There is a first time for everything, and this was my first time assessing a dog for TDL.
I had been in contact with a shelter which we were looking into pulling from, and then my contact let me know there was a second dog which might be a good fit for the rescue. The original plan was that I would go to the shelter and meet up with another TDL member and foster, look at a few dogs (one in particular), assess the dogs and decide who would become a TDL dog (if any). The plan changed the morning of the visit when the member has an emergency come up, and suddenly, I was driving to Daytona and doing this alone. I called Gisele and we decided I'd still go, and just see what happened, and if a dog was a good fit for TDL we'd go straight to our vet instead of to foster.
So I steeled myself that I was NOT going to get a dog, I was going to look at 2 dogs, none of whom were promised anything (at least, that is what I tried to tell myself). I arrived and enjoyed meeting the coordinator and learning about his work in the shelter. It was amazing what he had already done in his short time in the position and what he plans on doing in order to save lives.
I met the second dog first, who had been brought in by a homeless man. She was about 13, and stood, shaking in her cell. My heart broke as she walked out into her run, afraid to be near me despite the sweet baby talk. She had a bad skin condition and wore a little pink coat to keep her warm.
She was lovely and terrified all at once, clearly shutting down after only one night in the shelter. We called her 13, for her age. Moments like this you wish you could just take all the dogs just like her into your home and love them til their last breath.
But I wasn't here to adopt, I was here to rescue, and after a few picture I went to see the dog we'd come for. The shelter called him Dylan, and as the director walked me up to his run, he gave one bark and just stood there, looking at me.
He had been adopted earlier in the week, but after showing how he interacted with cats (which was a bit too rough) he had been returned (his adopter felt horrible about this, but due to a clause in his adoption contract he was required to be returned to the shelter, not rehomed or rescued). He too had a bad skin condition, oily thinning fur, and given the blank stare I received from him, he too was shutting down. I admit, I was not impressed with him.
He was definitely the right breed (collie/border collie mix) but was he the right dog? My first instinct was no, that little spark, that "je ne se qua" that TDL dogs just have, wasn't there. But we took him outside anyhow.
He walked well on the leash and seemed to know the way to the play pen outside (which was very nice and had agility equipment!). The first 5 minutes in the pen he walked around, sniffed, peed, and came when called, but he was still muted and generally unremarkable (except that he came when called).
It was defeating; right body, wrong heart. I'd traveled over an hour just to come home empty handed? A part of me silently begged him, "Come on boy, show me something!"
The director gave me some time alone with him and we stood, in a silent
standoff. I knew I couldn't bring a dog into our rescue that didn't have
that spark, I couldn't give up the open spot to one dog who might not
be a good fit while another dog waited in a run somewhere, about to die
without help... And then he showed me something....
As if solar powered he looked into the sun, and came back with a goofy grin. It was like some gentle spirit on the wind whispered in his ear, "Ok, time to show her." And he did.
He circled and walked me to the fence, looked out, whimpered, put his nose through the gate, pawed it, and then looked at me and howled. "I am ready to go! I am a good boy! Take me!"
I tested him, touching the paws I had been warned he was nervous about. He pulled away but didn't run. I touched again and he let me. I ran my fingers through his fur, around his ears, under his gums, and gave him a scratch. He smiled and then got up and danced before the gate, "See I am good, take me!"
The director brought out two dogs to test him with, to allow him to prove he could make it in a foster home with dogs. The first was a dominate and rowdy male who promptly tried to dominate him but jumping on his back. He stood and then walked away, no aggression. The director brought a sweet loving girl out. They sniffed and wagged. He passed the test. And with each test I saw more of him, more of his spirit coming out. He was quite the talker and was goofy. A lover. He reminded me a little of Bobo, Jake and Ozzie all at the same time.
I called Gisele and shared what I had learned, and we agreed, He was going to be a TDL dog. I told the director and we took him back inside. We put him in his run for just a bit longer while we did paperwork and he hesitated as I asked him to get in the kennel. His eyes questioned me, "...will you be back?" I promised it was only for a moment, and he slowly got in.
As the paperwork was prepared the director had me look at one dog who had just come in, an Anatolian pup (pure) who was for rescue only due to taking out 4 sheep... 11 months old, still a puppy despite breaking the scales at close to 80+ lbs. He was huge, and as I walked up to his pen, I could see it in his eyes... a sweet boy, apt to pass all his temperament tests, a love muffin, but scared to pieces.
He looked at me and I could hear him, "I just want to go home..."
I took many pictures which I later sent out to a few rescues who might be able to help him, but as good of a dog as he is, I couldn't take him... We have room for 1, and I made a promise.
I visited 13 again, and she looked at me, looking right through me. There is nothing more humbling than having a dog judge the content of your character. She returned to her bed, which was right beside me, and rested. It was like she knew I wasn't the one for her.
The brown dog in the kennel beside her begged me to be the one for him. A loving baby whose story I don't know: owner surrender? Stray? I still don't know... but I can tell you this, that dog had one hope in life, one desire, to love someone until his dying day... I pray he gets that chance...
But today was someone else's second chance. I finished filling out the paperwork and the shelter staff brought him back out. When he saw me through the doors he pranced and wiggled. He knew his time had come. We finished the final papers and he sat, patiently waiting. When I asked him if he would like to go with me, he reared up, like a little bear cub, and that was how he got his new name, Yogi Bear.
The staff were happy to see him get rescued, knowing the loss of fur would hurt his chances of adoption in the shelter, and knowing how sweet he could be. When I walked him out the door he first walked, then ran to the car. One of the staff who hadn't heard he was leaving saw us and said "I know that dog!" I shared that he knew him as Dylan. The staff asked if I was taking him and I stated I was. He hooted a joyous (and loud) "yeah!"
Yogi loaded up in the car like a champ and curled up into the warm red blanket I brought. He lay there, silent, the entire trip, happy to be chosen and safe. We arrived at the vet shortly and he showed Gisele how adorable he was, despite the bald butt. He looked out the office window, talked, and showed how well he could sit. He was attentive and ready, and just needed a little help to get home. I can't wait to find out where home will be for him.
But what about the others? Those left behind? 13 was rescued later that night. Sweet Brown is up for adoption under the name of Scrappy and is waiting for his new family to come get him. The Anatolian? No word... I can only pray that the rescues I contacted were able to help...