Adventures of a NWAS Volunteer THE BIG FAIL


                “Okay.  OkayOkayOkay. Okay.. OkayOkay.”

Not sure why I’m saying this, it’s mostly for my sake.  I’d hoped it might calm the excited brown blur in the pen in front of me.  This small Pitbull would shoot out like bucking horse in a flurry of ecstatic wiggles when I opened the door, grimacing as her whip-like tail hit her face over and over. 

According to the notes in the comm-log from the last shift, I had to apply ointment to the tip of Sativa’s tail because it was bleeding a bit.  Right.  I doubt I’d ever even seen the tip of her tail.  I was usually trying to duck for cover or beg her to sit on it.  I’d be happy with a smear of ointment across her thigh and call it a win.  

                Well why don’t you wait? Let her get tired, do the other dogs first etc.  Fair questions, but I’d already done everything I could think of.  I ignored her while I went about letting the other dogs out.  One at a time we walked past as she nearly hit the ceiling from a standing start. Nope, a 45min intense plyometric workout didn’t do anything to tire her out.  I’d tidied up and mopped a bit.  She was now barking with every jump.  Arf!... Arf!... Arf! And so was everyone else.  She’d been here 6 weeks and her pent-up energy was driving the rest of the dogs crazy.  She needed more exercise and attention than she could get in the shelter environment. 

                It’s time.  It’s like someone has just discovered abstract art and is whipping around two handfuls of red paint-soaked paintbrushes over their head with glee.  It’s in my mouth, my eyes.  It would be a heck of a lot better if I could just get her outside, but I can’t seem to move.  I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry.  After what feels like an eternity, I finally grab her collar, and escort her down the hall and outside.  I shut the door and look around.  It looks like the scene of a massacre.  I leave her outside while I scrub all the surfaces I can reach. 

                Despite all the energy she has inside, for some reason she walks beautifully on our short walks down the shelter road.  In the moonlight she looks coyly over her shoulder to check in every few feet and comes wiggling back for loving at any glimmer of interest.  It’s dangerous.  Because I’m really starting to like her.  I know it sounds silly, but not only have I fallen for her, but I just have that feeling that she’s a member of my family.  And that hadn’t happened in the years I’d volunteered here at the shelter. 

                But it made no sense.  Our old dog (Porter, 12/13 years) is not great at making friends and is it fair to bring home a 1-year old?  They are both intense dogs and likely too much alike to get along.   We want to move to an expensive ski town where a townhouse would be the only option.  Townhouses were often one dog friendly, but not many accepted two dogs.  Plus, I had that week in Vancouver coming up and how would we introduce a new dog successfully with a bunch of interruptions?

                It made no sense.  She’d find her match, I knew it.  They all did.   A few weeks went by.  I went to Vancouver and came back, and she was still there.  Her tail was still bleeding (though I was smarter at this point), and now she was giving me a look every night like she couldn’t believe she wasn’t going home with me.

                I talked with my husband and brought him to meet her.  I thought we could at least give her a break from the shelter over Christmas… as a foster.  The adoption coordinator was thrilled.  So Sativa came home.  We promptly took her and Porter out on a walk to meet.  It was a disaster.  And you know what I forgot?  We brought her into the house and she started wiggling and I stood in awe as her tail splattered blood all over the cabinets and walls.  How could I have possibly forgotten about that?

                Over the next 10 days, we slowly introduced Sativa and Porter to each other.  About 7 days in they had their first outside time together off leash.  And surprisingly, they started to play.  Porter was warming up.  And so was Kyler.  Trouble.  Also, her tail wasn’t healing.  It had been nearly 2 weeks of figuring out how to get blood off paint, wood, clothes, cabinets etc.  She also ripped a nail and now had a fat toe.  What a treat. 

                Christmas came and went and we continued to foster Sativa since the dogs were getting along well enough to continue through January.  It was amazing to watch how good she was at playing with a 12 year old.  She ran circles around him (did I mention he had three legs?).  He would sit and bark as she lapped him, then she’d stop and let him have his moment and he’d hop and flop around and bark.  He’d jump in and out biting her face the way dogs seem to think is fun and she’d take off again for another lap.  I was so wrong that they wouldn’t get along.  They both were so much better at give and take during play then I ever expected.  Both intense, easily over-stimulated dogs could stop and flop over on their backs so the other could be the dominant one.  And I was getting a lot more exercise since not walking was not an option as she settled in. 

 I sent an update to the adoption coordinator.  I said I’d lose it if I heard “HuhHuh .. cool name,” one more time and asked about changing her name.  She said she had been thinking of “Stevie” and I could see if that stuck.   I mentioned it had been nearly a month and I was tired of the bleeding tail.  She was disappointed to hear that, as in a more open environment the vet had hoped it would take care of itself and heal.  Otherwise it would have to be amputated (side note – I mentioned this news to Stevie and somehow the tail started to heal the next day).  I asked if there were any new applications in.  There weren’t.  It would take a special family to adopt her, but they were out there.

                I knew we were going to have to have a talk at home.  So I brought home a six pack of … pop, and sat down to talk about it.  I let my husband start.

                “Well, I’m just going to say it.  I love her.”

                Crap.  None of it made sense, the timing was bad. Blah blah blah.   Yet it wasn’t.  It did make sense, it was the perfect time.  It’s life.  And I had a text to write to see if we qualified as a special family.  We did.  Welcome home Stevie Beans.