the end, we can be happy he prevailed.Steve and others made strides with Oliver over the years, but still it looked like if anyone was going to take him home, it was going to be only after a significant time investment in gaining his confidence and loyalty. Steve, having already made that investment, pretty much decided it was going to be him or nobody. The rest, as they say, is history. We hear that Oliver is now a loving, loyal, mostly obedient and seemingly very happy member of the Salerno clan, and although he has not, and likely never will, completely exorcise his demons, he has surprised many a first time visitor to the house with a willingness to “buddy up” to them after an obligatory “woof-woof” or two. On any given day, he can be seen giving Steve a face wash while lying on top of him, begging (successfully) Nancy for a treat under heavy tail wagging, or sprinting youthfully about the back yard. Izzie (top) and Maddie (bottom) are wonderful girls. They were with SOAR for a couple months. Both of whom were adopted to special people to SOAR. Kristi and Evan adopted Izzie and she is so good with little Evan. Izzie and Evan are the best of friends. Kristie says they could never of picked out a better dog!!
Maddie with Bob and Lisa. Bob has since passed and is missed greatly! His caretaker and “mom” to Maddie has welcomed Maddie into her home. Well, Maddie stole her heart too when Bob adopted her. She was just as much in love with her as Bob was. Bob continued to support SOAR after adopting Maddie.
GRACIE, GRACIE, GRACIE, such a good girl. Back in March, Randy and Amiee witnessed her get hit by a van that never even stopped. Her owner was going to have her “put down”, but her Angels wouldnt have that. Her owner surrendered her and she was taken to the vet. She had a dislocated hip, fractured pelvis and many cuts and scrapes. Randy and Amiee fostered her and nursed her back. She was adopted by a great couple and Im sure she will live a happy and loved life thanks to her Angels, Randy and Amiee!!!