They say a “dog is a man’s best friend, that dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole and perhaps you cannot change a dog’s past, but you can become a dog’s future.” These words resonate with me and my adopted dog, Abe.
I was in my final year of a veterinary technician and wildlife rehabilitation program. At the college, we would work with colony animals. Colony dogs are those who come from various shelters or rescues that are worked on by animal lovers (veterinary technicians, assistance and grooming students) as well as veterinarians at the college. Once they are given a clean health check and spayed or neutered, they would then go up for adoption! Since I was in the wildlife rehabilitation program, that followed the technician program, I was not lucky enough to spend much time with these wonderful but oftentimes, nervous animals. I did, however, make it my daily routine to visit with them on my lunch break. Each dog was different in both personality and appearance. Shy, boisterous, small, big, scared or even frail and grief-stricken. I would go up and down the hall and visit each one for either a little cuddle, to give a cookie, a couple of head scratches or even just to say hi. Then I met Abe. Abe was this grey-bearded, anxious, scruffy coated, “lemon-filled,” extremely timid and fearful black Labrador mix. He would never come to the gate to greet me and would lay on his bed with his head on the floor. His eyes told a deep story of grief and loss, something that I could relate with. All I wanted to do was to pull back those layers and see what wonderful personality was inside.
As the days went by, I would visit him, and we would have little to no change in his behaviour. He wouldn’t greet me and was always nervous. I would bring a cookie (or two, or three), give some bum scratches, whisper a few “good boys” or give him a smile. After a couple of weeks of regular visits, I finally got a certified tail wag! I mean, this one was the wag of all wags. You could tell there was a special dog in there, one that just hasn’t been given a chance to show so.
One day I went for my regular visit, and to my disbelief, he was gone! I later found out that he had been sent to a shelter that was two hours away. My mind got the best of me, and I thought of every worst-case scenario that would happen to him, given his age and his quirks. Next thing I knew, I was in my car and headed to the shelter to see him. When I arrived, the staff took me back to see him. He was nestled in the back of his kennel with his head down.
Once he saw I was there, he sprung up and greeted me with the LOUDEST howl. Within a split second, I had decided he was going to come home with me. As I was signing the adoption paperwork, the staff had filled me in on his history. Abe was found tied to a pole the previous winter, alone, in a remote northern community. He was skinny, ill and had an obvious fear of human contact. The humane society took him in and for months, spent time healing his physical issues, all while trying to work on his emotional ones. I knew it was going to be a long road for him and I, but it was one I was willing to travel. I have never seen a dog jump into a car so quickly! He was finally going home.
Sharing my adoption story is something that I love to do. Abe was my first adopted pet and has been nothing short of amazing. I cannot say it has been a smooth process, but he has always shown how wonderful an overlooked, quirky and mistreated animal can be. Adoption is a beautiful experience, and I encourage anyone looking to add a furry friend into their family, to visit their local humane society or rescue. Abe and I have changed each other’s lives. He is truly a “man’s best friend.”
Written by: Britt Gaw, RVT